Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beef Watercress Soup

I get my regular supply of watercress from my mother-in-law. Thanks Mama! It has a great story that comes with it too! The chinese name for watercress is "Western Vegetable." According to the story, this vegetable came from the west.

The story goes something like this: A poor fellow from China wanted to try his fortune in the west. Where exactly is west, the story did not say. I mean, how west is west? How far west did he go? Back to the story, nobody wanted to hire him though. Probably because of the language barrier? Or probably because he looked different, you know, an eastern looking person? The story did not say. The story probably wanted to be politically correct too. So this fellow became even poorer and hungry and destitute and he finally became sick. As he was wandering about in this western city, he finally fell, unconsious, by a riverbank. Probably due to extreme hunger? When he regained consciousness, he noticed this plant by the river, which was within his arm's reach. So, with nothing to lose, he thought he was going to die anyway, he got some of those plants and began eating them - raw. Then, he fell unconscious again. When he woke up, he did not feel hungry anymore and he felt a little bit okay. So, he continued eating this plant until he got better. He was so ecstatic with his new discovery that he brought it back with him to China. Since they have no name for it, they just called it "Western Vegetable."

My mother-in-law believes this is one of the best vegetables we have, next to brocolli, that is. And a quick search on the internet produced a website watercress.com that says this vegetable has more calcium than milk, more vitamin c than an orange and more iron than spinach. Wow! A super vegetable!

I usually cook watercress in soups. This is the only way I know. But the watercress site offers more creative recipes. I will try those one of these days. Meanwhile, enjoy this bowl of hot soup. Perfect for our cold weather these days caused by La Nina.

1/4 K lean ground beef, marinated in soy sauce and some cornstarch
3 T chopped garlic
1 small onion, chopped
4 T cooking oil
1/2 can button mushrooms, sliced
4 C water
3 T cooking wine
1/4 K watercress, washed
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 T cornstarch dissolved in water

1. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok or deep casserole. Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant.

2. Add the marinated beef. Stir fry for a while to blend in all the flavors. When the beef turns color, add the cooking wine and button mushrooms. Stir to blend everything again.

3. Add water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Add the watercress. Wait for the soup to boil again.

5. Add in salt and pepper to taste.

6. Thicken the soup with the cornstarch solution, if preferred.

This recipe is so versatile. You can also use lean ground pork, oysters, shrimps or mixed seafood instead of beef. Just add ginger slices if you will be using seafood. Hmm.. I'm sure a seafood base will be yummier. I've got to try that some time.


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