Fall is quietly approaching and chilly days are not too far away. It's the season to nourish our bodies, as my mom used to say. She would make special seasonal soups to prevent us from getting colds and to keep us healthy. She would spend hours in the kitchen making a pot of soup with fresh chicken bones or pork bones and Chinese herbs. The smell was always comforting and the taste was delicious.
Nowadays, I love being the soup "doctor" for my family. All my boys have their own favorites, so l normally take turns making them for each of them. Now that two of my boys have moved away for college, I'll miss making their favorite soups. Lately I've been working on a new recipe made with fresh local ingredients that we all enjoy very much. It started with fresh pork bones l got from my butcher, the plentiful green and white figs from my friends, and a trip to the farmers market to buy sweet yellow corn and carrots.
I had been dreaming of making something combining these ingredients. When I asked my mother for her advice, she suggested cooking the figs in Chinese apricot kernel soup to cure coughing or a cold. Well, I couldn't get apricot kernel locally, so I made it with what I had on hand and also added ginger. It was a success — we finished a whole pot in one meal. The pork bones brought so much flavor, the figs and carrots lent a subtle sweetness and the corn gave it an earthy aroma. It was light, savory, sweet and soothing.
According to my mother and traditional medicine, the soup nourishes the lungs, heals the body and helps with digestion. This soup is great for fall and winter. If pork bones and figs are not your favorites, you can substitute with chicken and Asian pears. They have similar health benefits and are also tasty.
Pork Bone and Fig Soup
2 pounds pork bones, chopped
4 fresh figs, halved
1 pound carrots, chopped
2 ears of corn, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch chunks
5 slices ginger
10 cups water
¼ cup cooking rice wine
Salt and pepper
¼ cup goji berries
Rinse the pork bones and soak them in a pot of hot water with the cooking wine for 20 minutes. This will get rid of some of the smell and blood. Rinse the bones well again and drain.
Place the bones in a large pot with the water and ginger, bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for 45 minutes, skimming and discarding any foam and fat on top. Add the carrots, corn and figs, bringing the pot back to a boil for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat again to simmer covered for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice or by itself.
You can find Home Cooking with Wendy Chan (she/her) classes benefitting local charities on Facebook.