Friday, March 26, 2010

red soup

For you non-asians, I know what you're thinking, what the heck is red soup (or sup merah)! It's actually a very common recipe in Chinese families. I'm guessing that it's made up during the war when the only meat they could find was the canned variety.

Every family has a different recipe, this is my family's recipe which I have modified a bit. My mother got this recipe from my grandmother, and now she has given it to me (plus her modifications).

I guess that's how family recipes are passed down, you might choose to add a little bit of this or that and adapt the recipe to make it your own. I do have to say that you cannot modify or remove the tomatoes as an ingredient. The tomatoes are the crucial ingredient which makes the soup red.

Sup merah
by my grandmother

  • 1 small whole chicken (or 10 chicken feet, or 10 chicken drumsticks with bones)
  • 500g prawns
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cans of spam (340g cans), cut into cubes
  • 1 can of chicken or pork cocktail sausages (350g), cut into 0.5cm pieces
  • 1 can of straw mushrooms, cut into halves
  • 700mL of sweet and sour sauce (Lee Kum Kee if you can find it, if not VH brand is also good)
  • 2 big carrots, peeled and cut into approx. 0.5x0.5x0.5cm pieces
  • 8 tomatoes
  • 3 stalk of spring onions, with the roots chopped off & thrown away
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Sweet soy sauce (ABC brand or Cap Sate brand), salt, white pepper, sugar to taste

  1. Boil the chicken in just enough water to cover the chicken, when the water has come to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, leave to simmer for at least 1 hour. Keep adding hot water into the pot as the water evaporates away. The water should cover the chicken.
  2. While you wait for the chicken to finish, chop the prawns & 3 cloves of garlic. Mix together the prawns, the garlic, add a little tiny bit of white pepper, salt, sugar and last add the egg white. Blend them together to a thick consistency, not too smooth. I like my fried prawn balls to have some texture.
  3. Use two spoons to shape the prawns into a ball / oval shape, doesn't have to be pretty, because you are going to cut them up later. It'll just have to be small enough so it'll fry easily.
  4. Heat 1cm deep canola oil in a frying pan and fry the prawns until golden. Keep and eye on it, we don't want it too brown. When the prawns have cooled down, cut them up into 0.5x0.5x0.5cm pieces, again just an estimate.
  5. In another pot, boil the tomatoes in water. Once the tomatoes are soft (about 10-15 minutes), take them out and set it aside on a plate. Use the remaining water to boil the carrots until they are soft. Set the carrots aside and add the water into the chicken broth by straining it through a fine sieve.
  6. Check if the chicken has been cooked thoroughly, no pink flesh in the middle, near the bones. Every chicken pieces have different times, so check by poking it with a fork. When it has, take the chicken out, wait until it cools down before tearing up the flesh.
  7. Strain the previously boiled tomatoes through the sieve into the chicken broth, we want the tomato juices only in the broth.
  8. While you wait for the chicken to cool, it's time to make the broth more substantial. Ensure heat is still low, add the sweet & sour sauce and spring onions. Add the following to taste: salt, sugar, white pepper and sweet soy sauce. The colour should be orangey-red. The flavour should be mostly sweet from the sugar, sweet soy sauce and the sweet & sour sauce. There should be a bit of heat from the white pepper. And a bit of sour from the tomatoes.
  9. Once you're happy with the broth, return the chicken pieces, the fried prawns, the spam, the sausages, the mushrooms and the carrots. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes until all of the above ingredients soak up the flavour of the soup.
  10. Serve the soup with rice as a main meal, or on its own as an appetiser.
Note: If you use chicken feet for your broth, like I did in this occasion, you won't have any chicken meat to put into the broth, you'll just have the canned meat.

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