Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom's White Papaya Soup for the Soul

I know I said my Twice-Baked Potatoes are worthy of a meal on their own, but, well, we're pigs. Or maybe we just prefer flavor explosions. Needless to say, I actually paired last night's Twice-Baked Potatoes with a plethora of dishes, including the last two leftover pieces of Lemon Chicken from Greg Atkins' "West Coast Cooking," collard greens with bacon and garlic (prepared like Sauteed Kale), and a first attempt at making one of Mom's amazing soups.

Stephen has been bugging me for months, possibly years, to finally share some of Mom's Chinese soups here, but after last night's attempt I'm reminded of why I've been hesitant to go there. As with everything Mom makes, she does not use a recipe for her soups, but rather just uses what she has, much of which I wouldn't even recognize if I saw it in a store.

Luckily, she dumbed this one down for me, because the only ingredient that really matters in her White Papaya Soup is the white papaya, which gives the broth a sweet and smoky flavor. Every time Mom serves this soup, its additional ingredients vary, from Chinese mushrooms and crunchy Chinese peanuts that add nutty deliciousness to many of her soups, to tofu cut in chunks and oozing with the soup's flavor or a chewy bean curd.

However, in addition to the optional ingredients being a bit difficult to locate, finding the main ingredient for this soup isn't so easy either. I've only ever seen white papaya at Asian stores, and even with the photo at right, I'm not 100 percent sure I could find it again, unless by some small miracle the produce is correctly marked in English!

Like your typical, orange-fleshed papaya, white papaya also aids digestion, and Mom serves it or some other vegetable soup every day before dinner to help get the digestion process going. It probably has something to do with the whole yin-yang cycle, but to Mom, it's just common sense to start the meal with a belly-warming soup.

White Papaya Soup
1 white papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups chicken broth

Add papaya chunks and carrots to chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and broth has sweetened from the papaya. Add salt to taste before serving.

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