Chinese meals typically begin or end with a flavorful broth that is said to stimulate the appetite and aid digestion. I especially look forward to cantonese broths, which are complex amalgams of bony cuts of meat, dried seafood or mushrooms, and various herbs and vegetables. The meats in these are not served, as all of their essence has been extracted into the broth during the long cooking process. I learned about this combination of ingredients, which is fairly traditional, from a college friend who lived downstairs and made the most amazing soups. I’d make up other excuses just to go down to snag a bowl of whatever broth he had steaming on the stove! This dark reddish-colored broth, with hints of fruit and mushroom, was my favorite. Once you find the ingredients it is one of the easiest ways to make something exotic, yet immediately homey and satisfying. —monkeymom
chicken thighs (legs, wings, or whole chicken all work fine. Roasted chicken bones would also be great to add, but some dark meat chicken is important for this broth)
carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
dried shiitake mushrooms
dried red dates
dried lotus slices or chunks
(optional) goji berries are also a good addition to this
(optional) 1/2 inch knob of Virginia ham is also good and adds a smoky undertone.
Note: The mushrooms, dates, and lotus can be purchased at Asian food stores or on-line.
Add water to cover chicken and deglaze pot. Add rest of ingredients and 1Tbsp of salt. Bring to boil. Taste and adjust with more salt if necessary.
Simmer for a long time, at least 4 hours, with the lid on. You can do this over low heat on the stove or overnight in a crockpot. Add water to keep chicken and other ingredients covered. Add salt as necessary to taste. The stock is done when the meat has completely fallen off the bone and taken on a red hue. The lotus should be uniformly dark red.
Remove fat. You can do this by skimming the top with a spoon or using a fat separator and pouring off the liquid at the bottom. (Alternatively, refrigerate stock and scrape off cooled fat.) Re-boil before serving.
The broth can be served as is or strained first to remove bits and bones. The chicken left will be stringy and not flavorful, so I do not serve it. However, you can serve the carrots and lotus with the soup. Add salt as necessary to taste.
The lotus can also be removed from the broth and cut into smaller chunks. Serve simply drizzled with soy sauce.
My favorite distraction is to cook. Though science and cooking/baking have a lot in common, I'm finding that each allows me to enjoy very different parts of my life. Cooking connects me with my heritage, my family, friends, and community. I'm really enjoying learning from the food52 community, who expose me to different ingredients and new ways to cook.