Saturday, December 29, 2012

turkey and kiam chye soup (turkey and salted mustard cabbage soup)

It's wonderful to find yourself, serenely pensive, in the week after Christmas, when just days ago you were convinced you'd never make it out alive. Pity that so many get so stressed out during the Yuletide season, because, well, we all want everything to be perfect, unattainable though we know it is. But, it's come, it's gone, just as it has for millennia and will continue to.

Nothing to be done for it, but learn from each year's boo-boos and maybe, just maybe, expect a little less next year, and be kinder to yourself.

But, the big question, no matter what kind of Christmas you have, will always be..... what to do with the LEFTOVERS?? Because, leftovers we will always have, except for the clairvoyant among us, who will know exactly how many are coming to dinner...

In our house, Hubs is the only one who really likes turkey. My boys will take the expected two slices each, then ignore the big bronze bird for the rest of the meal, as they repeatedly attack the curry devil, roast beef and their favourite Christmas dessert, home made Yule log, filled to bursting then covered with cream and crushed Oreo cookies. Like my boys, two slices of breast, buried in gravy, and I've covered my annual turkey quota.

Every year then, I will have more turkey then anything else, left over. And, this light and tangy soup, just the thing, after the culinary excesses of Christmas, will make it's welcome appearance. It's based on the Nyonya ( or Teo Chew/Hokkien) Kiam Chye Ark, which is made with uncooked duck, though you will find versions using roasted duck bits and pieces. No doubt, a post Lunar New Year leftover rescue mission . Nothing could be simpler, but I do take a little time to strip the carcass of most of its remaining flesh then discard all the greasy skin before adding the tidied up bones and flavourings to the pot for a gentle hour long simmer.

The flesh will be shredded and added to the piping hot soup, just before serving. Over the years, I've learned that if the chopped up carcass is added to the pot still with lots of flesh clinging to the pieces, which is how it's usually done with leftover roast turkey or duck, the relatively long simmering will render the already roasted flesh sodden and tasteless; hardly worth eating really, though the broth will be incredibly savoury and delicious.

Simmering the stripped bones and garnishing the finished soup with the shredded flesh makes it more presentable and delicious. The recipe I've given does not include salt or any seasoning for the broth. You won't need it, if your turkey was well seasoned, you skip soaking the kiam chye and you're not coy with the salted plums. In days gone by, kiam chye came in cavernous earthern jars, covered in brine so brackish, sometimes the kiam chye chunks would emerge from the murky, ancient depths of the jar, crusted with salt.

Of course under such circumstances, you would be crazy not to give the kiam chye a scrub and a few soaks and changes of water to make it palatable, and probably, safe to eat! It did pack a mighty punch of flavour though. These days, it's more common to find kiam chye, packed in plastic, and brined barely long enough to earn the title of "salted" vegetable. Even the old school style kiam chye you find at the wet markets now, gestating in its huge buyung of brine, is a sad shadow of its former piquant self. So, if you were to soak it beyond 10 minutes, you would hardly have any flavour left. A time machine, a time machine, my blogdom, for a time machine...

Sorry, it's the time of year - can't help myself. We all get nostalgic then start to reminisce and review the best and the worst of the past 12 months of our lives. Before I give you my beautifully simple recipe for this lovely soup, I would like to thank you all for your readership and interaction, both of which keep me going. You've come here week after week, from all corners of the globe, you've made my unassuming baked sweet potato donuts (kueh keria) of all things, the most popular post on Singapore Shiok!, much to my disbelief, with a mind boggling 12 552 views as I write this, and still counting! That may not seem like much to you superstar bloggers out there, but that big, beautiful number... rocks my bloggie world!

You liked my sticky chocolate date loaf enough to make it my second most popular post, and, the first post to get me featured on The Kitchn!; I was on a high for days after *sigh* No, I don't need to "get a life". This is my life, you've added to it, enriched it, and I'm damned proud of it.

Thanks to you, my sugee cake is the third most viewed post and by far, the most popular post for the whole of December 2012,  shockingly decimating my personal Christmas favourite, curry devil, which doesn't even come close enough to sugee cake, to eat its dust. You are an unpredictable lot, aren't you, or should I just let you eat (more) cake? ;)

Thank you Jeff, who cleverly suggested pouring booze over sugee cake after baking it, and added a new dimension of pleasure to an old favourite. Thank you Jen, Gwen and Jean, who took the time to write, share recipes and memories of simpler times, and tell me of their struggles, challenges and ultimately, joy, in keeping hearths glowing and inherited or adopted culinary traditions alive in their families or transplanted lives, and the inspiration they have found here, to keep doing it. By the way Jean, if you cook the curry devil below, you'd better find a better hideout for your pineapple tarts - the tart bandit will need them even more, to soothe his flaming tongue ;)

