Experimental Soup #2: Sea Cucumber with Mushrooms

So… this is experimental soup #2.  If you remember, experimental soup #1 was the Polonchay Soup a few months back.  Though I fancy eggdrop soup, there is something fascinating about the dark, thick, full-of-hidden-treasures bowls you see in chinese restaurants.

It all started when i was browsing through the market, and while at the fish section, i saw a tray of sea cucumbers.  though i know some people have not heard of sea cucumbers, i have grown up eating chinese food, and sea cucumbers is pretty staple in chinese cuisine.  for the record, i have never attempted to cook chinese cucumbers.  neither has my mom or dad.

So after it has been in the freezer for a few weeks (hey, i was out of town for a month, so you need to give me a break here), i finally took it out to experiment with it.  it was a toss up between a sea cucumber with lettuce and mushrooms dish, or soup.  i decided to just do soup, using ingredients that was readily available.

so after washing and boiling the sea cucumbers, i transferred it to the chopping board and chopped it into small cubes. while doing so, a couple of pieces of tenga ng daga (black fungus) was soaking in hot water, since we buy them dehydrated and packed in small clear plastic bags.  along with it, three pieces shiitake mushrooms.  i chopped them all to little cubes, discarding the stems from the shiitake mushrooms.  then, i prepared some ginger, sliced into thin strips.  now, you may ask, why strips and not cubes for the ginger?  well, i don’t know.  that’s just because i’ve never seen cubed ginger.  chinese restaurants will always serve it as ginger strips, along with the dimsums.  or maybe ginger cubes would have too strong a flavor?  that could explain it too.

last ingredient, Kinchay.  this was an accident.  i had intended to purchase some cilantro.  i had an idea of what cilantro looked like. i saw the kinchay, sniffed it, and took it.  i was well aware that Wansuy is the chinese name for cilantro, but it just looked too similar, and the scent was fairly the same too.  though kinchay’s scent was much more subtle compared to the strong unclog-you-nasal-passage effect of cilantro.  i figured it was just because it had been exposed in the supermarket refrigerator for so long without being wrapped in a plastic bag.

i will inject a funny side story to the kinchay.  when i went to the grocery, i had intended to buy kinchay and the black fungus only, so i didn’t get a pushcart or a basket.  i got the kinchay first, then went down to the dried goods section to look for the black fungus.  i then realized i felt like a little flower girl, holding a bouquet of leaves down the aisle.  what an image!  hahaha!

so anyhow, i started the soup by boiling some water, then adding the chopped sea cucumber.  after a few minutes, i added the mushrooms, then the black fungus.  i didn’t do it all together, because i wanted to sniff the soup at each interval, to know how flavorful each ingredient was.  i wanted the soup to have a dark color, so i used some soy sauce to give flavor and a darker hue.  if you have reached the desired color and feel that the soup is not salty enough, feel free to add some pork broth.

at this point, you may add the ginger.  the green vegetables always go last into the pot because you don’t want them to wilt away in the soup while it boils.  initially, i only put in half of the chopped veggies, but the flavor wasn’t that distinguishable, so i put everything in eventually.  win-win situation, since i also won’t have to worry about what to do with the other half. =)

starch slurry to thicken up the soup.  add seasonings as you see fit, such as pepper.  serve piping hot.  best served in a deep bowl with a chinese soup spoon. =)

here’s a good reference to differentiating kinchay and cilantro.

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