Monday, June 27, 2016

Feel better soup from Shanghai

If I were asked to think of another country where something sweet was considered therapeutic, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an answer. But China does this on a regular basis. Case in point: this marvelous concoction.

In many ways, this is very similar to a regular old fermented rice soup. Shanghai, though, manages to ratchet the flavors and textures and colors up a whole lot, creating something that is quite unique all the way around. Corn is in there to round out the nutrition and add wonderful bits for the teeth to play with, and wolfberries add a dash of scarlet and light sourness to the mix. Did I happen to mention that this is delicious, too?

Chinese moms whip up soups like this whenever someone doesn’t feel well, has had a baby, or is otherwise miserable. One reason for this is that the fermented rice gets the circulation going, which warms up the toes and makes life seem just a tad more livable. Second is that it just tastes so darned good. And third is, it’s a snap to pull together.
Shave off the kernels

Fermented rice, wolfberry, and corn soup
Gŏuqĭ jīróng yùmĭ gēng  枸杞雞蓉玉米羹
Serves 8

¼ cup / 30g wolfberries
Boiling water, as needed
2 ears fresh corn, or around 1½ cups / 300g frozen tender corn kernels
2 cups / 450ml fermented rice, both solids and liquid
Rock sugar, to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cool water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Rinse the wolfberries, place them in a small heatproof bowl, and cover with boiling water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Cut the corn off of the cobs and use your knife to scrape off any pulp and juice. Or, measure out the frozen corn.
Totally luscious

3. About 10 minutes before you serve this, bring 3 cups of water to a full boil in a medium saucepan. Add the wolfberries, their soaking liquid, and the corn. Allow the soup to come to a boil again, and then use a whisk to stir in the fermented rice so that it breaks apart into grains. Add about 1 tablespoon rock sugar, or to taste. When it comes to a boil the third time, stir in the cornstarch mixture until the soup has thickened.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the eggs on top in a thin ribbon, back and forth. Wait for about a minute, and then gently stir to make the eggs form gentle wisps. Serve immediately.

Tips

This can be made ahead of time up through Step 3. But don’t add the eggs until the last minute, as you want them to be silky and soft. Reheating the soup just turns them leathery.

Consider this for breakfast, too
The secret to these velvety eggs is the way in which they are poached: the pan is taken off the heat, the eggs are dribbled across the top (never poured into the pan in a vast puddle), and then they are left alone to set up. This way they won’t turn into nasty little tough threads. Instead, they will be sensuous and calming. A simple trick, but incredibly useful.

If you don't want to serve this all at once, reserve half (or so) of the soup after you’ve finished with Step 3 and add the eggs to whatever you’re eating at the time.


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