Nostalgic Soup Than Can’t Erase From My Mind–Chinese Style Potatoes Soup

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Updated Post on 9-10-2014

I have prepared the soup again today and have some new picture taking. However, today when I prepared the soup, as I am running out of time, I have decided to by pass the sautéing of the starch and onion. I put everything in the wok, boil until the meat is soft and add the starches. Of course, it was not as fragrant as what my father have prepared but it saves some times.. Kids start to like this starchy soup. Personally, I prefer the yam or taro version but shelve the idea as kids still dislike the taro.

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INTRODUCTION

I seldom have soup recipe in this blog except salted vegetable duck soup, a well known traditional Chinese soup for Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese.  Of course I have many other soup preparation illustrations such as bitter gourd and pineapple pork rib soup, double mushroom chicken soup, sweet corn pork rib soup and many more at Guaishushu’s Facebook Page under the index start with “S”.

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Today, I will share this special soup which is a comfort food with nostalgic and sentimental feelings for me.  I am still in doubt its origins and totally unsure if other families are cooking this soup, not at least my circles of friends. It is hope that via this post, some readers will be able to tell me the origin of this soup!

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This is a “strange” soup cooked by my late father. Not even my late mother cook this soup as she said it is a bit laborious to cook this soup.

In fact, the ingredients and cooking method have influences of both oriental and western method of cooking. Talking about this soup, I am sure my brothers and sister in laws can recall about the soup. It can either be cooked with taro or  potatoes. What we usually cooked is with yam or taro and I knew my sister in laws still cook the taro version of this soup as at today.

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The potato version of soup what is always in my mind. When I told my mother in law that I wanted to cook this soup, she looked at me unbelievably and she thought that I am cooking ABC soup, a soup that were cooked using carrot, potatoes and onions. I told her no, it is a pure potatoes soup!

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 250 g of potatoes cut into big chunks

  • 250 g of onion cut into a quarter

  • 250 g of pork ribs

  • 6 cups of water

Thickening starch

  • 50 g of sweet potatoes flour

  • 400 g of water

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • In a big soup pot that can accommodate at least 10 cups of water, put some water adequate to cover the pork ribs.

  • Blanch the pork ribs until the outer layers is slight cooked. Throw away the water.

  • Wash the pork ribs under running water to get rid of any blood clots and add in the cut potatoes. Add in 6 cups of water and bring to boil under high heat. Once boiled, turn to medium heat and continue boiling until the potatoes and meats are soft. This will take 15-20 minutes. You can just let it boil until your next step is ready. Change to low heat if necessary.

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  • In another sauce pan, add in 1 tablespoon of oil, add in the cut onions and fried until the fragrance of onion start to spread.

  • Put in the sweet potatoes starch and cook under low heat, Stir fry until the flour turned into a lump and become colourless. Note that the main reason of cooking this way is to give the flour some flavour of onions. If you add directly to the soup, you will find the flour in the soup is flavourless. Well that is how my late father cooked and I do agree to it.

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  • Transfer your cooked starch to the soup and continue boiling until the meat and potatoes of your desired textures.

  • Add seasonings of your choice (flavour enhancer such as mushroom concentrate, pepper, salt, light soya sauce etc.).

  • Bring to boil and once boiled, off the heat and garnish with herbs of your choice. Preferably served hot with rice.

WHY THIS SOUP IS UNIQUE?

The soup has the oriental elements because it is cooked with normal cooking oils used by Chinese home cooking (instead of butter or olive oils) and pork ribs and flavour using the Chinese condiments. In addition, the thickening is using Chinese cooking ingredients sweet potatoes starch. It is definitely more watery and less creamy than Western soup! The final soup still maintain the shape of the potatoes, pork ribs and even onions. It complements the dryness of the white rice.

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On the other hand, it is unusual for Chinese to use potatoes to cook soup. Besides ABC soup, most Chinese households do not use potatoes to cook soup. Besides this unusual ingredient, Chinese soups usually do not use thickening agents in soup with the exception of some special soups such as shark fin soups and sweet and sour soups. The soups, in traditional sense should be watery and clear (or whitish colour due to the meat essence in the both). Thickening agents are used in many Chinese dishes including braised dishes, noodle dishes , vegetables dishes, egg dishes, bean curd dishes but not in soup dishes.

For purposes of further illustrating this soup may have Western influences, I have took out portion of the soup and added plain flour (wheat flour as you used for making cakes) and some creams.

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This is what the end product looked like and in fact, my kids do not mind this soup after adding of cream and wheat flour. My boy says that the soup is very creamy like cream of mushroom soup that he used to have in Western restaurant.

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CONCLUSION

Having a post on this particular soup brings me  lots of fond memories and sentimental feelings, making me wanted to know more about my late father. We did not really communicate much due to very traditional Chinese family upbringings whereby we were not encouraged to ask about what the adults are doing. Communication was always unidirectional. However, if he was still available, I would know how to tackle the issue and “fished” out his thoughts!

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It is a soup that none of friends knew. It is neither Western or Oriental style of soup. It is a mixture of both. Where my late father learned the cooking of this soup was really a mystery (in my humble opinion). He hailed from China and could not read or spoke ABC not to mention exposure to Western cuisines. The only remote reason that I could think of was due the influence of British colonization of Sarawak until late 1940’s  and at that time, he was a teen.

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Hopefully by having this post, some of my readers from any  parts of the world can share with me, if you have ever tasted exactly soup cooked in this manner and what do you think is the origin of the soup. It is also hope that my readers will try out this soup and let me know if it suits your taste buds. Thanks and have a nice day.

