Bola Bola Soup

Bola is our word for “ball”, so literally, bola bola is 2 balls.  But what it really means is any kind of “meat” balls… so it could refer to meat, fish, chicken, beef, squid, mushroom, etc.

The bola bola that I knew consisted of 2 kinds – the fried one and the processed one that was usually floating in chicken soup!  It was a bowl of comfort!

The simplest kind is the one with fish or chicken stock and fish balls, with chopped spring onions as garnish.  The more elaborate ones have shredded chicken, noodles, pechay, sometimes even mushrooms, and several kinds of balls.

The first thing I always do is boil chicken breast with onions, salt and ginger ti make the stock.  The stock is strained of impurities and the chicken is shredded and put back into the stock.  The stock then is reboiled and the balls are added.  When the balls float to the top, it is time to put in the pechay (wombok).  The soup is ready!

To take it one step further, the soup can be ladled into a bowl with parboiled egg noodles to make noodle soup!



Szechuan-style Hot and Sour Soup

My mother made a decent hot and sour soup – and despite my not liking spicy food, it was an exception.  It is unfortunate that I cannot find her recipe, nor can she remember enough to pass it on to me.

The next best thing? experiment and approximate!  But so far that has not worked for me.  Sigh.

What to do then?  Scour the cookbook library!

And, this recipe is good!  (although, as usual and always, I “personalize” the recipe – )

1.5 liters chicken stock
100 grams chicken breast fillet, julienned
8 pieces fresh shitake
handful of fresh shimenji
cloud ears, reconstituted
1 pack (50 grams) enoki mushrooms
2 blocks tofu, drained, cubed

1/2 tablespoon salt
pinch of sugar, optional
1 tablespoon each light and dark soy sauce
3 to 4 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 t0 1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
(chopped labuyo)

2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water

2 eggs, lightly beaten

I like to simplify things (read as- I am lazy) so I boil the chicken stock and dump the chicken, mushrooms and tofu.  Season with salt and soy sauces (I skipped the sugar) and the rice vinegar and black pepper (I substituted part of it with chopped chili-labuyo).

Thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Slowly pour the beaten eggs into the soup, stirring at the same time to break the eggs.  Garnish with wansoy.

(Adjust and modify as you like!)

Pork Spareribs and Cogon Grass Soup

Once in a while we go to Chinatown.  In our last trip there, we found some fresh cogon grass.  When A-te J saw them, she asked what they were for and I replied it was for a medicinal soup that’s common in Chinese cuisine, particularly Cantonese cuisine.  She held back a laugh saying that where she comes from, the cogon grass was used for burning not for eating.  I laughed along, commenting the weirdness of things – one man’s trash is (quite literally) another man’s treasure!

cogon grass

Anyway, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this grass (Rhizoma Imperatae, 茅根 ) has cooling properties, aiding to dispel heat and helping bladder function.  It has a sweetish taste.

I was told that the cogon grass can be simmered with water to produce herbal tea but this I haven’t tried.  I am more familiar (and comfortable) with the soup version of it

The recipe:

1 bundle of fresh cogon grass (about 30 to 60 grams)
or 15-30 grams dried cogon grass
6 to 8 cups of water
400 to 500 grams of pork spare ribs
1 small onion

Clean the spare ribs, remove the fat.  Blanch.

Wash the cogon grass and blanch.

Boil the water.  Add the onion, cogon grass and pork.  Simmer for 3 hours (or use the magic cooker).

This recipe has alternate and/or additional ingredients:

1 chinese pear, sliced into large cubes and 4 honey dates, soaked in lukewarm water for 30 minutes.   Add the pear cubes and soaked dates together with all other ingredients.  This results in a sweeter tasting soup.

The pork spare ribs can be substituted with 1/2 chicken or 1 whole native chicken or even black chicken.  In which case, a thumb of smashed ginger should be added to the soup too.