Cháo is a Vietnamese term for a simple rice soup that my family typically served as a light meal in the morning, late night or when one is ill. In Teochew the soup is called mue. The soup can be made plain with just a little rice (cooked or uncooked) and a lot of water and cooked until the rice is very soft. The plain rice soup can be eaten with many other dishes such as braised pork, salted duck eggs, pickled or preserved vegetables to name a few. My grandmother eats her plain rice soup with a pickled-salted fruit that looks like an olive. In general the plain rice soup is eaten with a more salty dish to balance the plain and saltiness of a meal. Other times the soup can be made with a more hearty filling by adding meat, fish, eggs, blood cubes and vegetables. Sometimes fresh vegetables such as bean sprouts can be added on top as a garnish and eaten as well. Growing up my mother made both versions of this soup, plain or with added ingredients and it was always delicious. When I visited Kowloon (Hong Kong) years ago my husband and I stayed in a small hotel where we were served a similar soup with thousand year old egg every morning and I really enjoyed it. I tried to fish out as much of the egg as I could!
Rice and Pork Soup (makes about 7 quarts)
2.5 lb pork ribs
1 lb ground pork
4 C cooked rice
6 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery sticks, washed and cut in half
1 bunch (or about 10) scallions, chopped (may reserve 2 T to garnish the soup)
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 t salt
1 T fish sauce
16 C water
Black pepper, garnish (optional)
Fried red onion, garnish (optional)
1) Heat a large pot (at least 8-quart) with the pork ribs and enough water to cover the ribs over high heat.
2) Once the water comes to a boil, discard the water in the pot, rinse the ribs, and rinse the pot. Do not turn off the burner or stove top.
3) Add the ribs back into the pot and add 16 cups of cold water, place the pot back onto the burner or stove top.
4) Add rice, carrots, celery, scallions, white onion, salt, and fish sauce to the pot.
5) Break the ground pork into small pieces (bite size) and drop it into the pot. If you have time you can make marble size meatballs.
6) Once the water boils turn heat down to medium low and cook for 40-45 minutes or until the rice is soft. Skim the scum off the top of the soup as needed and discard.
7) Once the soup is done cooking, remove and discard the celery sticks.
8) Serve this soup hot with a sprinkle of black pepper and fried red onions or chopped green scallions.
|night view of Ngã Ba (a small village near Sóc Trăng, Việtnam, 2010)|