For many Hongkongers, dinner is not complete without a bowl of Cantonese soup. Read on for more about these time-honoured recipes, and see if your fave made the list!
The summer heat is still going strong in Hong Kong, but according to the lunar calendar, autumn started a few days ago with the day of liqiu (立秋). As drier and cooler weather approaches, it’s prime time to prepare some nourishing foods to keep away the flu and COVID-19. Aside from hot pots and healthy meals to warm and strengthen your body, how about trying double-boiled Cantonese soups? While there is some debate about their supposed health benefits, those of you who grew up in Hong Kong would know these wholesome bowls are a staple in every household. Besides grabbing soups-to-go as you pass by the classic Hung Fook Tong and HealthWorks in MTR stations, there are specialist shops in Hong Kong that serve hearty soup-and-meal combos, as well as online stores that deliver straight to your door. So, here are some of our favourite Cantonese soups and where to get them in town.
Our favourite Cantonese soups and where to find them in Hong Kong
1. Coconut, bamboo fungus, Silkie chicken (black chicken), and goji berries soup
Move along, coconut water and coconut oil, as this coconut soup uses an entire coconut – and it’s even served in one! Not only is the coconut aromatic and appetising, but it’s also famous for its ability to improve the skin and hair, as well as increase your metabolism. Add the superfood goji berries to the mix for a bump of antioxidants, vitamin C, and melatonin. Also, the bamboo fungus is a popular ingredient for Chinese vegetarian dishes, and is good for those with a cough, a dry throat, or high blood pressure. Plus, it’s known for benefitting the brain and liver.
On the other hand, don’t judge the Silkie chicken by its cover, as it looks pretty unusual with its black flesh and bones! This particular breed is especially helpful for ladies and the elderly, as it is said to increase fertility, restore vitality, and improve the liver and kidneys.
Find the coconut, bamboo fungus, Silkie chicken, and goji berries soup (織金竹笙烏雞椰小盅) at Coconut-Soup (椰小盅燉湯專門店), which has various locations across Hong Kong.
2. Fish maw and chicken soup
One of the most treasured ingredients in traditional Chinese cuisine, fish maw is especially popular among the ladies. This is because it contains high protein, calcium, and collagen content, and thus is good for your kidneys, bones, and skin. Also, chicken broth is a crowd favourite in both the East and West not only for its comforting and nourishing flavours, but also for boosting the immune system, enhancing blood circulation, and strengthening the heart.
But an interesting difference is that drinking chicken soup is often encouraged in Western culture when you catch a flu, as it is believed to help your body fight off the viruses; whereas Chinese traditions advise you not to drink chicken soup when you catch the flu, because it ‘traps’ the viruses inside your body instead. All in all, it’s best to consult your doctor if you feel unwell, and maybe see what they’d say about this!
Get the fish maw and chicken soup (花膠濃雞湯) delivered to you from Maw Garden (花膠園), or find it at Star 68, Shop G04, G/F, Man Yee Arcade, Man Yee Building, 68 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong, p. 2628 0110, 中環德輔道中68號萬宜大廈萬宜廊地下G04號舖星68
3. Fuzzy melon, octopus, rice bean, and lentil soup
Also known as Chinese zucchini or hairy gourd, fuzzy melon is a popular seasonal vegetable in the summer. Not only is it low in calories and fat, but it’s high in dietary fibre and alleviates bloating. Pairing this veggie with octopus will make a flavourful and healthy soup, as octopus can further promote blood circulation and act as an energy boost. And as for rice beans and lentils, these legumes can help reduce water retention in the body and aid detoxification. Healthy and delicious, what’s not to love?
Order the fuzzy melon, octopus, rice bean, and lentil soup (節瓜章魚赤小豆扁豆湯) for delivery from Soupism (尚湯主義).
4. White lung soup (pork lungs, almonds, and ribs soup)
As adventurous as they may sound, pork lungs are – you guessed it – good for the lungs. And, almonds promote healthy lungs and gut too, which is why this white lung soup is the epitome of the Chinese medicinal concept of yi xing bu xing (以形補形), which is similar to the saying ‘you are what you eat’. Aside from pork lungs, pork brain used to be frequently served for kids back in the day, as it is said to supplement the brain, hence enhancing the ability to study. That said, the more commonly known fact about offal nowadays is its high cholesterol content instead… Oops.
Despite its inexpensive ingredients, the white lung soup is less often seen on menus outside of traditional Chinese restaurants due to the complexity of processing and cleaning the pork lungs. Kudos to these eateries for taking on the challenge!
Find the white lung soup (白肺湯/杏汁豬肺湯) at 365soup, 7/F, China Harbour Centre, 122-126 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, p. 3100 0200, 尖沙咀廣東道122-126號中港中心7樓湯直送
5. Sliced whelk, chestnuts, walnuts, lotus roots, figs, black soybeans, red dates, dried orange peel, and chicken soup
Woah, that was a mouthful! Packed with almost ten ingredients, you know this soup means business. The sliced whelk not only adds flavour to the soup, but it’s also a rich source of protein, and supports almost every other organ in our bodies, including the spleen, stomach, liver, kidneys and skin. The chestnut is a common ingredient in Cantonese soup recipes in autumn and winter as it is in season, and it contains vitamin C and calcium. The other type of nut in the soup is walnut, which, along with black soybeans, has plenty of antioxidants. As for figs, red dates, and dried orange peel, these ingredients act as natural sweeteners in many Cantonese soups. Altogether, they are said to provide soluble fibre to the body while inducing appetite, and relieving coughs and dry throats.
Order the sliced whelk, chestnuts, walnuts, lotus roots, figs, black soybeans, red dates, dried orange peel, and chicken soup (螺片栗子核桃蓮藕無花果黑豆紅棗陳皮煲雞湯) for delivery from Smart Soup (靚湯工房).
6. Sea coconut, Chinese pear, and snow fungus soup
Served cold with a hint of natural sweetness, this sea coconut, Chinese pear, and snow fungus soup can be a light, healthy dessert to wrap up your meal. Snow fungus is known for its high fibre and collagen content, benefitting the skin and the digestive system. In addition, sea coconut and Chinese pear are known to help moisturise the lungs, reduce phlegm and inflammation, relieve dry throat, and contain detox properties. Bonus: this recipe is vegan, too!
Find the sea coconut, Chinese pear, and snow fungus soup (海底椰雪梨雪耳湯) at SoupDay, G/F, 5 Shin Hing Street, Central, Hong Kong, p. 6386 4688, 中環善慶街5號地舖湯譜