How to Make Soup
Making soup is the most common and easiest way to make highly nutritional food. There is little cooking skill involved and anyone can make soup easily without much training or instruction. Besides, there are foods and herbs such as root vegetables, tree trunk and bark, beans and animal bones which are highly nutritional but are hard to cook and eat except by putting them into water and cook for hours. The long simmering process can effectively break down and dissolve the nutrients from the ingredients therefore making soup nutrient dense and easy for the body to digest and absorb. The healthful or therapeutic effects on the body can be immediate and highly effective.
Soup is suitable for people of all ages and is especially good for people who are sick and with no appetite or energy to digest a lot of food. Since the essence is in the broth, soup is ideal for people who have to be on fluid diet after surgery to speed up recovery.
When it comes to making soup, most of the work is in preparing the ingredients. Some ingredients may need a day or more of preparation before use.
Meat and bones
They need to be washed and put through blanching and rinsing before use in order to get rid of blood, foul taste, fat and scum. This is necessary to make meat soup clear and without oil/fat.
Beans need to be soaked for at least 2 hours to get rid of a particular sugar, oligosaccharide that the human body cannot break down. Oligosaccharides are large molecules and are not broken down and absorbed by the lining of the small intestine as other sugars are. This is because the human body does not produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides make it all the way through the GI tract to the large intestine still intact. The bacteria that live in the small intestine break down the oligosaccharides. This produces the gas that must eventually come out of the rectum.
Vegetables need to be rinsed, soaked for at least 30 minutes and rinsed a few more times before use. This is to get rid of any chemical residue from pesticides and insecticides used. For most fruits that are used for soup, their skin has to be removed before cooking because fruits are heavily sprayed with chemicals.
Most root herbs need to be rinsed and soaked for 15 to 30 minutes. Other herbs such as flowers and seeds, they should be rinsed clean and strained before use.
Most dried seafood such as abalone and sea cucumber need up to a few days of soaking and pre-cooking before use. The alternative is to use frozen ones to cut down on preparation time.
Make Soup by Simmering
Most herbal decoctions need about one hour of cooking time over medium heat. When it comes to making soup with herbs and other ingredients such as meat and vegetables, it is recommended to simmer over low heat for 2 to 3 hours.
The slow simmering process is necessary because low heat cooking will not destroy the good nutrients in food and it will also allow the nutrients to be fully extracted and dissolved into the broth. With all the essence in the broth, it is important to consume all the broth but not all of the solid ingredients such as meat. This is better for the body with less solid stuff to process and therefore fewer burdens on the digestive system. It is most applicable to people who are not well. For people who have good health and good digestion, eating some meat as well will leave nothing wasted because there were enough studies done confirming that there are still good nutrients left in meat after cooking in soup for hours even though there may be not much taste left.
If you do not intend to eat the meat or solid ingredients after cooking, you can break them down further more by using a soup spoon towards the last 30 minutes of cooking so that more nutrients and taste can be dissolved into the broth. If you feel there is still more goodness in the meat and ingredients after finishing the broth, you can put in a few cups of water to cook the ingredients the second time for about 20 to 30 minutes on medium heat to yield another one to two cups of broth.
It is important to start cooking soup with a quick boil for about 15 minutes first to start off the breaking down process before turning heat down to slow simmering. If you prefer to use a slow cooker to make soup, you can then transfer the cooking over. Remember to preheat the slow cooker first because it will take a long time for it to bring the cooking up to speed. This is to ensure that proper cooking is done within the cooking time and the soup will come out as tasty as it should be.
Make Soup by Steaming or Double-boiling
Another method of making medicinal soup is by steaming or double-boiling. This method involves placing all the ingredients together with the right amount of water into a casserole and cover with lid. The casserole is then placed on a stainless steel stand (cooling stand) inside a bigger pot (or a wok) with adequate hot water at the bottom. The water level should reach the lower half of the casserole so that the water can transfer the heat to the casserole and cook the food inside. It is important that the water level should not be too high to avoid water overflowing into the casserole during cooking and diluting the soup inside. The pot or wok should then be covered and cooked over medium-high heat for at least 3 hours.
Throughout the cooking, boiling hot water should be added regularly to maintain the cooking and to prevent burning. When it is ready, the soup can be served straight from the casserole.
This method is used for making more expensive and delicate recipes with most of the ingredients to be eaten (especially meat). The slow simmering process will ensure the original taste and tenderness of meat can be preserved. It can also prevent the aroma and the broth from evaporating during cooking. Besides, the direct heat from the stove will not come into contact with the food therefore not increasing the hot nature of the food. This is especially important for extremely weak and sick people who should avoid food of extreme hot nature or with added heat introduced through cooking such as deep-frying and grilling.
Steaming or double-boiling is the more sophisticated method in making medicinal soup which requires more work and attention but the soups produced are certainly the best of all. For convenience and practical reasons, using a slow cooker can be a reasonable alternative. However, the cooking time should be at least 3 to 4 hours in order to get the best result.