The December holidays are ending soon but it wass one of the most culinary adventures my boys have so far – they had a taste of pig brain’s herbal soup at Day and Night Herbal Soup, stall number 12, Maxwell Market.
“If we eat pig’s brain, will it make us stupid?” my youngest son asked innocently.
“No. On the contrary, they are probably one of the smartest animals of the century except they look yummier instead,” I chuckled.
I had a taste of the pig’s brain soup, out of curiosity, many years ago. The plain brain, like a piece of non porous bean curd, tastes better with a dip in the soy sauce with red cut chili. The soup gives the strong ginseng flavor, which probably masks out the disgusting psychological effect of “brain eating”, if you have it. It is an interesting experience which I do not seem able to find it somewhere, perhaps other than in Hong Kong or China, and if it is for a hefty price on the pretext of health nourishment, no way.
My eldest boy was more adventurous and he tried the whole piece of brain. The youngest kid gave me a grimacing look instead. Anyway, we had lotus soup and winter melon soup with pork as the soup stock, both believed to relieve excessive body heat. The pork with preserved vegetables is a common dish but nevertheless one of the favorite Chinese fatty dish that goes well with rice.
Herbal soup does not necessary equate with affluence especially when you are able to consume it in most of the food centers in Singapore. However, doting parents may enhance the taste of the soup with a repertoire of herbs, and medicinal dried goods in the form of roots or leaves or flowers or the whole of the plants, animal parts, and poultry including mostly pork and chicken as the soup stock.
Soup serves many purposes. It nourishes the body, improves blood circulation, relieve body heat, gives a concentrated essence is one gulp, regulates menstruation, improve hair growth and appetite, relieve fatigue, enhance libido and so much more.
Of the different dialect groups of Chinese in Singapore, perhaps only the Cantonese loves soup more than anyone else. Most of the meals come with soup, whether double-boiled herbal soup or just a simple boiled vegetable soup. Traditionally, mothers will make their way to the Chinese medical hall to buy packs of different herbs to cook the herbal soup. Nowadays, you may easily get these ready-packed herbs, for different purpose of health improvement or maintenance, in retail malls, and modern Chinese medical halls. You simply pour the whole content to the pot with the poultry and cook over low fire for a couple of hours and finally add salt to taste, if necessary. I have a double boiler pot, which allows me to prepare the soup in the morning, and leave the pot cooking under low heat. By the time I reach home for dinner after work, the soup is just ready for the whole family.
Consuming soup is akin to drinking the essence of the herbs or ingredients in one go. Traditional Chinese Medicine requires the patient to boil three to four bowls of water with the medicine to one concentrated bowl before consumption. It is believed that the body absorbs the nutrients better in the form of liquid. Furthermore, some of these herbs or Chinese medicines are simply not meant for human consumption such as the shell of the cicadas, which I prepared it recently for my suffering the condition of post nasal drips.
Similarly, traditional and older Chinese family also believes that consumption of similar organs served to nourish certain the same parts in the body. And so it goes; the pig’s brain to nourish the brain; cockles to nourish the blood, bull frogs for stronger legs, productive organs for the libido, He Shou Wu for youthful hair, ginseng to cool down the body and many others.
Whether are there medicinal values, it will be an exotic treat at economical price and something to remember fondly in the years to come.
Preparing herbal soup is a tradition, an art, a culture, and a history.
As of now, are you ready to challenge the extreme?