 

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CCC – Cheesy Cassava Cake–A Modified Version of The Traditional Nonya Kuih Bengka Ubi

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INTRODUCTION

Tapioca or cassava is a staple root widely consumed in regions like Africa, Asia, Oceania and etc. It is easily propagated and commonly found in South East Asian countries. Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are the top three exporter of tapioca in the world.

Tapioca or cassava cake is a very common household cake of any races (be in Chinese, Malay, Indian or other races) in Singapore and Malaysia. However, in the Peranakan cooking, Kueh Bengka Ubi is one the most famous items in its cuisines.

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There are generally two methods of making cassava cake, by steaming or baking. Chinese preferred to have its cassava cake steamed, as soft as possible and served with shredded coconut (at times this is needed as the cake are so soft and smooth that it is shapeless). On the other hand, the Nonya preferred to bake the cake using charcoal stoves or ovens. Usually, the baked cassava cake have a slightly burnt crusty top and the body is yellowish in colour and texture is rather “elastic”. It is very aromatic with a mixture of fragrances from pandanus leaves, coconut milks and eggs.

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CHEESEY CASSAVA CAKE

This recipe is my own without making reference to any recipes in the internet. As usual, I have prepared based on what I think is workable, memories on the cake that I have tasted before and one or two attempts a few months back.

This cake is different in its texture and its taste. Besides the normal fragrance of the traditional cassava cake, the  cake have a rich and cheesy fragrance. In addition, as you can infer from the pictures above, the texture is moist but not soggy or sticky. In fact, you can cut it into any shape that you want.

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The incorporation of cream cheese had made the cassava cake smoother and creamier. It helps to heighten the flavour of the eggs, coconut milk, butter and the cassava original flavour.

I have used small sago balls to enhance the texture. Grated cassava, under high heat can turn very sticky and subsequently become very chewy. The additions of sago balls somehow will help to sooth the texture making it even smoother.

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WHAT IS REQUIRED

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  • 100 g of sago balls – soaked in water (Volume of water should be about 2 times of the sago ball and note that the balls will expand)
  • 150 g of butter
  • 200 g of cream cheese
  • 250 g of granulated sugar

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  • 4 eggs
  • 200 ml of thick coconut milks
  • 1 kg of finely grated tapioca or cassava. You can buy in the market and grate it yourself. If you want to grate it yourself, you will have to use the food processor to chop it as finely as possible, and then you can proceed to use  a blender (instead of an cake mixer) to perform the following steps. You will need to put in your chopped cassavas, eggs, coconut milks and blend it to as smooth as possible).
  • Red and green (pandanus) colouring (optional) – I have resorted to the use of red and green colouring this illustration as I find that the traditional cake are rather dull in colour and I want my cake to look more colourful and appetizing.

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STEPS OF PREPARATION

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  • Pre-heat your oven to 180 degree Celsius.
  • Get ready a 8 inch x 8 inch baking tin. Slightly grease the tin with either butter or cooking oil. Dust some wheat flour if necessary.
  • In the mixing bowl, beat your butter, cream cheese and sugar using medium speed until evenly mixed. Note that the purpose of this step is not to let you have a fluffy cake like other cake recipes. The beating here is mainly a mixing step, a step to ensure that the butter and cream cheese are evenly mixed.

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  • Once well mixed, add in your eggs one at a time and followed by the coconut milk. You should only use low speed for this simple mixing purpose. Scrap out the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl to ensure that there are not cheeses sticking to the bowl.
  • At this stage, you will notice that the mixture become more and more watery which is normal and hence SPEED SHOULD BE LOW as long as mixing can be performed.

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  • Add in the grated cassava and soaked sago balls. “Beat” at the lowest speed possible. You will see that after 1-2 minutes of slow mixing, the liquid start to disappear as it was further absorbed by the sago balls.
  • Separate into approximately 4 equal portions. One portion with red colouring, one portion with green colouring and the other two portions maintain the original colour.

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  • Pour the uncoloured portion of the batter to the tin, followed by green and red portion. It is entirely up to readers as to what design you want your cake to cook like. For me , I have opted to have some simple big stripes design. As the batter is not very watery, it is rather easy for you to design your pattern.
  • Baked using 190 degree Celsius for about 30-45 minutes or until set. Until set means when you push the baking tin, the centre of the cake does not “vibrate”. Another test is that you insert a skewer in the centre of the cake, the skewer come out clean. However, as this is a cassava cake, cassava when hot can be slightly slimy and as long as you taste it is not raw, the cake is consider as cooked.
  • Leave the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cutting of cake is  best done 3-4 hours after baking to ensure that centre of the cake is completely cool. As long as when you cut the cake, there are some cake stick to the knife, your cake is considered as not cool completely.

  • Serving suggestions – you can serve with shredded coconut with white sugar and hot tea or coffee.
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CONCLUSIONS

  • This is a modified recipe by incorporating cream cheese and sago balls to the traditional cassava cake. The main aim is to smoothen the cake texture and make the cake creamier along with the fragrance of eggs, coconut milk and cassava.
  • Resulting from the modification, this will be totally different from the traditional cassava cake that you may have tried. It is soft, slightly springy and with cheesy coconut fragrance.  The shredded sugar coconut with heighten the palate and reach another higher dimensions.
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  • It is easy to cut into your desired sizes and looks presentable in tea party as a snack items.
  • If you think that you are a professional Nonya cake baker, you should try and tell me what is your opinion. If you are new to pastry making, this is one item that will not ruin your confidence.

Hope you LIKE it and have a nice day. Cheers

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