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Monday, February 2, 2009

7 Vegetables Soup (七样羹)

Yesterday was the 7th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as 人日. It is said that on this day, humans were created. Thus it is considered as everyone's birthday. In Singapore, on the 7th day, we eat 'Yu Sheng' (Yu Sang or 鱼生). It is a cold dish, served with various type of shredded vegetables (radish, carrots, turnips, etc.) and raw fish (usually salmon or 西刀鱼). They are then tossed with oil, plum sauce, five spices, peanuts, sesame and crackers. People also call this 'Lo Hei' (捞起), symbolises 'prosperity' (捞得风生水起), not in terms of waistline of course.

For us, on the seventh day of Chinese Lunar New Year, my family will also cook this soup (七样羹) , made up of 7 types of vegetables and more. I am not sure if all Teochews do this but my family does. So to keep the tradition alive, I would want to blog about this soup. 羹, should be thicker than soup, however, my mom and me seldom cook till the soup is thickened. This would mean hours of cooking and the nutrition values of the vegetables will be gone by then. Normally, we will cook this dish with pork ribs. But this year, I am not required to do any cooking on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, I did not stock up my fridge. The butcher was not open so I used chicken breast instead.

Below are the 4 must have ingredients in this soup. The other 3 or more, you can add in as you like. I used kale, chinese leeks, cabbage and carrots this year. You can add radish, mustard greens too.

Bai He Cai (Bek Hak Cai, 百合菜) They are only available once a year during Chinese Lunar New Year. It symbolises unity in family.

Chun Cai (Chung Cai, 春菜), they are too, available only once a year but can still be found 2 to 3 months after Chinese New Year. I'm not too sure what it symbolises, spring, perhaps?

Chinese Celery (芹菜)symbolises being industrious and spring onions (葱)symbolises smartness (聪明).

Radish or carrots (白菜头/红菜头) symbolise 好彩头 (auspicious beginning). Chinese leeks (蒜)symbolise 有的算 (wealth to count).

It is just a humble dish with lots of good intentions in it. After 7 days of feasting, it is also time to detox our body. I usually take this soup alone with nothing else.

7 Vegetables Soup (七样羹)
1 Chicken Breast, remove skin, cut in chunks and marinate with salt and pepper
2 stalks Chinese Leeks, sliced
1 medium size Carrot, cut in chunks
1/4 cabbage, cut roughly
2 stalks Bai He Cai, cut into lengths
2 stalks Chun Cai, cut into lengths
1 stalk Kale, cut into lengths (the one I bought was huge)
1 stalk Cilantro, cut into lengths
1 stalk Spring Onions, cut into lengths

2 litres Water or Stock
Salt to taste
Some olive oil

1. Heat up a pot, add oil and fry the leeks and sear the chicken chunks slightly. Add in water or stock and bring to a boil.

2. Remove scum and add in carrots and cabbage. When they are slightly softened, throw in Bai He Cai, Chun Cai and Kale.

3. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste, add in cilantro and spring onions and turn off the heat. Serve hot with rice or as is.

I have another recipe coming up; Chikuzen Ni. The similarities are; these 2 are New Year's Day dish (well, Japanese New Year is on 1st January) and uses loads of vegetables. Definitely not for carnivores. Stay tuned. それじゃ~~


Yuri said...

Hi Rei, thanks for blogging about this soup. I'm teochew but my family (including the extended one, back then when i was still young) did not have this. Perhaps it's a good thing for me to start this new tradition =)

Noob Cook said...

my hub told me that my mil is cooking 七样菜 on 人日 (he translate as 7 dishes) so we were expecting 7 different dishes that day. After reading your post, the mystery is finally solved as there were only 3 dishes that night but we din ask her why cook so little! ;p =x haha

red | hongyi said...

tt's strange. i thot i knew my chinese veg but how come these r new to me?? r they frm china? do u get them frm the supermarket, n will they still be available mid-feb? i'm going to sing with my girl n hub, she's leaving foe mel to do her masters.

btw, the 'scum' is really just protein isn't it? i don't bother to remove it bc i scald the bones n meat first.

Rei said...

Yuri : I do think it's good to start, besides, this is 1 healthy soup!

Wiffy : Haha.. My dad told me only the Teochews would know. So it's alright to be mistaken.

Terri : Yes, the vegetables are from China. I got them from wet market, I doubt supermarket has them. By mid-Feb, the Bai He Cai will not be available. Chun Cai might still be around. I removed the scum coz I didnt scald the meat. :D You'll come by Sing in mid-Feb? How long's your stay here? *thrilled*

Anonymous said...

I do agree we need to detox our body after every CNY. I don't dare to step on weight lately, wish I can have only vegetable and fruits for a week, LOL !

Anonymous said...

Hi, just to let you know that cilantro is actually "fresh coriander" or yeun sei. The celery that you are using is just known as Chinese celery.

Rei said...

Yubaba : Thank you for enlightening! I think I got the names mixed up.

Anonymous said...

Yo, The bei he cai that you have is known to the westerner as Swiss chad some might call it spinach too. In Hong Kong they are known as sow vegies (chee nar choy) use to feed pigs. Easily available in the western world.

Rei said...

Kentaro : Thanks for identifying the veg. I really have no idea what vegetable is that. Guess it is easily available in climate countries, but the wet markets here only sell them once a year. The only thing I know is that it looks like '打某菜' (in teochew, loosely translated as beat-wife veg >_<).