Slow simmered Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup) flavored with broiled cuttlefish. It is a comforting soup to come home to at the end of the day.
Clear soups are an important part of the dinner spread in many Chinese families. For the Cantonese and Hakka, no meal is complete without the soup. Often times, the welcome home greeting that parents utter to their adult children is “Yum tong mei?” literally meaning “Have you drunk your soup?”. On the other end of the spectrum, clear soups are somewhat optional for Peranakan families especially when the spread is largely made up of curries and ulam (raw salads).
Melding of Chinese Tribal Preferences
One of the interesting prolong effects of the different Chinese tribes living in close proximity for more than a century has been an intra Chinese cross pollination of food practices. Today, the clear soup is universally found among Malaysian Chinese regardless of tribal origin. Soups that were once confined to the Cantonese can now be found among Hokkiens and Teochews.
Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup)
One of the most ubiquitous soups among Malaysian Chinese is this Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup). When we were kids, some of us used to call it “telephone dial soup”. For those old enough to remember, telephones used to come with dials, not buttons. Apart from being delicious, Leng Ngau Tong is suitable for all days and occasions. It is attributed to have all kinds of health benefits ranging from aiding digestion to boosting your immune system. You just need to believe (as you drink your soup, Ah-Mah is watching).
A Chinese New Year favorite
This soup is popularly served during the Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner. Lotus root signifies abundance because of the Cantonese homophone on the pronunciation of leng ngau as it rhymes with “always sufficient”. Sometimes fah sung (peanuts) are added to signify multiplication of wealth and fortune. With this soup, you just simply cannot lose. 😉
Different families use slightly different accompanying ingredients to make this soup. The central ingredients are lotus root, red dates, and pork. My mom always included roasted cuttlefish for added flavor and fragrance. By contrast, Paul’s family omitted the cuttlefish but always had blanched peanuts like this version found on Roti n Rice. Some kitchens only stick to the main ingredients.
Similar Products Used in Making This Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup)
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- 1 dried cuttlefish / dried squid
- 10 cups water + some for blanching (2.4 liters)
- 1 lb pork neck bones or bone-in ribs (450g)
- 10 red dates (rinsed and soaked for 15 mins)
- 1 lb lotus root (peeled and cut into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices) (450g)
- Salt to taste
- Wipe dried cuttlefish (squid) with a damp towel. Place on a metal grating over a baking tray and broil in the oven until fragrant. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes each side in a toaster oven. Remove and set aside.
- Fill a large pot half full of water. Bring to a boil. Add pork neck bones or ribs. Allow it to blanch for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with thongs and rinse in cold water.
- Discard water in pot and fill with 10 cups (2.4 liters) of fresh water. Bring to a boil.
- Add blanched neck bones (ribs), broiled cuttlefish, red dates, and lotus root. Bring water back up to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow soup to simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. Skim off any scum appearing on the surface.
- Season with salt to taste and turn off heat.
- Serve warm in individual bowls.