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Soups are indispensable to the diet in the family. People nowadays work long hours and they also need to go out for social functions. So they may not be able to go home and for supper everyday. The children may have formed small families of their own and they will only return to their parents’ home for a meal during the holidays. When people know that family members come back for a meal, it is natural that a soup will be cooked.

When we dine out, we can drink soups from different places of origin and in different styles. When we go to a Chinese restaurant, there are long-boiled soups and stewed soups. In a western restaurant, there are cold and hot soups. Even in a fast food restaurant, there are soups of the day available. For the ladies, some of them will order soups for delivery when they are in the office. And there are shops specializing in soups too. However, many people think that these soups are no match for the soups made by family members with love and care because fresh ingredients are used and there is no MSG.

There are many ways of preparing a soup. In an ordinary family soups can be divided into long-boiled soups, boiled soups and stewed soups.

Long-boiled soups

The ingredients are put into boiling water and boiled with high heat, then it is boiled in low heat for 2 to 3 hours so that the flavour and parts of the ingredients are dissolved into the soup. Ingredients such as red meat, fish, poultry, dried food, dried seafood, vegetables and herbs can all be used in preparing a long-boiled soup. Moreover, the ingredients used can vary with the seasons, like the ones which can clear away heat are used for spring and summer while moisturizing ones are used for autumn and winter. In this way, long-boiled soups are best choices for all seasons.

  • Sufficient heat and rich flavour in the soup
  • Combination of the ingredients is flexible and varied
  • Soup contains minerals including sodium. Drinking the soup can replenish minerals and salt lost in sweating.
  • Time taken to prepare soup is long and the meat will become hard and not suitable for eating
  • Vitamin C found in vegetables is water-soluble and it can be spoiled by high temperature. So cooking time cannot be too long. In long-boiled soups, ingredients like carrots and pumpkins can be used because their carotene is more heat-resistant than Vitamin C and is harder to be spoiled.
  • Red meat and seafood have large content of purine. The longer the cooking time, the more purine will be released. If you do not drink much water, the purine which gathers in the body will lead to gout. People suffering from gout should drink less long-boiled soups.
  • Many people think that the calcium found in bones can be dissolved in a soup. The fact is that even when a soup is cooked for a long time, only a small amount of calcium can be dissolved into the soup. On the other hand, the fat in the meat and bones will be dissolved into the soup, hence increasing the fat content. People who are fat, with diabetes or hypertension should not consume too much long-boiled soups. For the other people, they should avoid drinking them every day.

Tips of cooking Long-boiled soups

  • When preparing a long-boiled soup, you should first work out the sufficient amount of water required. You should avoid adding water while cooking the soup. This is because any change in water temperature and addition of large amounts of water will affect the taste of the soup. If it is necessary to add water in the middle of cooking the soup in order to prevent the water from becoming dried up, you should add boiled water and do not use tap water.
  • Dried tangerine peels are often added into the long-boiled soups. As the pith is considered to have damp heat, you should soak the peel in water first, then scrape off the pith before putting it into the soup.
  • Add a slice of ginger when boiling soup with melon and vegetable. This can reduce the cool nature of the melon and vegetable.
  • Ingredients should have less fat. Meat and poultry meat should have the fat and skin removed.
  • Briefly scald meat in boiling water to remove the odd taste, blood stains and fat. This will make the soup clear.
  • Chicken should be rinsed thoroughly with internal organs, head, neck and the skin removed. Briefly scald the chicken before putting it into the soup.
  • When preparing a long-boiled soup, put in the ingredients into boiling water. Boil the soup for half an hour in high heat, then simmer in low heat.
  • When boiling soup, the fat of the ingredients will float in the surface of the soup, do not try to remove the grease in the middle of cooking the soup as this layer of grease may separate the evaporation of the nutrition together with the water. You may remove the grease on the surface of the soup after you have turned off the stove or when the soup cools down.
  • Put in salt only when the soup is almost ready. In fact, there is taste in the ingredients and unsalted soup can taste good as well.
  • Long-boiled soups with many ingredients have a high content of salt, sugar and fat, hence it is not advisable to drink every day.
  • When you add Chinese herbs into a soup, you should first know about the nature of the body of people who will drink the soup and their state of health. You should also know about the efficacy of the herbs and the amount to be used. You should use the right herbs and do not put in herbs as other people are doing so or make up your own prescription according to recommendations. This will avoid causing adverse effect to your body.
  • Herbs should first be soaked before placed into a soup. For herbs which are hard such as dangshen, American ginseng, and Sanchi, they should first be cut into small slices. Then less time is required to release the flavour of the herbs.
  • Many people say three hours are need to prepare a long-boiled soup and four hours are required to prepare a stewed soup. Actually, the time required depends on the ingredients used, the amount, the heat and cooking utensils used. There are certain ingredients, for example, green-leaf vegetables, which should not be cooked for a long time. For fish soups, one to two hours would be quite enough.

All along long-boiled soups are very popular with the families. They think that such soups have a strong flavour and can have a moisturizing effect on the body. However, there are recent views that long-boiled soups do not have much nutrition value and they often have too much fat and sugar. It is because only a small part of the nutrition of the ingredients are dissolved into the soup and most of the nutrition is left in the remains of the ingredients. If you just drink the soup without eating the remains, you do not actually take in much nutrition. So what kind of soups would be a better choice?

Boiled soups

The ingredients are put into boiling water and boiled for half an hour or so. The ingredients will retain its original colour and flavour and usually melons in season, sliced meat and fish are used. This kind of soup is suitable for all seasons.

  • Time taken is usually shorter, usually half an hour or less.
  • Ingredients do not have to be cooked for a long time and hence less loss of nutrients.
  • Soup tastes sweet.
  • Ingredients can retain the original flavour and the soup remains can be eaten and not wasted.
  • Ingredients used are mainly melons and vegetables and their nature is cool.

Stewed soups

More time is required for stewed soups. The ingredients and water are put inside a stew pot. A lid is tightly placed above it and the soup is stewed over water. This reduces the water evaporated and the original juice and flavour can be retained. The ingredients used are usually meat, chicken, dried seafood and herbs. Stewed soups are especially suitable for consumption in autumn and winter and they can strengthen the body.

  • When soup is stewed over water, it can avoid direct contact with the fire of the stove and the soup inside the stew pot will retain its original juice and flavour.
  • When the ingredients are stewed inside a sealed stew pot, less water will be evaporated and hence less loss of nutrients.
  • Ingredients used are normally meat, chicken, dried seafood and herbs. When coupled with the less amount of water used, it is easy to retain the essence of the food and have a marked moisturizing effect on the body.
  • Time taken for stewed soups is longer.

We need to have a balanced and proper diet. Provided that we do not consume a huge amount of soup every day, there is no cooking method for soups which is absolutely preferred or not preferred. When we drink soup, we should note that babies should avoid drinking soup which is too greasy. Children and young adults have better metabolism and so they can consume more soups. For the middle-aged and elderly, they should only consume soups of a suitable amount.

Some people may want to know whether it is better to drink soup before or after a meal. Some people think that if you drink soup before a meal, the nutrition of the soup can be absorbed easily by the stomach. It can also increase the sense of fullness and hence can avoid eating excessively. For people who are on diet, if they drink soup before a meal, this may reduce their intake of food. However, since young children may easily be full, they may not be able to eat more after drinking soup. So it would be better for them to drink soup after a meal. For those with a poor appetite, if they drink some soup first, this can moisturize their mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach, hence helping digestion and absorption.