Four Flavors Soup (say may tong) is one of the most famous of the Cantonese herbal soups for balancing yin and yang. The four in the title refers to the four Chinese herbs used. My family likes to include lotus seeds (leen zee), Chinese yam (wai san), lily bulb (bock hup), and wolfberries (gay zee), but there are many recipes for this, each with different variations.
My family likes to include lotus seeds (leen zee), Chinese yam (wai san), lily bulb (bock hup), and wolfberries (gay zee), but there are many recipes for this, each with different variations.
This combination is said to be nourishing for the kidneys, liver, eyes, digestive system, and lungs, making this soup a popular tonic all year round. All these herbs are found in Chinese herb shops and supermarkets.
• 1/3 cup blanched whole lotus seeds
• 8 cups cold water
• 12 ounces pork neck bones
• 1/2 cup dried Chinese yam
• 1/3 cup dried lily bulb
• 1/3 cup wolfberries
1. Cover the lotus seeds with 1 cup of cold water for 3 hours. Drain, discarding the water. Remove the tiny green sprouts in the center of the seeds.
2. In a 2 1/2 quart saucepan, combine the pork bones and the remaining 7 cups of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Skim any scum that rises to the surface. Add the Chinese yam and return to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour.
3. Add the lotus seeds and lily bulb to the soup, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour. Add the wolfberries and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer a final hour.
4. Remove the pork bones before serving. Serve the soup piping hot (no more than 1 1/2 cups per person; all the Chinese herbs can be eaten, including the wolfberries, except for the small pits in them).
Adapted with permission from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen by Grace Young (1999). Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Ingredient photographs by Alan Richardson Photography.
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