Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chinese Herbal Soup - Eight Treasures Soup

I don't claim an exceptional knowledge of Chinese herbal soups and their effects on our health. But growing up Foochow means that we have been given lots and lots of them. and here, I would like to help all my friends remember the excellent soups we had eaten when we were young. But now with age catching up and cholesterol having a bad name, we have not put these herbal soups at the top of our priorities.

First and foremost is the Pek Ting soup (or 8 treasures herbal soup). There are eight different herbs taken from seeds, barks, roots and leaves. Foochows can buy this particular combination from any herbal soup in Sibu. Some shops would sell a better and "thicker" soup for the same price. But I really think it depends on whether the piece of dong gui in the set is thicker or not, as dong gui is the herb which gives the bitter taste to the soup.

My mother would boil the herbs for an hour over a slow stove, like a charcoal stove or a kerosene stove (to save money so as not to waste the expensive gas). When the herbal soup is ready, she would take out the herbs as we do not eat them. Then she would put a huge duck (serati in Malay,or the duck with the red face)which she had already chopped up, into tjhe soup and let it boil until the meat can easily leave the bones. This will take about two long hours. By then the whole kitchen would be filled with a heavenly aroma and young and old would literally crowd around and get their chopsticks ready!! My mum liked that. When dinner was almost ready, we would all rally around without being called, lay the table, and arrange all the chairs for dinner. It was a really good feeling to have...togetherness and bonding.

To make the soup really nice, my mum would add some sugar and some soya bean sauce.

The soup is sweet and bitter at the same time. It is nourishing and warming. And after drinking it one would feel warm. But best of all, one would feel good.

This is a good soup to have when you feel terribly homesick for Sibu. So if you live far away from Sibu, always get packets and packets of them before you leave Sibu.

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