I have a cold, my fourth in two months. I am loath to admit that I actually have a cold, as I believe that you are what you think. I keep telling myself that I am healthy, but somehow I must still be channeling sickness.
It seems almost weird to have a cold in the middle of a hot, sweltering Taipei summer. The first symptoms of this particular lurgy started on Taipei’s hottest day on record, as the mercury went up to 39.3 degrees. Thankfully, I get to sit in air-conditioned comfort at work. But therein, I think, is the source of the trouble as my aircon is arctic while outdoors is on fire. Going from one extreme to another is less than ideal.
But I do want to channel healthy vibes, and to reprogram myself to think healthy thoughts. So tonight I am recreating Martha Stewart’s French Onion Soup recipe with healthy Taiwanese ingredients (no artery glogging butter in this recipe). Onion, I have learnt, does actually help relieve colds and viruses because it has anti-viral and anti-inflamatory properties. This rich onion soup also contains warming and nourishing ingredients such as Taiwanese rice wine, and a hint of Taiwanese black sugar to help with sore throats (not uncoincidentally, rice wine and black sugar also feature in the zuo yuezi diet). I reckon I will be right as rain again in no time.
I used a beef broth from Taipei beef noodle soup for this recipe. And not just any beef noodle soup: I was fortunate to have some soup from one of my favourite restaurants, Dian Shui Lou. You can use any beef soup base for this recipe, but homemade is best.
I only used one large onion for this recipe; the original Martha Stewart recipe called for two pounds (and only three cups of broth). I wanted more soup than onions, so varied it accordingly. The quantities really only make around four small bowls, so double it if you want extra. You can serve it the traditional way with grilled cheese on baguette sitting on top, but this is not essential (and arguably the cheese is not so good for all that mucus you experience will you have a cold). I did eat my soup this way, but I also added some shredded beef and coriander. Do whatever you like.
1 to 1 1/2 large onions, sliced finely
1 tablespoon canola or soy oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 generous teaspoon Taiwanese black sugar (brown sugar)
1/3 cup Taiwanese rice wine
3 cups Taipei beef noodle soup broth
1 flat Chinese soup spoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole star anise
- Add the oils into the bottom of a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed saucepan, and cover with the thinly sliced onions. (I only used one onion, but I think it would be better to be a bit more generous as it tasted so good.) Cook slowly, stiring as seldom as possible for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle on the black sugar and cook anywhere up until an hour, until the onion is soft and has caramalised.
- Sprinkle over the flour, stir briefly then add the rice wine and the beef stock. Add the star anise. Cover with a lid and cook for at least another 30 minutes.
- To serve, ladle over grilled cheese on baguette into a bowl. You can also add some shredded beef and coriander for additional texture.