Soup, another culture, and a binding memory

Soups are part of many cooking cultures, and have been for a very long time. In 13th century China, soup shops in public markets have been described to have popularized eating in a public context, including attending to dietary needs of foreigners who lived there1.The caterers as they were called in 18th century France, who sold soup exclusively as a “restoratif” – a warm broth to soothe and restore strength - are believed to have given rise to the word and concept of a “restaurant1.

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Beaten egg whites are used to clarify meat or chicken stock since adding them to warm stock traps the particulate material of an unclarified stock in the solidifying egg white that can later be strained to result in a sparklingly clear liquid. Egg whites can also be used in chicken stock for a different reason.

Below is a method to make chicken corn soup:

Home-made clarified chicken stock

Chicken breast cut into thin strips and about 3 inches long

Egg whites

Steamed or boiled corn and creamed corn (if in season):

Salt and white pepper

Soy sauce (optional)

Green chili soaked in vinegar (optional)

For the chicken stock use a predominant proportion of bones to meat. Bring the clarified stock to a boil, turn-down the heat to a simmer, poach the strips of chicken – about 4 to 5 loosely packed cups of it for 5 cups of stock - until tender and done. If using corn, add now to the mixture and cook for a few minutes. Lightly beat egg whites – about 4 whites for 5 cups of stock – season, and add them in small dribbles to the stock mixture as it is being whipped gently. The circular, vortexing motion of the liquid and the heat will cook the egg whites into thin white strands. Check for seasoning and serve warm with or without the optional soy sauce and vinegar as condiment. The soup can be stopped at various stages to make different versions – stock with chicken or egg or corn or any combinations of these, or just stock.

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Chicken corn soup is not a traditional Indian soup, but one might consider it so given its popularity in many parts of India. A friend from northern China says he has never tasted the soup though it may be a part of southern Chinese cuisine. It is, however, very much a part of Chinese cuisine in both north and south India, called as Indo-Chinese presumably in reference to the cuisine started by the people of China who have settled in India. The popularity of this soup, and cuisine is such that, in a country like the United States with a large Indian diaspora, there are Indo-Chinese restaurants distinct from the traditional Indian restaurants that cater to specific Indian palates.

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I recently saw a picture of my grandmother having a bowl of soup at a Chinese restaurant in India. Her expression brought back memories of going out to eat as a child with various groups of family, often to a Chinese restaurant, where without much debate or disagreement, but with many head-nods and smiles, the meal would start with a big bowl of chicken corn soup served into many small individual bowls at the table.

 

Reference:

  1. Food: the history of taste edited by Paul Freedman

10 thoughts on “Soup, another culture, and a binding memory

  1. Amrita Sankar

    Balana! As someone who has a penchant for soup-sipping, this brought back fond memories as well. I think I'm inspired to make some soup for dinner! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you, Amrita! Lovely to hear you'll be making soup for dinner - I'll look forward to sharing a bowl with you sometime!

      Reply
  2. Elisabeth Walker

    I remember that first soup! Beautiful photos! I love the style that you give your recipes in 🙂

    Reply
  3. Vandana

    Very engaging! I just brought back some Chinese food from Pitt myself as I thoroughly enjoy the simplicity of making Chinese food.

    Reply
  4. nirmala

    Thanks for sharing the recipe for soup. Though soups are associated with winter it is so popular in in India and particularly in Chennai where in my opinion the weather gets hot, hotter and hottest. As for soup being a soothing food consumed to restore strength,I recollect the clear mutton soup and the crab soups my mother made when recovering from bout of cold. It also brings back memory of soups I have had after child birth. It is very typical in India the mother particularly after child birth is given soup made of goat meat,sheep liver,

    The photographs are so tempting that it gets the reader thinking of making soup for their next meal.

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you!

      I enjoy very much your examples of soup in India with a specific restorative purpose. Thank you for sharing.

      Reply
  5. rashmi rai

    Thanks Nirmala for introducing me to Bala's blog...I love the simplicity or rather the lack of complicaton that I see here...&yeah, makes me want to cook again -right after dinner!...:)...

    Reply
    1. Bala

      Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and for your kind comments. I look forward to culinary discussions in the future.

      Reply

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