The saying “Old is Gold” is exemplified in a hearty pot of Chinese-style old cucumber soup. This humble vegetable with its seemingly dried-out, dark yellow/brown wrinkly skin (like how mine will be when I’m 80) is a secret Chinese cooling weapon. It’s a Yin ingredient, used to help cool down your body when it’s ‘heaty’.
Yes I know cucumbers are categorically fruits. There are more interesting things to argue about.
More importantly, this soup reminds me of home – warm, nourishing and loving. Hold on, I’m feeling my Mom bursting with pride here…
My Mom doesn’t skimp on soup ingredients. She uses good stuff and would put in more than necessary (e.g. more pork bones for a really rich, filling soup flavour). The end result is very telling, and I’ve learned from my Mom to go all out for a bowl of good soup.
Here’s my Mom’s recipe for Old Cucumber soup with pork ribs. For halal-friendly friends, substitute with chicken bones and bits. Full recipe at the bottom of the post.
Have these dry ingredients ready: a whole bulb of garlic, a handful of dried scallops, a few red dates, a few pieces of dried oyster, and a piece of dried cuttlefish (optional).
Get a medium-sized old cucumber. Wash and scrub the skin clean. Cut into half, remove the seeds, cut into smaller slices.
I use about 300g to 400g of pork bone + soft ribs (yun guat). Even though the pork ribs would have not much flavour left, I still enjoy gnawing on the soft bones. You can use any types of pork bone for soup.
To clean the pork bone+ribs and scum, put them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Remove the bones, put aside, and throw out the water.
Fill a pot with water, dump in all your ingredients: dry ingredients, pork bone and old cucumber. How much water? Enough to fill your pot, not too much that it’d overflow.
Okay, slightly more than 2 litres of water.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 2 hours. If I have the time, I’d leave it on for 3.
When it’s ready to be served, the soup is thick, hearty and slightly mushy from the flesh of old cucumber. We don’t usually add in salt as the ingredients give so much flavour to the soup. If you’d like to add a bit of salt, do it before serving.