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25/01/2022 - 07:19

Royal medicinal sweet soups

From skillful and talented hands, the women of the Ancient Capital knew how to delicately blend the properties and flavors of ingredients into medicinal sweet soups, which have the effect of promoting health.

Nutritious royal medicinal sweet soups

The diverse seasonal produce from Hue gardens is an inspiration for the women of Hue to unleash their creativity, in which, sweet soups offered to the ancestral altar are indispensable in every Tet holiday. Khoai mai (Dioscorea hamiltonii) sweet soup is one of the delicious and precious sweet soups that is usually cooked in the spring.

According to the book "Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi", under Emperor Tu Duc’s reign, Khoai mai (also known as hoai Son or commonly called cu mai), in the same family as yams but with a rougher shape, was usually grown in mountainous areas. With its cool and refreshing properties, Khoai mai has the effect of curing many diseases. It also has a refreshment function as well as detoxifying and anti-inflammatory effects.

Cooking Khoai mai sweet soup is quite a feat, especially in the preliminary processing stage. The artisan Mai Thi Tra said that if you want to make white and beautiful Khoai mai sweet soup that is not bitter, in the preliminary processing stage, it should be noted that Khoai mai is very incompatible with iron. Therefore, to keep the sweetness of Khoai mai, a stone knife or bamboo knife was often used to peel Khoai mai. The midribs of dong leaves were used to grind Khoai mai into flour.

While hand grinding flour on dong leaves, culinary artisan Mai Thi Tra said that in the past, Khoai maisweet soup was a royal dish offered to the king. At that time, Khoai mai was very rare and had to be dug from the mountains. They were not as widely cultivated as now.

With distant eyes, the artisan recalled her old memories: "My aunt's husband was a physician of the Nguyen Dynasty. He often told my aunt about royal dishes, especially those with medicinal properties that were good for health. One year, the people of Truoi region offered the king a kind of yams that grew naturally and my uncle also received a few. My uncle cautioned my aunt not to use an iron knife to cut since it was iron-resistant and would create a bitter taste. My aunt taught my mother how to cook Khoai mai sweet soup for the full moon worship in January (lunar calendar first month), and how eating it was good for the spleen and stomach.

After grinding, she boiled water and then turned the heat to low. The artisan then used an earthenware spoon to scoop each spoon of dough into the pot. The dough was boiled for about 4 minutes. When the dough became soft, she added sugar and crushed ginger... In the cold weather, enjoying a warm bowl of Khoai mai sweet soup to savor the rich taste of khoai mai, the sweet taste of rock sugar, and the spicy aroma of ginger, one can truly feel that Tet is coming.

Visitors from near and far who come to Hue and are surprised by the dish of chè bột lọc bọc thịt quay(tapioca with roasted pork stuffing sweet soup) will be even more surprised to know that the Culinary Capital also has chicken egg sweet soup. This is a sweet soup that comes from the royal family. According to the book "Kham Dinh Dai Nam Hoi Dien Su Le", at the beginning of the Nguyen Dynasty, chicken egg sweet soup was one of the specialties used to serve the Qing emissaries.

Every time she needs to nourish her body, artisan Mai Thi Tra cooks a bowl of chicken egg sweet soup for herself. According to Oriental medicine, chicken eggs have a sweet taste, moderate properties, and have the effect of treating fever, heat, dry cough, flu...

The unique feature in Hue women's dishes from chicken eggs is to make a combination of chicken eggs, black tea, and longan. Black tea and longan have sedative effects and combined with chicken eggs would create a sweet soup to treat headaches and insomnia. At the same time, it is a particularly delicious, strange, and nutritious sweet soup.

Chicken egg sweet soup is not simply just cracking eggs and adding sugar to it. The process is quite elaborate with a minimum preparation time of half a day. Eggs for sweet soup must be fresh so that they are delicious and of the right size when scooped into the bowl.

Chicken eggs (with shell) are simmered with black tea for about 3 hours until the eggs absorb the scent and color of the black tea. After peeling the shell and lightly pricking the outside of the egg white, the eggs are added to brewed black tea boiled with rock sugar. Longans are also added to make the sweet soup more charming.

The artisan noted that when cooking sweet soup, limit opening the lid so that the eggs can absorb more tea to achieve a delicious crispness. A well-cooked dish is when the chicken eggs are soaked in black tea to an amber color, are crispy, and no longer have the odor of eggs.

Another sweet soup dish originating from the royal court is the five-fruit sweet soup. This is a dish made of nutritious oriental medicinal ingredients such as longan, jujube, goji berries, lotus seeds, and coix seeds.

Each ingredient has its own preliminary processing recipe, so this is also a sweet soup that requires meticulousness. Dried ingredients such as coix seeds, lotus seeds, and goji berries must be soaked in water to soften before cooking to cook quickly and not harden when sugar is added. The other types are added later. This is a nutritious sweet soup that is usually cooked in the summer.

Medicinal sweet soup is the ingenious creation and combination of Hue women. In addition to the sweet soup dishes cooked for offerings, the ancient people also used sweet soups as medicine to treat common ailments, such as cough, cold, stomachache, etc. They were processed based on ingredients that had the effect of treating diseases.

From desserts and snacks, these sweet soups became medicines that can help people with health problems. In the forbidden palace, medicinal sweet soup was prescribed and instructed by royal physicians. In folklife, medicinal sweet soups were popular dishes, such as tofu sweet soup, chives sweet soup, black sesame sweet soup...

“The use of medicinal sweet soup is very convenient because traditional and herbal medicines used to treat diseases are difficult to consume. When processed into delicious, sweet, cool, and eye-catching sweet soup dishes, they are appetizing all ages,", said artisan Mai Thi Tra.

As a dish with a long history associated with the process of "Southward expansion" opening the realm of Vietnamese residents, Hue sweet soup was born, bearing quintessential nuances of the ancient capital. This was an indispensable dessert in the royal meals in the old Royal Palace.

Some sweet soup dishes were used by the Nguyen Dynasty to treat distinguished guests and emissaries. There are luxurious, high-quality types, and there are also rustic, simple but elegant ones... Hue people are rather fussy and meticulous when it comes to cooking sweet soups. They prefer to cook from scratch to retain the delicious authentic tastes and the delicate natural colors of the ingredients.

Story: Minh Hien

Photo: Provided by the Center for Culture, Sports, and Information of Hue City 

 

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