Recently a new Hong Kong style cafe opened up in Irvine called Tasty Garden which my wife and I have been going to a lot lately. Although Irvine does have a few decent Chinese restaurants, the selection is very limited so when we found Tasty Garden we were thrilled because they serve the same type of dishes we ate growing up in the San Gabriel Valley area. One dish in particular brought back some childhood memories, when I ordered their Chinese watercress soup I felt like Anton Ego in Ratatouille when he flashed back to his mom making him his favorite dish. Although Chinese watercress soup wasn’t my favorite dish, the memory of this soup instantly took me back to my childhood days. After drinking this soup I literally walked over to the 99 Ranch and immediately picked up the ingredients needed to make this soup at home.
To make Chinese watercress soup you will need the following ingredients:
- 4 – 6 bundles of watercress
- 2 lbs of pork neck
- 1 soup chicken (aka Chicken bones)
- 1/2 cup of Chinese almonds (aka apricot seeds)
- 2 preserved dates
- 10 dried red dates
- 1 can water chestnuts
- 2 dried scallops (not included in picture)
- Roughly 6 qt of water (I make this much to last the week)
If you don’t want that much soup then just use less water, just make sure to adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. If needed cut the ingredient quantities in half to make a smaller batch of soup. To start making your soup get two large soup pots and fill them each with roughly 6 qt of water and bring to a boil. Once both pots are boiling place your raw meat into one pot and let your meat cook just long enough so that the blood within the bones start to cook, you will know this is happening when you see a layer of foam coat the surface of the water (see pot on left side in the image below). Once your meat/bones releases the cooked blood take the meat out and rinse it under cool water, then place it into the second pot of boiling water. This process is needed to keep the soup from getting cloudy and at the same time it prevents the soup from picking up bad flavors from the cooked blood.
Once all of your meat has been transferred over to the second pot go ahead and dump out the water from the first pot and set it aside in the sink because you don’t need that first pot anymore. Now comes the easy part of making this soup, add in all of the remaining ingredients except the water chestnuts and let the soup cook for 2 hours.
During the last 30 minutes add in the water chestnuts and let the soup finish cooking. Once your soup is done add salt to taste (this can range from 3 – 6 teaspoons depending on how much soup you’ve made). Just make sure you add in 1 tsp. of salt at a time and thoroughly let the salt dissolve before you taste to see if you need to add in more salt. This soup is super easy to make and it is a great way to enjoy watercress!