Broth: A Taiwanese Staple

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Broth is so fundamental to a Taiwanese meal. I think that’s because it’s filling, so back in the day when food and rice was scarce, by drinking volumes of liquid, it provided satiety. Broth also aids digestion. 

What constitutes broth for Taiwanese people typically involves boiling water with some type of bone with little meat on it, along with some type of root vegetable. Typically, daikon radish is a favorite with small squares of pork spare ribs. My other favorite is broth with fresh bamboo and pork ribs, and also fish balls and celery. What all broths have in common is that they are always clear, see-through clear, without any cream. Even after immigrating to the US, I can’t remember a day in my life when dinner didn’t include rice and clear broth until I left home for college. Of course, once I got to Cornell, I did gain the “freshman 15”! 

When my mother was ill in the hospital, it was customary that any family visiting her would bring chicken broth, likely cooked with Shitake mushrooms which were considered luxurious and special. After she died, her family did not want her father, who experienced a severe stroke and was homebound, to know that she had passed. So her younger sister left the house every day with a metal soup container with freshly cooked chicken broth that she pretended to be delivering it to the hospital for my mother. I am still not sure how long she kept this up before finally telling him that my mother was gone. 

There are all sorts of variations with broth. If you are chilled or have a cold, instead of plain chicken broth you add sautéed sesame oil, which is known to increase your circulation and “chi” (your life force). In the summer, we drink green bean soup. Imagine lentil soup served ice cold and sweet! Yup, still my favorite. In the winter, it is red bean soup we enjoy hot with rice balls. Those soups are not clear, since they are made of beans, but I love them much more than I could ever get used to split pea soup! 

Here is a delicious recipe for ginger soup:

*This recipe serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 organic chicken, ask butcher to chop into 3 inch pieces (may substitute with a couple of drum sticks or bone in skinless thighs)
  • 1 large 3 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 3 cups of water

DIRECTIONS:

Add water and broth into sauce pan, add chicken pieces. Peel ginger root then cut into eighth inch slices. Add ginger to broth. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for one hour. Add salt to taste. Enjoy!

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