The Chinese are great soup drinkers. Their soups are light and clear but always full of flavour and visually very attractive. The variations are endless, as almost any fresh, good-quality vegetables can be used, along with meat, noodles or a combination of both. An essential start, however, is a good stock made with fresh chicken.
To make soup for 8 you will need a 1.5kg (3lb) chicken (if the giblets are provided do not use the liver) and 375g (12oz) pork sparerib bones.
Before cooking assemble 6 sliced spring onions, 1sliced carrot, 2tablespoons chopped fresh root ginger and 1stick celery, chopped.
Begin by making a simple flavourful chicken stock. Put the chicken and giblets, if using, into a large stockpot or saucepan with the pork sparerib bones, half the spring onions, the carrot, ginger, celery and a few crushed fresh parsley or coriander stalks. Stir in 2tablespoons light soy sauce, 150ml (¼pint) white wine and 2.4litres (4pints) cold water. Season to taste.
Bring to the boil slowly, skimming the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the flavourings out of the stock, then chill and remove any fat from the surface. Using a knife or cleaver, shred the chicken breast meat finely and reserve; use the remaining chicken meat in salads or sandwiches. Return the stock to a clean pan.
Boil the stock, uncovered, for 10 minutes, add remaining spring onions, shredded chicken, 125g (4oz) sliced oyster or shiitake mushrooms, 125g (4oz) broccoli florets and 2tablespoons dry sherry. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add 25g (1oz) cooked or instant rice noodles, 1teaspoon Gsesame oil, 1teaspoon sugar and 2tablespoons light soy sauce. Cook for 1 minute more.