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November 3, 2011

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Great soups good for more than the soul

AS the weather starts to cool down, more diners may be interested in eating a nourishing soup.

Chinese chefs, especially Cantonese cooks, usually add traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients to their soups.

They change the ingredients from season to season to ensure the best health benefits for diners.

Kevin Ji, Chinese executive chef at Renaissance Shanghai Pudong Hotel, says autumn is very dry and soups can help restore fluids to the body.

"Many people have dry lips, a cough or small pox on the face because of the dry air," he says. "Eating soup can replenish fluids and nourish the lungs to help relieve the dryness."

Ji says white foods such as lily root, white fungus and lotus seeds have a good nourishing effect when added to a soup.

Chrysanthemums and wolfberries are added to help reduce internal heat in the body.

Chinese chefs sometimes recommend different soups for men and women due to their distinct yin and yang properties.

Michael Lu, Chinese executive chef at JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai Tomorrow Square, says he recommends female diners eat soups that supply qi and blood. Soups that boost yang energy are more suitable for males, he says.

Serve soup the right way

Cantonese chefs insist on serving soup hot and at the beginning of the meal to warm the stomach and smooth the palate.

"Nourishing soups are best at dinner since they can replenish the physical strength we used during the day, but also warm the body, which helps people sleep better at night," Lu says.

Before eating, smell the soup. For a high-quality soup, the aroma should be rich and concentrated, and you should be able to smell all the ingredients. Then observe the color to see whether it's clear enough. Last, taste it to experience the flavor and temperature.

"For a nice soup, the temperature should be hot so that the flavor and fragrance can be completely released. It should have a nice balanced taste, and the herbal flavors of the medicinal ingredients (sometimes a little bitter) should not be overpowering," Lu says.

This week, we introduce four soups that are believed to be good for the health in the fall.

Double boiled chicken soup with scallop, sea snail, fig and seabed coconut

This is a new dish Ji has just launched for this season. The soup is clear and has a light, fresh taste. The natural sweetness from the scallop provides a nice balance to the meaty taste from the chicken meat. The fig and seabed coconut give the soup a fruity aroma. "Chicken, especially the feet, is a rich source of collagen, which is great for people's skin and hair," Ji says. In TCM, figs are used to remove heat from the body and seabed coconut is good at cleansing excessive fat, according to the chef.

Price: to be decided

Double boiled papaya soup with pear, white fungus and apricot

This is a nourishing soup and is most suitable for female diners. It is available only recently. Pears are in season now and are good for nourishing the lungs, according to TCM. The pear is crispy and a nice complement to the soft papaya and the chewy apricot. Rock sugar adds a mellow sweetness.

Price: to be decided

Double boiled duck soup with cordycep flower

The soup is served in zisha pottery as the container keeps the liquid hot for a longer period of time. The strong aroma blends meat, herbs and a hint of sweetness from the jujube. The soup has a nice golden color. Duck is known to nourish the yin, and cordycep flower helps build body strength and is also good for the lungs and kidney, according to TCM.

Price: 68 yuan

Double boiled chicken soup with abalone and ginseng

This dish is recommended for female diners. The fatty taste of the chicken meat is well balanced by the ginseng, which is a little bitter. The abalone has a nice firm texture. Lu says he uses black-bone chicken, which is good for the blood and is known for its high nutritional value. Ginseng has a warm nature that helps supply qi to the body.

Price: 88 yuan

JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai Tomorrow Square

Tel: 5359-4969

Address: 399 Nanjing Rd W.

Renaissance, Shanghai Pudong Hotel

Tel: 3781-4888

Address: 100 Changliu Rd


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