My mom’s late friend, Uncle Philip Chang*, ran a restaurant in Ipoh called Beacon Point, which we frequented regularly.
I loved the little bowls of cream veg soups Uncle Philip served in his place. One day, he told me cream of any vegetable soup is easy to make — “The secret is butter.” Come to think of it, he may have said the same about quite a few things. Uncle Philip loved butter.
Uncle Philip briefly described the basic cream soup:
Cube the veg, fry in butter, add broth/water to cover the veg, boil, blend, add some dairy, season.
I didn’t make use of it until many years later, but his advice was so basic and easy to remember, I could still follow it when I finally started cooking. It’s the standard recipe I return to every time I make a veg soup to clear out the pantry.
Recently, my friend Suanie posted up a recipe for clam chowder that looked pretty kick-ass. I love clam chowder, and there’s a lot of either crappy or expensive clam chowder out there. Also, maybe it’s time I learn beyond the one ABC soup and one generic cream veg soup recipe that I can produce.
I’m no good at following recipes, and I also bastardised Suanie’s recipe from the get-go. I didn’t want to use bacon (blasphemy! Cina fail!) or beef stock — because most of my dinner groups don’t take pork or beef. I also used frozen seafood cause canned clams are a bitch to hunt down, and I gave up.
I think I did okay for my first go, although I’ll aim to tinker with the cooking time. I belatedly realised Suanie’s clam chowder had similarities with Uncle Philip’s soup recipe, with three key differences:
- It uses olive oil instead of butter
- 1 hour of boiling away on the stove just to reduce the liquids (wine, 2 tins of evaporated milk, broth).
- I’m also not used to cooking milk for as long as I did here, I usually just add it in at the end. Seeing white soup boil is very alarming and strange for me.
I think for my next round I’m looking for a compromise between Suanie’s recipe and Uncle Philip’s. I think my first clue should have been when her recipe said not to bother trying it if you didn’t have a blender. The same could be said about my veg soups — I don’t have the patience to build the broth over a small flame, blending removes that need somewhat.
I’ll sweeten with additional leeks/carrots, thicken with more potatoes (and cube in an extra one at the end, before adding the milk/or boil it first before adding to it), and use more veg overall. I may add some smoked duck breast for the fat, salt and smokey flavour.I also think I’ll begin with far less liquids, add just enough seafood juices and broth to cover, and use much less dairy to top up. Maybe a dash of wine with the broth (not a whole bottle). Mostly, I have to think of how to add body to the flavour since I’m not using beef broth or bacon, and I’m not willing to increase my time in the kitchen. The less time I spend in the kitchen, the less chances I have of creating a disaster.
Anyway, my first attempt was quite pleasing. The housemate likes it too. I had the soup with buttered toast, and the butter carried the flavour quite well, which I take as a sign that in future clam chowders I should go with Uncle Philip’s recipe, and cook the veg in butter.
If you’re looking to do a clam chowder, definitely give Suanie’s recipe a try.
*Uncle Philip is technically my granduncle on the family tree somehow, but for most of my childhood, I had no idea about it. So it's Uncle Philip, friend of my parents, very dear to my mother. Rest in peace, Uncle Philip.
I told Jac the most offensively boring story of how much I like only one type of grape, out of all the grapes in the world. And now she’s eating that grape.
It’s a pretty shitty way to treat a friend who’s told me at least two epic stories, about a vampire feminist and an artist she met, but I would still love to tell Jac (and all my friends, while they’re still friends) more boring stories.
I love how flat and uninspiring and nothing it is to talk about my approval for one type of grape. I am willing to expand this to other mundane topics.