Growing up in a Chinese household, soup was always considered the cure for everything. Have a headache? Drink soup. Ate too much fried food and feel “hot” inside? Drink soup. Caught the flu? Drink soup. Recovering from a sickness? Drink soup. “Drink soup” is the solution to literally all of your life’s problems as summed up by my paternal grandma, my aunt, and my mom.
Now that I am in my late 30s, I realize how much I took for granted all the delicious soups I grew up with, whether they were made by my grandma, my aunt, or my mom. Some soups were simple and straightforward and could be done in an hour or so. Others would be simmering on the stove overnight or for two to three days. I never knew how much time or effort they took since I was never involved in making them; I just got to enjoy them piping hot and ladled into a bowl for me. As with all kids, sometimes I even got annoyed with the elder women in my life for always rushing me to drink my soup. But when I look back, this is just the way they all communicated love when they did not have the words to do so.
Occasionally, I am reminded of the soups and flavors. Sometimes it’s via a restaurant that has a “free soup,” and I take one sip and get blown away because it’s like I saw a flashback of my grandma. That happened in the last year when Chris got takeout from China Xiang near Times Square, and the complimentary soup with a takeout order was a pork bone soup that was super milky in appearance, but just tasted so familiar to me. Other times, it’s via food blogs I skim or Instagram reels I watch where people are going “back to basics” with Chinese home cooking. And so that’s why I’ve decided that this year, I want to be more intentional with soup making. In a traditional Chinese or Vietnamese household, there would be a soup to begin every meal, along with 3-4 different dishes to eat with your rice. I don’t have the time or desire to do this entire show every single day when we eat at home, but I do want to make it more regular than just once every few months. So more frequent soup making is going to be a little cooking goal of mine. I’ve already started it by buying pork bones for $2.49/pound at Whole Foods yesterday and bringing them home to make a traditional pork bone and daikon soup. The taste of plucking off super tender, fall-off-the-bone pork made me feel right at home. Chris called this soup “gnawing soup” because I told him he was expected to gnaw/eat the meat off the pork bones. But I consider this “homey” and comforting. And I hope Kaia embraces this all, as well.