February 22, 2013

Nang Chong Stories : Sea Cucumber Soup

We Foochows have a great love for soups. There is a saying, we Foochows must have soup with our meals :" Cannot do without soup - 不汤不行." And indeed if we had nothing else, we had a soup. My own family loves soup too and quite often it is just soup!!

A foreign friend of mine said that he was surprised to see five different soups during a single meal in Fuzhou city.  He had a thick sea cucumber soup, a thick seafood toufoo soup, a clear whole chicken soup, a razor clam soup and a whole duck in  soup. The vegetables came out last. He was overwhelmed by the richness of the food but nevertheless, he enjoyed it to his surprise.His fellow travellers who never had that rich cultural and culinary experience were amazed.

Indeed, even in a simple Foochow home in Sibu today (I cannot speak for the Foochows of Fuzhou district of China), we can have two soups e.g. Sea Cucumber Soup and a Bitter Gourd Soup, with the latter as the last dish.Sometimes when the wallet is thick a father may order two special soups in a restaurant.

Another point to raise is the nature of a thick soup called 羹 or Geng which is very much favoured by the Foochows. Geng is created by adding a special tapioca based powder which does not colour the soup but will only thicken.

Of all the ingredients, SEA CUCUMBER , is the most favoured for soups prepared by Foochow chefs both in Fuzhou City and in Sibu or whereever there are Foochow chefs..

Rehydrated or Soaked Sea Cucumber for sale during the Chinese New Year - These are higher end ones. I once bought one for 65 ringgit. To day the prices have sky rocketed because  the sea cucumber is now endangered due to over fishing and global warming.

The two Chinese words for Sea Cucumber is Hai Shen or Sea Ginseng. As the name implies, it has ginseng's health giving properties.

Its shape has also earned some fame for itself as an aphrodisiac.

A Chinese doctor has said that many studies have stated that it could be a good treatment for kidney disorders, high blood pressure, and  impotence.

It has a high protein content and a low fat content, an ideal food for the health conscious.

But the Foochows in the past , in Mainland China, during the times of plenty, loved it because the seas around Fujian in China were full of sea cucumber and fresh ones were harvested as easily as fresh fish for the famiilies.

My grandmother lived with my Third Uncle's family in Nang Chong. And in the 70's Indonesian traders sold dried sea cucumber at 7 ringgit per Kilo, an unbelieveable price today. My Third Aunt prepared the dried sea cucumber and cooked them as a soup. During my grandmother's old age, the soft sea cucumber was nourishing as well as comforting to her. This was the way a daughter in law and grand children would show their love to their elders.

My uncle used to say that "After eating sea cucumber soup, his eyes were brighter and sharper!" This is a good Foochow statement to compliment the good wife who has saved to buy the sea cucumber for every one in the family.

A sea cucumber soup makes an ordinary meal extraordinary.

My  Third Aunt recently said that the best sea cucumbers are too highly priced. Just look, don't buy. Just remember that we once had it so good in Nang Chong.


Anonymous said...

we could afford the sea cucumber soup only during new year and festivals.

wenn said...

I don't mind a piece or two of those..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous, I understand. I had sea cucumber soup only when we went to Hock Chu Leu for weddings and welcoming important relatives to Sibu. My grandmother was lucky she had grandchildren who bought the dried sea cucumbers in the 70's when they were cheaper. My Third Uncle and Aunty were good cooks.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn, I took this photo when I went to check out the goodies at the Chinese New Year Bazaar...Just too expensive. One could be as much as 120 ringgit...they were so big!!

Anonymous said...

I heard that the sea cucumbers are now mostly from the south pacific islands. If we can cultivate them,,,, will become rich

William said...

Is it true that is can be used to treat kidney disorders, high blood pressure, and impotence? If that is the case,we must all be eating it everyday! No wonder our foochow parents have so many children!

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Sarawakiana@2 said...

The qualities of sea cucumber are quite widely advertised. Try to read up on Gamat products of Malaysia too. Our Foochow parents have many children because they believed in having lots of children because of their agrarian roots. Lots of hands for the farms etc. And children are blessings. Today with family planning and new ideas, having too many children become a burden.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Referring to the sea cucumber?

Sarawakiana@2 said...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Definitely if we can culture them we could become very rich. Many are already trying their best to rear empurau. And successful too.

Anonymous said...

Please be informed those sea cucumbers in town are usually soaked with
Clorox as many of my friends acclaimed.
Better soak by oneself to prevent cancer!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks for the reminder. We have heard a lot of stories. Yes, we are beginning to soak the sea cucumbers ourselves very successfully. And it is also more economical. We can choose the dried ones from the best sources too.

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