Saturday, February 15, 2014

Chinese Classics: Crab & Corn Soup

When I was a child, we didn’t eat out very often – in fact, I am pretty sure I could count the instances on one hand. We ordered takeaway food sometimes, but this was pretty rare too – to be honest, there weren’t many takeaway options. However, on special occasions there was a trip to the local Chinese restaurant which was about as exotic as it got in early 1980s suburban Sydney. If you were lucky, there would actually be Chinese people working in the restaurant – but more often than not this was not the case!

These days, things are vastly different, with Asian restaurants dotting many a street corner in modern Sydney and Asian flavours influencing the very foundation of our national cuisine. At W&W HQ, we eat an Asian inspired meal most nights – from Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and various provincial Chinese flavours. Whilst our palate may have developed considerably from the experiences of my youth, there are some old habits which remain and one in particular for me is my childhood favourite, Chinese Crab and Sweet Corn Soup.

Crab and Sweet Corn Soup, or its slightly less exotic sibling Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup, is something found on every local Chinese menu and the sort of familiar, comforting dish that never fails to cheer my soul and warm my belly. It’s versatile – an interesting starter at a small gathering, a light meal after a long day, and the perfect remedy when one is feeling under the weather.

In this modern era of sophisticated dining, a lot of people look down on the addition of creamed corn to a delicious Chinese soup, but I am not one of them. Yes, creamed corn may seem pedestrian and unfashionable. However, for me, this is the key to the soup of my youth – fresh corn kernels perk the soup up to something bold and modern, but the addition of a tin of corn forms the comforting foundation for a nostalgic delight. By all means, ignore my advice and use fresh corn only, but I think you will find that the combination of both fresh kernels and a tin of creamed corn will give a rounded flavour to a satisfying classic.

There are two stages to this recipe: the making of the Chinese chicken stock and the finishing of the soup itself. You most certainly can make the stock ahead of time and even make this when you have some roast chicken to use up. I will invariably make a batch of the stock to put in the freezer and will then use it for this soup, or as a broth for a clear noodle soup or freeze smaller portions for use other Chinese meals. You might be tempted to skip making the stock and just use a box of pre-made chicken broth and you certainly can do this, but you will have something quite different from the fragrant Superior Chinese broth that forms the foundation of this dish.

I have used crab and chicken meat in my version but you can, of course, omit the crab and serve your soup as "Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup" if that is your preference.

Crab & Sweet Corn Soup
Serves 6

For the Fragrant Chicken Stock:

  • 1kg chicken pieces (I tend to use a whole chicken)
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the flat part of a knife
  • 3cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 3 spring onions (scallions) cut into 5cm lengths
  • 1 tsp salt (or a splash of soy sauce) to season
  • 2L water (or enough to cover your chicken)

To make the stock, place the chicken in a large saucepan or stockpot with the remaining ingredients and cover with water.   Bring to boil over medium heat, skim to remove any scum from the surface. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 ½ hours.   Again, skim the surface and strain stock. Don’t throw out the chicken pieces as you will use the shredded meat in your soup.

TIP!  Make your stock ahead of time or the day before.  If you follow the steps above and then place your strained stock in its pot in the fridge, you can have one last attempt at clearing away all the fat and impurities that gather at the surface as these solidify when the stock is cold.  You can also freeze the stock for use at a later time.  You’ll need 6 cups of the stock for the soup below, which is what should be left from the simmering process after straining.

For the Soup:

  • 6 cups Fragrant Chicken Stock
  • 1 cup crab meat
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • kernels from 3 cobs of fresh corn
  • 1 x 310g tin of creamed corn
  • 4 tbs cornflour
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 slices ham, shredded into fine strips (optional)
  • 6 spring onions (scallions), sliced finely (reserve ½ cup for garnish)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • salt, to season

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, bring the chicken stock to a boil (if you have made the stock the day before, remember to skim the surface of the stock). Add creamed corn, fresh corn, ginger, sesame oil and spring onions (remembering to reserve some for garnishing) and allow soup to come back to the boil. 

Mix cornflour with 4tbs of cold water and combine to form a smooth paste. Add to the soup whilst stirring and allow soup to come back to the boil and thicken. Make sure you stir constantly during this process so the cornflour is incorporated and does not form lumps. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for a minute. 

Beat egg whites with 2tbs cold water. Add to the soup in a thin stream, stirring well. Ribbons of cooked eggwhite will immediately form.

Finally, add the shredded chicken and crab meat (if using) and the shredded ham. Allow to simmer for a few moments to heat through. Taste soup for seasoning and adjust with the addition of salt (or soy sauce if that is your preference). 

Serve in bowls topped with a mound of spring onions (scallions). 

*  *  * 

NOTE: If you have used a whole chicken, you will end up with more shredded meat from the chicken than you will need for the soup. By all means you can add extra to the soup and bulk it up further, but think about saving it for other meals. The meat will be gently infused with the fragrant broth and is delicious in a salad or as part of a sandwich filling. I also make a practice of freezing the meat for use in other soups, and I combine it with other ingredients in purees for my baby.

Soup freezes well. 

1 comment:

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