Chinese Pork and Daikon Soup

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

There is currently a flu emergency in New York City - the worst epidemic since 2009! While everyone is running to their local pharmacy to get their flu shot, I ran to the closest Chinese supermarket to pick up some ingredients for Chinese soup, or "Tong" as the Cantonese call it.


Chinese Pork and Daikon Soup, or "Tong"

"Tong" is a staple in any Chinese home, and as my mom likes to tell me, a good soup is not only nutritious, but it will help make my skin glow, improve my health, and this case, maybe even help me avoid the flu. Actually too late, because I already have a runny nose and cough. This soup is helping nurse me back to health!

Regardless of the mysterious benefits or not, I have grown to love Chinese soup because of how soothing it can be on a cold winter day - just like a Chicken Noodle Soup! As you can see in the photo above, this Chinese Pork and Daikon soup recipe doesn't really require too many ingredients. Essentially, it is the American equivalent of broth, except instead of tossing out all of the veggies you cooked in your broth, in a Chinese soup, you eat all of it.

Green Daikon is the preferred daikon to be used in soups with longer cook times as the flavor is sweeter

Of course, not all Chinese soups are as simple as this recipe. Often times, a lot of extra Chinese herbs goes into "tong", but my favorite has always been the ones with the fewest ingredients. The two vegetables that I'm using today is green daikon and carrots. This is definitely not the first time I've made this soup - it is really just my easiest way to get a taste of mom's home cooking. So, in my trial and error, I've found that green daikon tastes better in soups that you have to boil for a long time.

White daikon, which you can sometimes find in typical American supermarkets, results in a rather bitter after taste at the end. I've used it in other recipes such as making a quick boil broth for shabu, but I would advise against it in this recipe. However, if you can't find green daikon, it won't be the end of the world to just use white daikon instead.

Chopping up the carrots and green daikon into big 1-inch chunks

Dried dates, dried goji berries, and dried scallops

In addition to the vegetables, I add some additional dried ingredients to the soup. I feel like most of these are optional, but let me tell you why I've added it to my soup.

Dried dates is the most common addition to Chinese soups - it helps add extra natural sweetness to your broth, similar to how carrots sweetens up your broths. My mom adds this to all her soups, so here I am, adding it to mine. :)

Dried goji berries have become the newest, "it" ingredient, similar to what Acai berries were popular for a few years ago. Berries like the goji berry are filled with powerful antioxidants and are native to China. My mom has been trying to convince me to add more herbal ingredients to my soups, so this is my baby step to being a bit more adventurous here.

Dried scallops help bring that extra umani - meaty and savory - flavor to the soup. I had some laying around, so figured, why not. I say out of the 3 dry ingredients, this is the least necessary.

Alright, so now that we have all the other ingredients covered, let's talk about the pork! I always like to use a combo of pork bones and pork butt when I make my soup. I feel like the bones help give the soup extra flavor, after all, what broth recipe doesn't call for bones!? The meat around the bones can sometimes be a bit dry, depending on which cut you buy. So, to offset this, I like to add some extra pork meat to the soup so that I can dip it into soy sauce later and eat it. Pork butt is a good cut of meat for this purpose.

Flash cooking the pork bones to get the impurities out

For a really clear broth, it is ESSENTIAL that you take the extra step of blanching your pork bones so that all the blood and some of the fat boils out of the meat. It takes an extra 10 minutes, but trust me, it is worth it. You don't want random chunks of blood floating around on the top of your soup. I usually blanch mine until the meat changes color and you start to see some blood coming out of the bones. Once that's done, take the bones out and rinse quickly under cold water.

Adding the pork bones, pork butt, and dried ingredients to a new pot of boiling water

Once your broth comes to a boil, add the carrots and daikon to the soup! 

As you can see, once you've prepped most of your ingredients, the rest of the soup is very easy to make. With only 15 minutes of prep work, you can now set your pot to a simmer. In just 2 hours later, you will have yourself a nice piping hot pot of Chinese Pork and Daikon Soup. I always salt my soups at the end after I've had a taste of the natural sweetness of the soup before I adjust my salt accordingly. You may also find that you don't even need that much salt to be happy with the overall taste of the soup.

Chinese Pork and Daikon Soup


1/2 - 1 lb pork bones
1/2 pork butt, cut in half
1 medium green daikon, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 dried dates
1 handful dried goji berries (optional)
4 dried scallops (optional)
salt to taste

1. Blanch pork bones. In a large pot, fill up with 1/3 from the top with water - enough to cover the pork bones later. As you boil the water, peel and cut your vegetables. Once the water is boiling, gently drop in the pork bones. Blanch for about 5 minutes, or until you see foamy impurities float to the top. Strain the water and rinse pork in cold water for 1/2 minute. Set pork bones aside.

2. Boil water and add ingredients. After quickly rinsing the large pot, fill up with 1/2 from the top with water. Bring to boil in high heat. As the water is boiling, rinse all your dried ingredients to make sure it is clean. Once water boils, add the pork bones, chunks of pork butt, the dried ingredients and the vegetables to the water. Add extra water if the water doesn't touch the top of your vegetables. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer.

3. Simmer and serve. Usually, Chinese soups are cooked for 1.5-2 hours. The longer it cooks, the more flavorful your soup will end up being. Once the soup is done, add salt to taste and serve.

Try a different variation of this soup with corn and turnips!

The finished product! Chinese Pork and Daikon soup, so good for the soul.

Pro Tip: You can keep this soup in the fridge for up to 5-6 days. I wouldn't recommend you keeping the soup any longer than that. I know this recipe actually makes quite a few servings of soup, so while I have this soup on hand, I like to use it dishes that I cook throughout the week as a chicken broth substitute.

Otherwise, if you don't think you can drink all of it, you can also freeze the soup by placing some cold soup (hot soup will melt your bag) in a ziplock bag and laying it flat to freeze. This way, the soup won't take up too much room in the freezer and you can use it in other recipes later.

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