Almond soup with pig’s lungs is a classic delicacy for the Cantonese of southern China and is notoriously difficult to prepare. The lungs need to be meticulously hand-washed, a process that can take two hours, before being poached in a soup base made of ground almonds.
The heat is kept low to prevent the lungs from disintegrating. A little ginger is added into the broth, along with pork loin and bones, to neutralise the lungs’ steely taste. And in some preparations, the lungs are first charred in a wok at high heat to get rid of any remaining water and air inside the sacs.
The result of such dedication are marshmallow-tender cubes in a creamy, snow-white and slightly sweet soup.
Why consume it?
The recipe dates back more than 70 years and is particularly popular during flu season. According to local folklore, dining on an animal’s internal organs will help to nourish the corresponding organs in the diner, that is, eating pork liver will help one’s liver, and so on.
Pig’s lung is said to help ease coughing, reduce phlegm production and fortify the respiratory system in general, while almond is a popular prescription in traditional medicine for improving digestion, keeping skin moisturised and slowing down the signs of aging.
It is often said that putting this soup on the menu is a sign of the utmost courtesy to one’s guests, as well as a demonstration of dedication to good food, because the painstaking task of cleansing the pig lungs is not one that’s lightly undertaken.
Where to try it
Very few people still make the soup at home these days, preferring to enjoy it in restaurants on special occasions instead.
Almost as rare are restaurants that are willing to include such a complicated and cumbersome dish on their menus.
Sense 8 or Yu Ba Xian (No. 8, Lane 181 Taicang Lu, +86 21 6373 1888) is a Cantonese restaurant in Shanghai that is fashioned after Hong Kong’s most renowned old-school teahouse, Luk Yu (located at 24-26 Stanley Street in the territory’s Central district and well known for this soup). Sense 8’s original branch in Zhabei shares the same decor as the Luk Yu teahouse but their Xintiandi outlet is decked out with replicas of antique furniture from Beijing’s Imperial Palace and even a Sikh doorman, in a throwback to colonial Shanghai.
There’s a ‘no walk-ins’ policy in place and a month-long waiting list for reservations. But Sense 8 serves up some of Luk Yu’s iconic dishes, including the almond soup with pig’s lung, which is prepared with the addition of red dates and dried tangerine peel.
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