Then I reminded myself that it is because I do not know every Chinese dish that exists—it will take more than one lifetime for anyone to completelylearn and fully understand Chinese cooking.
China is vast, regional cuisines vary and what we know as Chinese food is more an interpretation and adaptation—a fusion born when Chinese immigrants of old settled in the islands and tried to recreate traditional Chinese dishes using local produce. It is only in China where authentic Chinese food can be had; elsewhere in the world, Chinese food is more local adaptation than authentic.
The recipe for this pork bone and radish soup, therefore, is my interpretation of a deceptively simple dish. Why deceptively simple? Because making this soup is not just a matter of boiling the ingredients. The broth must be clear, not cloudy. And achieving that level of clarity requires the additional step of pre-boiling the pork to remove impurities.
To do that, the pork is boiled hard to allow the scum to float on that water. The pork bones are then drained and rinsed thoroughly. The most effective way to remove all scum, including any that may be hiding in the crevices, is to bathe each piece of pork under the tap.
The cleaned pork bones go into a clean pot and covered with water. Ginger, garlic and salt are added before the simmering begins. How long they need to simmer depends on the size of the pork pieces and the age of the animal from which they were taken.
This is a soup so, as the water evaporates during cooking, you will need to replenish it to ensure that the pork bones are always submerged in liquid. It is also a good practice to taste the broth after each addition of water and add more salt, if needed.
When the pork is tender, add the radish. We opted to throw in sweet corn too both for a sweetish broth and a more colorful soup. Another half hour or so of simmering tenderizes both the radish and the corn kernels. And that’s just enough time too to allow the radish to soak up the salty meaty flavor of the broth, and for the corn to sweeten it.
Pork bone and radish soup
- Cut the pork into two-inch pieces.
- Place the pork in a pot and cover with water.
- Boil for about ten minutes until scum has risen to the surface.
- Drain the pork (discard the water) and rinse well making sure that no impurities remain.
- Place the rinsed pork in a clean pot and cover with clean water.
- Add the garlic, ginger and a tablespoon of salt.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour or until the pork is tender. Taste occasionally, add salt if needed, and pour in more water to make sure that the pork pieces are always submerged in liquid.
- Taste the broth, add more salt if needed, then add the radish (and corn, if using).
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for another half an hour or until the radish cubes are soft.
- Give the broth a final taste and add more salt, if needed, before sprinkling in the sliced scallions.
- Serve hot. Best with rice.