Friday, March 18, 2011

Rib Soup with Garlic

Spring is almost here in Vancouver.  We seems to be stuck in rain-with-chance-of-sun weather, and kids (and Dennis) have started to leave their jacket at home.  In other words, flu season is also here.  I always make this soup during spring and fall for Dennis, when he is coming home in a wet rainy day.  This is also a great low calorie, gluten free alternative to chicken noodle soup!

This is a pretty typical for Chinese home-cooking, and spare ribs or side ribs (same thing different names) are used for soup.  The Western baby back rib are ribs closer to the spine, and they tend to be meatier. Whereas side ribs are  closer to the belly and usually have more bones and fat.  More bones make better broth  and the fat makes the meat more tender after been boiled.  Side ribs are also much cheaper than baby back ribs.  If you have a reliable butcher, have him pick the leanest rack he has.  Western butchers don't usually stock side ribs, however, and often it has to be special ordered in.  However, Asian markets, such as T&T, would carry these.

Like baby back ribs, side ribs can also come with long bones, but we don't want that.  Ask your butcher to cut them down to an inch to an inch and half strips.  You can do it at home with a cleaver, but it's not fun.  If your butcher is super nice, also have him separate each rib individually.

People also cook the soup with their local root vegetable, such as daikon or khohlrabi, to add additional flavour and texture.  The vegetable is also great for soaking up the fat.  However, just about any fibrous root vegetable would do.  For this soup, I used carrot and even added a little bit of broccoli at the end.  

There are a lot of variation to this soup. Its foundation is just ribs, salt, and water and everything else can be changed.  Definitely have fun with it and experiment with your favourite ingredients.  For the even lower calorie version of the soup, just slow boil ribs with tons of garlic (no salt, additional oil) in water, and then remove the fat after.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 strip side ribs (chopped into 1 inch pieces)
1½ - 2 bulbs garlic (yes lots)
½ onion (chopped)
1 large carrot (and/or other root vegetable) (chopped)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups cold water
finally chopped cilantro for garnish


1. In a medium size (4 quartz or bigger) pot at medium low heat, sauté onion and carrot for 5 minutes. Do not let them brown.
2. Add 4-5 cups of cold water, garlic, and the ribs.  Increase the heat to medium high. Let it boil uncovered. Do not stir in the meantime.
3. When the water boils, lower the heat immediately to low.  With a ladle, slowly scoop out the fat floating on the top.
4. Add lemon juice and salt.  Then, garnish and serve!

If the soup taste blend to you, you can either add more salt or allow the soup to boil down for a bit.  I always allow the soup to slowly simmer for two hours before serving.

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