Steamed Vegetable Soup

This is one of my favourite soups. In China, it is called ‘double-boiled’ or ‘double-steamed’, the name deriving from the cooking technique used. The prepared ingredients are put in a casserole containing a boiling rich stock; then the casserole is sealed and placed in a steamer — a double cooking process that creates a flavourful soup. It is popular among all Chinese, and in Hong Kong it is made from various ingredients, such as shark fins, pigeons, bird’s nests, chicken and, as in the recipe, vegetables. Because vegetables cook quickly, this takes little more than half an hour to cook to full flavour and the result is a clear soup, rather like a rich consomme. It makes a splendid first course for dinner parties or can be served as part of a family meal.


  • 25 g (1 oz) Chinese dried mushrooms
  • 100 g (4 oz) Chinese white radish (mooli)
  • 100 g (4 oz) fresh or tinned waterchestnuts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oil, preferably groundnut
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock


  • watercress leaves


Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes until they are soft. Squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms and remove and discard the stalks. Leave the caps whole.

Peel and cut the Chinese radish into 7.5 cm (3 in) long pieces. If you are using fresh waterchestnuts, peel them; if you are using tinned waterchestnuts, drain well and rinse in cold water. Thinly slice the waterchestnuts. Beat the eggs, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the sesame oil together in a small bowl.

Heat a wok or frying-pan until hot and add the oil. Pour in the egg mixture and cook until it sets. Remove the omelette and leave to cool. Cut it into 1 cm (½ in) shreds.

Set a rack into a wok or deep pan. Fill with 6 cm ( in) of water and bring it to the boil. Heat the stock in another large pan until it is almost boiling and then pour the stock into a heatproof glass or china casserole. Add the radish, waterchestnuts, egg shreds, mushrooms and remaining salt to the stock. Cover and put the casserole on the rack, then cover the wok or deep pan tightly with a lid or foil. You now have a casserole within a steamer, hence the name ‘double-boil’. Reduce the heat and steam gently for 35 minutes or until the radish is cooked. Replenish the hot water from time to time. An alternative method is to simply simmer the soup very slowly in a conventional pan, but the resulting taste will be quite different.

When the soup is cooked, it can be served immediately or cooled and stored in the fridge or freezer to be re-heated when required. Garnish the soup with the watercress just before serving.