A Guide to Chinese Soups
One of the most commonly enjoyed dishes in China is soups. With a great diversity of ingredients able to be added to each stock and broth, there are an almost infinite number of soup varieties created in China. As with most soups, Chinese soups can be classed as either a thick soup or a thin soup, with the difference largely down to the base used for the soup.
To make a thick Chinese soup, all of the ingredients required tend to be added into a pan at once and cooked slowly, allowing the flavours to infuse each other. The soup is further thickened by adding in a thickener such as tapioca starch or cornstarch.
A thin soup starts off as a clear broth and has meats and vegetables added into it near the end of cooking. Typically, it takes less time to cook a thin soup than a thicker one. Often the ingredients for thinner soups will be preprepared, such as leftover chicken or pre-steamed vegetables, thus reducing the time they spend in the broth. This helps each ingredient retain its individual flavours.
Chinese Soup Stock
There are a number of different bases for soups, but one of the most common in Chinese cuisine is a chicken stock. There are two types of chicken stock used in China. The first kind is the higher quality stock, which is made by simmering an entire chicken, which imparts is flavour into the water, making a delicious soup base. The second kind is made solely using the bones of the chicken, and this is considered a lower quality broth.
For more luxurious soups, such as shark fin soup, a special stock is created from boiling chicken with ham, pork ribs, duck and other pork bones to develop a rich and flavourful broth.
No spices will be added to Chinese stocks or broths as it is seen to mask the flavours presented by the chicken, although seasoning may be added later.
How is Chinese Soup Served?
Thin soups are often used as a substitute for drinks at mealtimes in China. It is considered unhealthy to serve a soft drink such as water or soda with a meal, and hot drinks tend to be reserved as a relaxing beverage after dinner. As such, a thin soup is typically served up as a replacement. Thin soups can also be served as a palate cleanser between courses when enjoying a larger meal or banquet.
Thicker soups, on the other hand, are served as a meal – either lunch or dinner – as their thicker consistency makes them far more filling than a thin soup. Due to this, you would usually not find a thick soup on a table with other dishes, especially at a banquet, although an exception can be found in the popular celebration dish shark fin soup.
If you are looking for ingredients to make a delicious Chinese soup, then be sure to check out our range at our Chinese supermarket online!