Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 3)
Pork stomach soup is one of my favourite Chinese soups. I just love the texture of pork stomach after it has been boiled in a peppery and clear soup. It is chewy and surprisingly neutral in flavour. The peppercorns in this soup make it especially warming during the cold winter months. Chinese restaurants add a lot of different spices to their pork stomach soup, but I’ve always found that the best soups are made from a simple list of ingredients. So here’s my favourite (and simple) recipe. [On a side note, according to the teachings of Chinese medicine, this is a ‘hot’ soup. The dried bean curd helps to reduce some of the ‘hotness’, but if you feel cold easily or if you have just given birth, omit the bean curd so that you can maximize the warming properties of this soup. If you are cooking for someone who has just given birth, see my grandma’s Chinese Ginger Vinegar with Pig Trotters and Eggs recipe here.]
When dealing with pork stomach, be sure to do a thorough job of cleaning it first. This is the most labour intensive step in this recipe, so I recommend pre-washing several pork stomachs and then freezing them for quick and easy future use. The last time my mom made this, I was so excited to eat it that I completely forgot to take a photo of it for you! I will load a photo when my mom makes this again.
Pork Stomach Soup Recipe
adapted from Alison’s mom
1 or 2 large fresh, not previously frozen, whole pork stomachs (Note: It is important to buy very fresh pork stomachs. They will have an unpleasant odour, but the smell will go away once you wash them properly.)
approximately 1 1/2 pounds pork meat and/or pork bones
scant 1/2 cup ginkgo nuts, peeled (Note: To peel the ginkgo nuts, place them in a plastic bag and crush them lightly with the flat side of a large cleaver to crack the peels. Then remove and discard the skin.)
approximately 1 tbsp whole white peppercorns, placed in a plastic bag and then coarsely broken using the back end of the handle of a large cleaver (Note: This could be substituted with black peppercorns or a mixture of the two, but white peppercorns are spicier than the black ones. Alternatively, you could add more peppercorns to taste as some people like to make their pork stomach soup very very spicy.)
a few dried bean curd sticks, with the rough ends and curved corners discarded
a lot of coarse Kosher sea salt
Place the dried bean curd sticks in a very large, heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water into the bowl to more than cover the dried bean curd sticks. Soak them in the hot water until they have softened through. This could take up to 2 hours. There are very dried pieces of bean curd that will never soften all the way through. These pieces tend to be found on the ends or in the curved corners. These should be cut or broken off and discarded. Alternatively, you could soak them in cool or room temperature water over night or for up to 1 day. Once the dried bean curd sticks are softened, cut them into 2 inch long pieces.
Cleaning the pork stomach is the most labour intensive step of this recipe, so I recommend washing several pork stomachs at once and then freezing the extra ones for quick and easy future use. Sprinkle a few generous pinches of the coarse salt all over the pork stomach and rub and massage the salt into the stomach. This will help scrape off dirt and debris. Then pull or cut off any pieces of fat and debris. Rinse the salt off of the stomach under cool running water. Repeat the steps of rubbing salt into the stomach and rinsing the salt off until the pork stomach no longer has an unpleasant odor.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place the pork stomachs, pork meat, and pork bones into the boiling water and cover with a lid. Once the water returns to a rolling boil, drain everything in a heatproof colander over the sink, all the while rinsing the pork stomach and other pork pieces with all of the hot water from the pot. Under cool running water, rinse and clean the dirt and debris off of everything, especially the pork stomach. If necessary, massage salt into the pork stomach and then rinse the salt off under cool running water. Wash the pot before using it to make the soup.
Once your pork stomach is clean and no longer smells foul, place the pork stomach, pieces of pork, pork bones, ginkgo nuts, and white peppercorns into a large pot. Fill the pot with more than enough water to cover all of the ingredients. Don’t allow the water level to go higher than 3 inches below the top of the pot. Over high heat, bring this to a rolling boil, covered. Reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle boil for a total of 2 hours. Skim off any foam or debris that rises to the surface of the soup. One hour into the cooking time, start checking the texture of the pork stomach. It should be chewy, but not tough and not too soft. If it is still too chewy for your taste after 1 hour, check again in 10 to 15 minute intervals until the desired texture has been achieved. When you are happy with the level of chewiness, slice the pork stomachs into strips that are approximately 1/3 or 1/2 of an inch in thickness and 2 inches in length. Set the pork stomach strips aside. Add the dried bean curd sticks to the pot half an hour prior to the end of the cooking time. Note that some of the water will be absorbed by the dried bean curd sticks. Add salt to taste.
When the cooking time is over, the ginkgo nuts should be very soft. Just prior to serving, return the sliced pork stomach to the pot of soup, bring the soup back to a rolling boil, and serve the soup piping hot. The boiled pork meat pieces and pork bones can be served separately with soy sauce or salt, and hot sauce if desired.