As the blustery wind blows, nothing thaws a frozen body fresh in from the elements quicker than a steaming bowl of hot soup. Pauline D. Loh suggests some winter warmers.
The most primeval form of cooking in China was roasting over an open fire. It was not too long before the first ancient cooks discovered the combination of fire and water. By placing water in a skin hung over an open fire, they discovered that boiling water cooked food evenly and without scorching. That was the first soup and stew.
Modern cooks have it a lot easier. They don't have to send their husbands out hunting so they can get a skin to hang over the fire, In fact, there are a lot of high-tech containers now that allow you to throw all the ingredients together, turn on a timer and forget it all until dinner time.
But being very Cantonese, I prefer the good old-fashioned stovetop method. It is a sensuous experience I would not exchange for all the gadgets in the world. Skimming the froth from the first boil is almost a therapeutic experience, a cleansing process that calms the soul and clears the broth.
And as the soup slowly simmers on the stove, it sends out sensory signals that it is slowly turning from plain water into a delicious tonic. The savory scent from the kitchen announces to family, and neighbors, that a treat is in the making - a sort of epicurean foreplay.
In winter especially, a simmering pot also steams up the kitchen and warms the house. In the arid cold of a Beijing winter, cooking a soup can also be a spa facial.