Double-Steamed Chinese Cabbage Soup

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Yet another wok-friendly soup, the unusual technique for making this soup is not difficult to master. Double-steaming is a process in which rich ingredients are steamed for hours in a covered casserole filled with soup. This diffuses and marries all the flavours of the different ingredients. It is a technique often used for making the classic Shark’s Fin and Bird’s Nest Soups.

The result is a distinctive consommé, clear and rich but also light. Here the delicate sweet flavour of the cabbage plays gently with the subtle taste of the ham. This elegant soup is a refreshing starter for any dinner party. It can be made in advance and frozen, as it re-heats well.

Ingredients

  • 450 g (1 lb) Chinese leaves (Peking cabbage)
  • 25 g (1 oz) Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 50 g (2 oz) Parma ham or lean smoked bacon
  • 4 slices fresh root ginger
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) Chicken Stock
  • 4 whole spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

Method

Using a sharp, heavy knife or cleaver, cut the Chinese leaves in half lengthways, then into 5-cm (2-in) segments. Soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain them and squeeze out the excess liquid. Remove and discard the stems and finely shred the caps into thin strips. Cut the Parma ham or bacon into very fine shreds and cut the ginger into slices 5 cm x 5 mm (2 x ¼ in).

Next set up a steamer or put a rack into a wok or deep pan and fill it with 5 cm (2 in) of water. Bring the water to the boil.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another large pan and then pour it into a heatproof glass or china casserole. Add the Chinese leaves, ham, ginger, spring onions, Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, salt, pepper and sesame oil to the casserole and cover it with a lid or foil. Put the casserole on the rack and cover the wok or deep pan tightly with a lid or foil. You now have a casserole within a steamer, hence the term ‘double-steaming’. Turn the heat down and steam gently for 1½ hours. Replenish the hot water from time to time. An alternative method is simply to simmer the soup very slowly in a conventional pan, but the resulting taste will be quite different.

When the soup is cooked, place the contents into a large soup tureen. The soup can be served immediately or cooled and stored in the fridge or freezer to be re-heated when required.

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