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Tung kwai

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I am intending to cook a Singaporean recipe (of obvious Chinese origin) for a soup which includes the above as an ingredient. I have ascertained the Latin name from Terry Tan's Cooking with Chinese Herbs and understand that it is a dried root, mainly used by the Chinese in broths and soups for medicinal purposes.

Has anyone had experience of the stuff? e.g. Does it in fact taste so foul that I would do better to leave it out? Or the contrary? And how easy might it be to find? Could I get it in a Chinatown supermarket or do I need to go the the Chinese herbalist next door?

Of course I can find out all these things myself by trial and error, but I would be interested in any knowledge from others.


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Don't cook it too long, turns your soup dark brown and imparts a very strong flavor!

I actually like the taste of it, it is VERY good with duck in a soup because it cuts the richness of the duck fat. It has a very mild bitterness, but not like bitter melon (yuck!) at all.

You should go to the Chinese herbalist and tell them you are going to make a soup. They should be able to help you.

If you are making chicken soup you should add a few dried red dates and dried logan (dragon's eyes). Makes the broth sweet.

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Tissue - you are a treasure :smile:

The recipe I intend to make is based on pork spareribs, with garlic, tung kwai (optional), cinnamon sticks, star anise, black & white peppercorns, sugar, dark soy sauce, crisp-fried shallots; soy sauce with red chillies for dipping the spare ribs and rice as accompaniment. Possibly also Chinese crullers to dip in the soup if I can find them. It calls itself Pork Rib Tea Soup (Bak Ku Teh) and comes from Chris Yeo's 'The Cooking of Singapore'.

Is one hour's cooking OK for the Tung Kwai?


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Thanks :wub:

Hey I just had Bak Ku Teh last week!

You should simmer the ribs for a long time, til it is almost falling off the bone. Don't add the dung kwai until the end, 1 hour might be too long, depending on how much you are using. Star anise should be the more dominant spice flavor, although the most important thing is the way the pork bones flavor the soup. Some people don't even eat the meat, they just drink the soup.

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Well, the last post disappeared into the ether, so here it goes again. Dang kway (dong kwai) is angelica in English, but I don't know the translations of the other herbs, sorry. Bah kut teh is a Straits Chinese tonic soup that is much loved by the Hokkien population in SE asia. It's originally a breakfast dish. If you feel like it, you can hunt down the packets for this soup (sometimes labelled chik ku teh to make with chicken) which will give you the Chinese characters for the herbs, which helps if you go to an herb shop. We get them made for us at a shop in Singapore, sometimes the Cantonese guys in shops in SF won't make them up because they think ching bo leung is better. My partner, who hails from Singapore and has strongly held opinions about food, thinks that the type that tastes only of star anise and black pepper is the cheap (ie bad) version that skips the herbs and roots that the soup is know for. (Don't ask about his opinion on Chris "the hairdresser" Yeo..hee hee). I'm sure the soup you will make will be very tasty. Just for fun I've included the recipe that we use, which tends to emphasize the taste of the herb/roots, which is a more old school method.

Bak Kut Teh

625 g pork spareribs (1 1/3 lb)

marinated in

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

for at least 1 hr

3 T lard

1 T palm sugar

2 bashed cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon preserved soya bean, smooshed (the ones yellowish brown in color,

Yeo's is a good brand)

10 star anise

5 cm (2 inch) cinnomon stick

2 piece dried Mandarin orange peel (chun pei)

1T black pepper corns

6 gan cao

2 luo han gao

75 g (~1/4 lb) dang xin

40 g (1 1/2 oz) dang kway

40 g (1 1/2 oz) chuan kang

20 - 25 g (~1 oz) sheng di

3/4 c light soya

1/2 c dark soya (mushroom is nice)

Heat a pan until hot, add 2 T of lard and fry the spareribs until well

browned. Put in the soup pot.

Clean out the pan and add the rest of the lard and sugar. Fry, stirring

often, until sugar is caramelized (you could skip this step if you want). Add

the soya beans and garlic and stir fry for until the garlic is fragrant. Add

back the spareribs and coat them. Put it all back in the soup pot. Add the

spices, roots and soya sauces. If you like, you can put the spices in a

piece of cheesecloth to be removed when serving. Cook until tender, about 2

hrs. Serve with steamed jasmine rice, chrysanthemum leaves, sliced yu

char kway and pu-erh teh served kung-fu style.



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Tissue - I hope you read this.

Today I was in a very good Asian supermarket and found a section full of packets of spice mixes for Bak Kut Teh. I chose the one which was not a powder. On opening it this evening, I have found a large amount of thinly sliced whitish root, which I strongly suspect is the tung kwai (judging by photos of the whole root in Terry Tan's 'Cooking with Chinese Herbs'). Then there is a smaller quantity of a thinly sliced black root-like substance, which looks rather like black truffle in the internal markings, but the colour fades from dark brown to light in places. Then there is a sealed paper sachet which, judging by the smell, contains largely star anise. The contents of the whole packet smell very good and fresh.

Ingredients are listed in English, Chinese, and (I think) Japanese. English list is, I suspect, a little muddled in the word order, and I would be very keen to identify things, simply out of curiosity.

This is how it reads:

Angelica pepper, Aralia Cordata, Sinensis, Cinnamon, Paurantii Star Anise, Astraglietc, Cigusticum, Fructus Zanthoxylum.

Clearly, the words Angelica and Sinensis belong together, and this is the ingredient present in greatest quantity. I've no idea what Aralia cordata may be. The word Paurantii looks like it belongs somewhere else, Terry Tan's book enlightens me that Astragalus membranaceus is Magnolia root (looks like a stray 'etc' slipped in there), and the last three words also leave me clueless.

Can anyone help? Maybe some of these match the Chinese names given by Tissue in his (her??) recipe above?


edit: oh - and they also had mixes for chik ku teh like tissue mentions.

Edited by Vanessa (log)

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Another piece of the jigsaw in place: zanthoxylum = Szechuan pepper. Must be in the ground spice mixture.


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Hi Vanessa,

I'm not tissue, but I am the one who posted the recipe above. I'm guessing your truffle like items are chuan xiong. You can check out a pic of it here. The latin name is Conioselinum unvittatum which doesn't seem to match anything on your list, but the english ingredients lists aren't very trustworthy. Or the soups could just really vary. I had time to hunt down more translations for you for the recipe I posted.

gan cao = licorice = Glycyrrhiza glabra

luo han gao (guo) = arhat fruit = Momordicae Grosvenori, Fructus

dang(deng) xin = bullrush pith = Medualla Junci

dang kway (Tung kwai) = angelica = Angelica senensis

sheng di (sheng di huang) = fresh rehmannia =Rehmannia Glutinosa

There are many combinations of herbs that can be made into cooling soups, and it might just really vary from recipe to recipe. I find it facinating that a lot of herbs used in Chinese cooling soups are the same ones used in Italian bitters.

How did you like the one you made?



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