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Hed Chef recipe: Enjoy home-cooked goodness with Chinese cabbage soup

Hedy Khoo on 25 Jul 2019

The New Paper


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If you often eat out, it is a luxury to enjoy home-cooked meals. But with most people leading busy and stressful lives, who has the time or energy to cook?


Here is a simple and practical family recipe for dried Chinese cabbage soup with pork belly from Mr Lin Kian Hin, 39, who works as a head cook at a roast meat stall.


You can get dried Chinese cabbage (bai cai gan in Mandarin) at wet market stalls that sell dry goods.


For Mr Lin, who is originally from Ipoh, the dish evokes memories of childhood.


He said in Mandarin: "My mother would cook this soup only on special occasions when our family had to make offerings, such as pork belly, to our ancestors."


Mr Lin added that the dipping sauce is crucial to enjoying the boiled meat. A squeeze of lime livens up freshly cut chilli padi and light soya sauce.


Indeed, I am won over by the dipping sauce. My doubts at how such a plain-sounding soup can taste so flavourful was cast aside when I tasted it.


No ginger nor garlic is used in this soup. Mr Lin's tip is to use fresh pork belly and to blanch it well to rid it of any meaty odour.




(Serves four to six)


  • 100g bai cai gan (dried Chinese cabbage)
  • 500g pork belly (leave whole)
  • 5 litres of water
  • 1 dried squid (58g), soak for 30 minutes
  • 3 dried oysters (39g)
  • 2 large red dates or 5 small red dates (30g)
  • 1 flat tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce


Ingredients for dipping sauce


  • 5 chilli padi, sliced
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 4 tbsp light soya sauce




1. Soak the dried Chinese cabbage for an hour or more until softened. Discard the soaking water and rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear. Cut off the root ends of the dried Chinese cabbage. Set aside.


2. Bring 1 litre of water to a boil. Blanch pork belly until there is no more visible blood. Remove the pork belly and rinse. Use a pair of tweezers to remove stray hairs on the pork skin. Set aside.


3. In a clean pot, bring 4 litres of water to a boil. Place the dried Chinese cabbage into the pot.


4. Add the dried squid, dried oysters, red dates and pork belly.


5. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 40 minutes over medium-low heat until the pork belly is cooked through. Use a chopstick to pierce the pork to check for doneness.


6. Remove the pork belly from the soup and set aside.


7. Cover the pot and simmer the soup over low heat for another 90 minutes.


8. Season with salt and light soya sauce.


9. Place the pork belly in the soup for 3 minutes. Remove the pork belly. Cover the soup and turn off the heat.


10. Slice the pork belly into 3cm-thick pieces. Arrange on a serving dish.


11. To prepare the dipping sauce, divide the chilli padi into four portions. For each portion, add 1 tablespoon of light soya sauce and squeeze half a lime. Mix well.


12. Serve the pork belly with the soup and dipping sauce.


Source: The New Paper © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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