Saturday, September 19, 2009

Watercress Soup (西洋菜汤)

This is one of my favourite soups. It's a nourishing bowl of goodness that is easy to make. I didn't know that watercress is one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans, until I googled it. Well, we learn something new everyday!

I made this soup today for my family. The watercress at the market was beautifully fresh and crisp, and going cheap.

I went over to the poultry stall to buy a chicken for the soup. The nice uncle refused to sell me any! Instead he went behind the counter, dug into his freezer and handed me a huge bag of chicken thigh bones, gratis.

"Take these," he whispered. "The soup will taste even better!"

And he was right. Boiling soups with bones lend a milkiness to the taste. The watercress soup was rich and full-bodied. So delicious!

Finally, can anyone confirm if this is true: I understand that when cooking bitter-ish veggies, such as watercress or kow kei, we should NOT put the veggies in when the water is boiling. Instead, we should put them into the soup pot with room temperature water, and THEN let the whole thing boil. This way, the veggies will not have a bitter aftertaste when cooked. Any truth to this?

- 1 bundle fresh watercress
- 1/2 fresh chicken, or 500g bones, or 500g pork ribs
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 handful pitted red dates
- 1 handful Chinese wolfberries
- 3 large soup bowls of water (boiled till amount is reduced to about 2 large bowls)

1. Rinse watercress thoroughly.

2. In a soup pot, put all ingredients in and bring to a gradual boil over medium heat. Once the water comes to a rolling bowl, lower the flame and let the soup simmer gently. This should take about an hour or longer, if you want a more robust flavour.

3. If, like me, you are using a pressure cooker, all it takes is about 15-20mins.

4. Add salt to taste if desired. But for me, there is absolutely no need. It was so flavourful on its own.


  1. What a nice uncle:) I would save bags for you too:)Wolfberries and dates in soup? I love your ideas!And just last night I was with a seasoned cook and she loves her pressure cooker..Maybe soon:)Have a lovely weekend!

  2. Healthy stuff! has antioxidants and cancer suppressing properties. I love this stuff

  3. This reminds me of home! My grandma used to cook this for us very often. hmm...about how to deal with bitter veg, I have no idea, I tend to dump veg in boiling water.

  4. Interessante questa zuppa, ricetta letta e annotata.
    un abbraccio Daniela

  5. I love this soup but haven't had it for so long. Over here in the UK, the watercress are pre-packed usually used for salad and the quantity is very little.. :(
    I can just drink this soup on its own as my lunch. :)

  6. one of my favorite soups too! i could have it every night!

  7. Hi, it's the other way round. The water must be boiling before adding the stalks and leaves or the soup would be bitter.
    To make the soup taste even better, cut the stalks and tie it and boil it for awhile. Then later add the leaves. Discard the stalks. As told by my MIL and other old aunties and also from a Cantonese recipe book. :)

  8. I love watercress soup: it is so healthy too!

    Looks very tasty!!! MMMMMMMM,...

  9. Thanks everyone for your comments! :)

    Anon: Thank YOU, whoever you are! Truth be told, I have done it both ways, LOL! I used to do it your way. Then I switched ways when some ladies told me otherwise. Both ways, I can't tell the difference! Golly. Maybe all those red dates and wolfberries masked the bitterness! Perhaps I should do an experiment - just watercress and water, and see which tastes more bitter ;) But I do appreciate your tip on boiling the stalks first. I will do that next time. Thank you again! :)

  10. I like watercress and I like soup, so this might be a good combination to try - I normally eat watercress stir-fried. Is this a typical Singaporean soup?

  11. One of my favourite "soup of the day" offered in Cantonese restaurants....esp. in the summer time, this was selling like a hot cake!

    Angie's Recipes

  12. Cooking-Gallery: Yes, very common in Asia, actually.

    Angie: I can imagine! ;)

  13. LT, please do do the experiment and let us know what happens! I don't know which way is better.