With the haze having lifted somewhat (finally!), we’ve been lapping up the sunny respite with windows flung wide open and time spent outside with my boys running wild in the playground sans N95 masks.
To ward off the drying and discomforting effects of the haze however, I’ve heeded the advice of friends and relatives and started my own family on a slew of brews and soups. Ingredients like chrysanthemum tea, barley water (a brew from boiling barley grains) and mung bean broth are all effective detoxing and cooling agents, often used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda treatments.
Someone also suggested I try chng tng. A cross between a tea and a light tong soi, this long-time favourite is perfect for quelling heat and humidity. Its myriad of ingredients – dried longans, barley, lotus seeds, and sago pearls to name but a few – are specifically cooked together to rev-up over-heated and sluggish immune systems. No single chng tng recipe is the same and every family and tong soi stall uses a slightly different combination of ingredients.
Just as I was raring to go in the kitchen and ready to whip up my own potful of chng tng (further encouraged by the memory of an absolutely gratifying chng tng made by my confinement nanny when I had Nico) I paused and wondered — aren’t dried longans a little heat inducing?
I then recalled a white chng tng I once tasted at a Teochew restaurant. Unlike the regular chng tng, copper-hued from the dried longans used, this version omitted the fruit altogether and looked as its name implied – clear, pristine, and white.
True to the simplicity of Teochew cuisine, there are only three keys ingredients needed; barley, water chestnut, and gingko nuts. The first two ingredients are cooling foods, known for their moisture replenishing effect on the body. Gingko nuts however, while perfect for alleviating haze-related ailments like phlegm and coughs, are technically considered a warm food. As such, I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to include them or not.
Given its simple, restorative appeal, I definitely see this clear soup providing my family a much needed sense of comfort over the coming weeks… Come rain, hail or haze.
White Chng Tng
Makes 10 cups
2-3 White fungus (preferably wild – avoid those that look overly white)
15 Gingko nuts (optional)
1/3 cup Barley, rinsed and drained well
10-12 Water chestnuts, scrubbed well, skinned and cubed
6-8 Pandan leaves, knotted into two bundles
Rock sugar, to taste
1. To prepare white fungus, soak in lukewarm water for an hour or more until fully rehydrated. Rinse well to remove any impurities and tear into florets, discarding the hard ends. Blanch 2 to 3 times (each time in a fresh batch of water) to remove any odours.
2. To prepare gingko nuts (if using) crack the shells using a nutcracker or a small mallet. Briefly blanch the kernels in hot water for 1-2 minutes and remove. Rinse the kernels under running water and rub off the brown membranes.
3. Combine all ingredients, except water chestnuts, one bundle of pandan leaves and rock sugar, in a pot and bring to a boil before lowering the heat and simmering, partially covered, for 30 to 45 minutes. You want to simmer the ingredients until they are soft.
4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and return to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for a further 10 to 15 minutes until fragrant.
Serve warm or chilled.
Local girl Lynn was born in Singapore and born to be a dedicated mama. With three boys in tow (9 years, 3 years and 6 months), the dynamic multi-tasker is keeping her fingers crossed that a little baby girl will complete what she affectionately calls her, “crazily intense family”. Married to an established Italian restaurateur, Lynn is also endowed with an entrepreneurial streak, first establishing her own PR agency before moving onto become the Executive Director and partner of a successful integrated communications company. Known for her generous appetite and her passion for the F&B industry, Lynn has a natural penchant for feeding her little ones well.