During our recent “cold snap” (I got to wear the lovely, heavy coat Shake got me for Christmas several years ago for a full week!) I made a lot of soups and stews for dinner. I find there’s nothing so satisfying as a hot bowl of flavorful soup when it’s cold and windy and rainy outside. (Unfortunately, just as I am ready to post this, the weather has turned decidedly non-soup-friendly: it is hot, humid and still. Ugh.)
On occasion, my boss’s boss gives me his CSA bag (I’ve been harboring suspicions that he’s trying to avoid eating more vegetables while his wife wants him to eat more), so I get to play with all sorts of fresh goodies. Sometimes there are surprises, like bundles of fragrant herbs or fat limes. Other times, there are the good ol’ standards, like watercress.
We used to go to the farmers’ market a lot more. The Wednesday night market was convenient, on the way home, and much less crowded than the zoo the Saturday KCC Market has become. Sadly, we’ve fallen out of the habit. When we used to go, we’d usually also pick up dinner from one of the ready-made-food vendors. One of my favorites, if they had their Pork Watercress Soup, was Stacy’s Lau Lau.
Before we stopped going, Stacy’s pulled way back on their market appearances, and since we haven’t been in over a year, I’m not sure if they’ve come back on a more regular basis. Still, the soup that Stacy and her husband, Bert, made was so good. I probably haven’t had good pork watercress soup since we’d stopped seeing them at the market.
So with a giant bunch of very fresh, lovely looking watercress, I decided to make soup. Shake insisted that I use pork belly, which does make it richer. This is a really simple dish; you don’t need much besides the pork and watercress. A little garlic and ginger, of course, and a handful of other seasonings.
I like to reserve about a third of the watercress to toss in fresh and raw—that way you get some of that bitter, spicy watercress bite to offset the rich, salty soup.
Just the perfect thing for a chilly evening, or when you want a little bit of comfort food.
By the way, does anyone else’s dad say, “That’s easy. Duck soup,” or is it just me?
Pork Watercress Soup
- 1 lb. pork belly, cut into ½-inch thick pieces
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, halved, then smashed
- 2-inch piece ginger, sliced
- 1 bunch watercress
- 6 shiitake mushrooms, soaked, stems removed, sliced
- Cooking oil
- 2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sacue)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- Fresh cracked pepper
Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. Marinate pork for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut watercress into 2-inch lengths. Separate the leafy pieces from the stem pieces. Heat oil in a large pot—you don’t need much, just barely enough to coat the bottom of the pan so the pork doesn’t stick before the belly fat starts to melt. Brown pork on all sides. If you end up with an uncomfortable amount of rendered fat, pour some off. Add ginger and garlic and stir until fragrant. Add water to cover pork. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add watercress stem pieces and shiitake mushrooms. Simmer for at least another half an hour until the pork and watercress are tender. When you’re ready to serve, ladle into bowls and add the fresh watercress leaves on top. Pour a little more soup broth over to wilt the leaves.