Lotus root and pork bone soupI’ve been making a lot of soups lately.  When you have a bitter and prolonged winter as we do this year, a steaming bowl of hearty soup is your best defense.

Thankfully, the soup recipe repertoire I’ve built over the years come in handy, especially the ones that do not require a lot of ingredients or labor, such as the lotus root soup I’m sharing with you here.

In Chinese cooking, lotus root is an incredibly versatile ingredient and appears in dishes throughout the year.  When lightly pickled, it makes a refreshing salad perfect for the summer (click here for recipe).    When added to simmering soup, it imparts comforting earthiness, something you crave on a cold winter’s night.

Lotus root soup made in Cantonese-style would include a wide array of ingredients, such as pork ribs or ham, peanuts, dried jujubes, dried cuttlefish, and tangerine peels.  The result is a rich broth with deep color and complex flavors.

My dish here, however, takes a more stripped-down approach based on the traditional recipe from Hubei (湖北) Province in China.  The locals there like to use only pork bones or ribs as a base for the soup, without adding other strong-flavored ingredients, to let the subtle flavor of lotus root shine through.  With local lakes such as Lake Hong (洪湖) provide some of the best lotus roots in the country, it’s easy to understand why people from that region consider lotus root soup their No. 1 soup.

It’s high up there on my list as well.

 

Lotus root and pork bone soup, Hubei-style

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

10 oz (285 g) lotus root, peeled and cut crosswise into ½-inch (1.2 cm) slices
1.5 lb (680 g) pork bones with some meat on them, such as neck bones.  Ask your butcher to cut them into smaller pieces for easier cooking.
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1-inch (2.5 cm) ginger, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

 Procedure

  1. Blanch the pork bones in boiling water briefly.  Transfer them to a colander and rinse under cold water to remove any impurities.
  2. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Add the bones, ginger, and Shaoxing wine.  Bring the liquid to a boil again and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.  Remove impurities and foam from the surface.  Cook, covered, until the meat on the bones is very tender, about 1 hour.  Skim the surface from time to time during simmering.
  3. Add the lotus root slices, and cook until they are soft with a bit of residual crunch, about 10 – 15 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with the scallion and serve immediately.
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