Slow simmered Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup) flavored with broiled cuttlefish. A comforting soup to come home to at the end of the day.
Clear soups are an important part of the Chinese family’s dinner spread. For the Cantonese and Hakka people, no meal is complete without a clear 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
In Malaysia, the different Chinese tribes have lived in close proximity for more than a century which have led to intra Chinese cross pollination of food practices. Today, clear soups are universally found among Malaysian Chinese regardless of tribal origin. Soups that were once confined to the Cantonese are now found among the Hokkiens and Teochews.
Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup)
Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup) is one of the most ubiquitous soups among the Malaysian Chinese. When we were kids, some of us used to call it “telephone dial soup”. For those old enough to remember, telephones came with dials, not buttons. Delicious and comforting Leng Ngau Tong is suitable for everyday and festive occasions. It is believed 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 because Ah-Mah (Grandma) is watching. 🙂
A Chinese New Year favorite
This soup is a popular Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner soup. Lotus root symbolizes abundance because of the Cantonese homophone on the pronunciation of leng ngau as it rhymes with “always sufficient”. You can add fah sung (peanuts) to symbolize multiplication of wealth and fortune. One simply cannot lose with this soup. 😉
The main ingredients for this soup are lotus root, red dates, and pork but different families use slightly different accompanying ingredients. Mom’s version has roasted cuttlefish in it for greater flavor and fragrance. By contrast, Paul’s family omits the cuttlefish but always has blanched peanuts like this version found on Roti n Rice. Some kitchens stick to only the main ingredients.
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Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup)
- 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.
This Leng Ngau Tong (Lotus Root Soup) is a very tasty soup and is a favorite of many. You can certainly omit the cuttlefish, add some peanuts, or just keep to the main ingredients if you prefer. Each version is just as tasty as the other and is more a matter of preference. Do give it a try.