And Then We Had Lunch: Spicy Soup!

It was hot, so swelteringly hot, as we shlepped along the busy street we were staying on, looking  for lunch. The down side of being in such an unspoiled, and authentic place such as Daxing, meant that there were no English signs or menus: we didn’t have a clue as to what each restaurant  served, and it was kind of….you know….scary.  Looking from the outside sometimes we approached a door to look in and check out the restaurant, only to find that it wasn’t even a restaurant at all!Thats when we discovered the hot soup place! Apparantly, its a “thing”:  restaurants that specialize in soup, brewing up a rich rich stock, and offering an array of vegetables, meats, fish, and different types of noodles. You collect what you want, taking the bits with tongs, as if you were in a bakery, or a grocery store, and placing it all in a plastic tub. You hand over the tub to the woman in a little window, pay, and before long a server comes out with a big bowl of everything all cooked.

This is the girl who took our ingredients and turned it into soup!

I added a bit of all the vegetables–bean sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, bamboo shoots,  put in a big handful of rice noodles, then piled in a whole array of different types of tofu: fried, smoked, soft, firm, marinated. I didn’t add fish or meat, but they were there, as were different types of noodles: wheat, mung bean, wide, narrow, frizzy. It was a little bit confusing, like an all-you-can-eat salad bar where you end up with everything piled onto one plate.

But luckily, it didn’t end up this way: no matter what you put into your soup, the  broth was rich and spicy– sooooooo very spicy–memorably umami, in other words: salty spicy crazy-good. It was not just like a consomme broth, but was dense with crushed black sesame, studded with whole peanuts, and floated a thin layer of red chile oil. Once your vegetables and other ingredients went in, they came out transformed; in fact, I felt a bit transformed by eating the soup as well. That heat, made me perspire, the perspiration evaporated and felt lovely and cool. The flavour of the broth perked me up. Yes, after that soup: better in every way.

I’ve made versions of the soup since my return, though sadly, none have yet been as amazing, refreshing, and invigorating as that bowlful I ate on that hot afternoon.

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