This year has been a gift of growth, friendship and opportunities. May the next one bring peace and fulfilment to us all, where we each need it most.

turkey bone and kiam chye soup

prep 40 mins        cook 2        serves 4 - 6

200 g (7.5 oz) kiam chye (salted mustard cabbage), rinsed well and squeezed dry (soak only if very salty)
1 turkey carcass, stripped of flesh (reserved), skin discarded and chopped into chunks
4 green tomatoes (or half ripe ones) halved, seeded and thickly sliced
1 large knob ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
4 - 5 large salted plums, drained and lightly rinsed
2.4 L (12 cups) water

500 g (1 lb) minced (ground) beef, chicken or pork
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp white pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp sugar

2 large ripe but firm tomatoes, cut into wedges, for garnishing
Coriander leaves, for garnishing
White pepper to taste

Cut kiam chye on the diagonal, into broad, thickish slices.

Put into a large pot with the turkey bones, tomatoes, ginger, plums and water. Bring to the boil then lower heat to minimum. Cover partially and simmer gently without stirring, for 45 minutes.

While soup simmers, combine minced meat with garlic salt, pepper and sugar and mix well. Shape into small meatballs and set aside.

When soup is done simmering, gently drop in meat balls. Ensure they are submerged in the broth, then cover and cook gently for 5 minutes. Open lid and skim off any oil or scum from surface of soup. Add salt to taste, if desired, stir gently then turn off heat.

Dish out bowls of soup, including some bones with the rest of the ingredients, for those who like to chew and suck on them. Top with the reserved shredded turkey meat.

Garnish with tomato wedges and coriander leaves. Sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately with white rice and sambal belacan or chilli garlic sauce.


  1. What a beautiful soup! Sorry to be so far behind :(
    Hope you had a wonderful holiday and wishing you nothing short of perfection and delight in 2013!
    Big hugs!!!

    1. Alisha! Always great to see you :) No need for apologies - life is a very rude and insistent intruder! I've fallen even further behind, but you're still on the brain ;) Hope life and your boys are sweet as always, and that your undertakings are rolling along without hitches.

      Big hugs back, and many, many wishes and hopes for everything good to come your way in 2013!!

  2. The soup looks homey and delicious. Exactly something I will love for the dinner.
    That sticky chocolate cake looks marvelous, but you know what I love the most? Those sweet potato donuts ;-)
    I wish you a happy and healthy new year!

    1. Hi Angie - thanks for taking the time to visit and say hello :) Yes, everyone seems to love the donuts too! LOL

      Hope you have a wonderful New Year, filled with blessings too!

  3. Your soup looks delicious! I can imagine what it tastes like. Will try it next year. :)

    Your Top 3 posts are fantastic! Not surprising that they are all desserts as almost everyone loveeeeeees desserts! :)

    Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Biren, hope you do enjoy it :) It's wonderful as a respite from all the rich Christmas food - your tummy will be grateful LOL

      Happy New Year to you too, my friend!

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Dead Cockroach, and for giving me a good chuckle. I have an open door policy, and I object to effect of pesticides on the environment. You're safe here, please do come again :)

  5. We don't really like turkey in my household either Denise. If I ever have it I'll just have a slice or two with lots of whatever sauce available as I find the meat dry to swallow.
    This kiam chye soup looks delicious. I vaguely remember my Granny making a kind of hot soup with it, tomatoes & fleshy pork bones.
    LOLz thanks for the tip concerning my household's tart bandit but alas the bandit loves curries & even sambals would you believe.

    Happy New Year to you and your loved ones Denise.

    *I'm not at all surprised at the success of your blog. Its great in a warm cozy way!*

  6. Isn't it just?!? Even with brining, beer canning or breast down roasting, the turkey meat only stays moist for a while. By the end of dinner, the atmosphere seems to have sucked out any precious remaining juices from the big, bad bird :D

    When I was growing up, my grandma used to make kiam chye soup with pork bones, ginger and tomatoes too - I don't remember her ever using duck, though both duck and pork versions are popular in the local Chinese community.

    If the bandit can get through a plate of my devil curry, without a drink of anything, he will have my everlasting respect!

    Thanks Jean :) I hope you get everything you wish for, in 2013!

  7. Denise - All those cakes look absolutely amazing! Can't decide which one is my favorite. Congrats on another great year of blogging! Wishing you and your family a Happy New Year!

  8. much food and so little time! Hope I could hop in more often. lol. Or probably I should move to next door. haha....


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