Watercress and red dates soup (西洋菜红枣排骨汤) is the usual and most-frequent soup that graces our dining table. It's perfectly suitable for novice cook who's always in the awe of the simplicity like me. I usually add dried cuttlefish or dried scallop for added taste but it's rather optional. Similar to other herbal soups, watercress and red dates soup can be simmered in stockpot (over stove top), in crockpot (slow-cooker) or in double-boiler. Just the water amount to be filled in for the latter two is lesser, as cooking technique of crockpot and double-boiler ensures there is no loss of liquid or moisture, and you'll get approximately the same amount of water as the initial water you have poured in. This is contrary to stove-top stockpot simmering which requires you to keep a watching eyes from time to time to prevent the soup from totally boiled off or evaporated.
Containing a superfluity of nutrients, watercress is chocked full of health benefits and is a cancer defence. Mom always claims that watercress is a powerful purifier and cleanser of the body especially the bloodstream. To those health-conscious, you may be interested in finding out more on medicinal uses and health benefits of watercress here. Despite the abundance of health benefits, watercress however should be eaten in moderation, some herbal writers warn that over-consumed may cause cystitis (膀胱炎) or other bladder (膀胱) problems due to its strong diuretic (利尿剂) properties. Some verbally claims that watercress should be avoided for postpartum woman. I can't verify this but I'd rather err on the side of caution.
Here's the simple how-to recipe for watercress and red dates soup (西洋菜红枣排骨汤).
6 red dates
300g spare ribs, cut into pieces
1 carrot, cut into big chuck
1 potato, cut into 4 pieces
1 piece dried cuttlefish (optional, for added taste)
salt to taste
1. Rinse watercress, then pluck the tender shoots with its leaves intact, discard the main longish stems.
2. Blanch or scald spare ribs in a boiling water for a short while. Skim away scum from water surface. Remove blanched spare ribs and discard water. This is to reduce the scum and oiliness in the soup.
3. In a clean stockpot or claypot, pour in 1200ml water and when it reaches rolling boil, put in all the ingredients into the pot. Turn to low heat and simmer for 1-2 hours.
4. Char the dried cuttlefish over the fire (I usually use my stove top) and shred the charred cuttlefish into thin long threads using hands (You can pound it using pestle and mortar to ease shredding process). Add the shredded cuttlefish into stockpot with other ingredients to impart a unique "cuttlefish" flavor to the soup. (Alternatively, you can add some pre-soaked dried scallop substituting dried cuttlefish. If you do that, just soak the dried scallop into water and shred it into thin threads, without charring).
5. Add salt to taste 5 minutes prior to turning off the flame.
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