Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arrowroot: A soup and A Dish

A Cantonese home-cooked meal is not complete without a soup.  At the start of each meal, my family habit is to take a few sips of the soup first.  At the end of each meal, we'd help ourselves to more soup!  Depending on the types of soup, cooking time can be as quick as 10 to 15 minutes (we call it 滚汤) or the slow-heat, long simmering soup (煲汤 or 老火汤), which will take about at least an hour plus to three hours to prepare.  

Arrowroot pork ribs soup (粉葛猪骨汤) is a traditional Cantonese soup.  It is flavourful and naturally-thicken with the arrowroot and beans used to prepare the soup.  But compared to other popular soups, such as ABC, lotus roots, watercress, old-melon etc, arrowroot soup is not commonly available in hawker centres or food courts.  Occasionally, Chinese restaurants serve this soup in their menu.  When selecting arrowroot for soups, get those big and round type - it is sweeter and more importantly, it has lesser tough fibre.  Later in this post, I will utilise the leftover arrowroot for making another dish.

1 medium-sized arrow root
1 carrot (optional - for colour and added sweetness), cut into chunks
A small handful of pearl beans (珍珠豆
A small handful of black eyed beans (眉豆)
5 to 6 red dates
5 to 6 pieces of pork ribs

1) Wash and scrub clean the arrowroot.  Peel the skin and cut into chunks.  
2) Blanch the pork ribs in hot water to remove blood and impurities.  Discard water.
3) Bring a pot of water to boil (about 2 litres).  Put in all the ingredients and bring the soup to boil for a few minutes.  Turn to low heat and simmer for about two hours.  Add salt to taste.

Usually, we just drink the soup and discard the arrowroot, as it is rather tough and fibrous.  But, occasionally, if I manage to get a good piece of arrowroot that is sweet and quite "粉" (shall translate it as .... lesser tough fibre), these leftover arrowroot can be transformed into another delightful dish.

Braised pork trotters arrowroot with fermented red bean curd sauce

This dish reflects the "wisdom" and "thriftiness" of our old grandmothers.  They are so ingenious to turn an otherwise "not-so-tasty" fibrous root (but edible food) into another rich and flavourful dish!

My mum and mother-in-law told me back in the olden days, leftover arrowroot (or lotus roots) are never thrown away.  By braising these cooked arrowroot with fermented red bean curd sauce (南乳) and some pork belly (or pork ribs), you have another yummy dish! 

Leftover arrowroot, cut into smaller bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pork trotter, front hock (猪手), chopped into bite-sized pieces
5 to 6 slices ginger
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 shallots, smashed
1 piece tangerine peel 
1 to 2 pieces fermented red bean curds (南乳)
1 to 2 tsp soy bean paste (豆酱)
A little cooking wine
2 tsp sugar or some rock sugar
Spring onion (garnish)

1) Boil the pork trotters in hot water for a few minutes to remove blood and impurities.  Discard water and set aside the pork trotters.
2) Heat the wok on high heat.  Add a little oil, stir-fry the ginger slices and shallots briefly.  Add the pork trotters and stir fry for a minute or more.  Push the pork trotters to one side and add in the chopped garlic, fermented red bean curds and soy bean paste.  Stir the sauces to prevent burning (if the wok is too hot, lower to medium heat where necessary).  When you smell the aroma from the sauces, stir-fry to combine with the pork trotters.  Drizzle a little cooking wine around the wok and stir-fry again.
3) Add water to completely cover the pork trotters, plus some more (water will be reduced & thickened after braising and with the addition of arrowroot).  Add the carrot and tangerine peel.
4) Bring content to boil, then turn to medium-low heat and braise for about an hour.  After 15 minutes into braising, add the arrowroot and sugar, cover and continue cooking.  In between, check to see if the gravy has reduced to prevent burning.  Add some water, if necessary.
5) Garnish with chopped spring onion and serve hot.

I will be sharing this post with Edith of Precious Moments at Heritage Food Trail.  


  1. Delicous soup.This definitely would warm me up better than my fireplace;)

  2. I only know how to make soup with arrowroot. Never knew you can make savory stew out of it. I will try that out one day.

  3. Would you please be kind enough to make my day?

  4. hi, just came over from edith's blog and this dish sounds delicious to me. i knw what to do with the leftover arrowroot now.


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