Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 2)
Hairy gourd is a Chinese vegetable that resembles a cucumber with fine, white fuzz on the skin. This hairy gourd soup is light and simple and, like most Chinese soups, it allows the subtle flavour of the vegetable to come through. We make this soup all year round, because my mother grows the hairy gourd in her garden. This soup is normally made with a Chinese salted egg, but we recently discovered that this soup is even better when you use drippings from steamed lobster instead. Both variations have been provided in the recipe below. [On a side note, according to the teachings of Chinese medicine, this is a neutral vegetable (neither a ‘hot’ food nor a ‘cold’ food), so it is suitable for everyone.]
Chinese Hairy Gourd Soup Recipe
makes 4 to 6 bowls; adapted from Alison’s mom
2 large or 3 small Chinese hairy gourds, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced crosswise into 1/3 inch thick pieces
approximately 1 pound (less is fine) of lean and boneless pork meat (Note: This should be left in one piece. If you are using bite-sized pieces of pork, then add the pork just prior to the end of the boiling time for the hairy gourd. Once the soup comes back to a full boil, the pork should be just cooked through. Then you can add the salted egg or steamed lobster juices.)
a pinch or two of dried Chinese shrimp
2 thin slices of fresh ginger, approximately 1 inch x 2 inches in size (optional)
1 salted duck or chicken egg (recipe here) OR the retained pan drippings from a large steamed
coarse sea salt
ground white pepper
Place the pork, dried shrimp, and ginger (if using) into a large pot with enough water to more than cover the meat. Cover and bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the hairy gourd slices and enough water to reach 1 inch above all of the ingredients. Cover and bring the water back to a rolling boil. Then reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle boil, covered, until the the pork is cooked through and the hairy gourd slices are soft and tender, and not mushy. This will take between 10 and 20 minutes. Skim off any form or debris that rises to the surface of the soup.
If you are using a salted egg, separate the yolk from the white and break the egg yolk slightly. Add the slightly broken egg yolk to the soup and stir gently once or twice. Then while stirring constantly, drizzle the egg white into the soup so that you can see thin strands of the egg white throughout the soup. The salted egg makes the soup salty enough for our taste, but add salt and white pepper to your taste. Dish out and serve immediately while still piping hot, before the gourds become overcooked. The boiled pork meat can be served separately with soy sauce or salt, and hot sauce if desired.
If using steamed lobster pan drippings, gently stir the pan drippings into the soup and bring the soup back to a boil. The steamed lobster pan drippings always make the soup salty enough for our taste, but add salt and white pepper to your taste. Dish out and serve immediately while still piping hot, before the gourds become overcooked. The boiled pork meat can be served separately with soy sauce or salt, and hot sauce if desired.