ABC soup is a popular Chinese soup prepared with tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. I am not definitely sure why it is called ABC, but it is likely because the preparation is as simple as ABC. Another reason is it is rich in vitamin A (carrots), vitamin B (potatoes), and vitamin C (tomatoes).
ABC soup is prepared with either chicken or pork, so it is not a pure vegetable soup. Besides, it also has a universal taste that is not spicy, making it a favorite among the kids. It is ubiquitous in Cantonese households with kids as it is comfort food that is nutritious and suitable for children.
The soup is simmered over low heat, which lets the flavor from each ingredient release slowly. You don’t need many ingredients as the trio of tomato, carrot, and potato yield a perfect heartwarming and profoundly satisfying soup. Onion and sweetcorn are some ingredients you can add, but I will keep it simple in this recipe.
The origin of ABC soup
Most people agree that it originated from Malaysia. I am not certain about it because my mom is from Hong Kong and has been preparing this soup since I was a kid. I think it most likely was created by the Malaysian Chinese.
Note: This delicious ABC soup is the Malaysian Chinese-style vegetable soup, not one of those children’s soups made with edible alphabet pasta.
How to prepare the Chinese ABC soup
Nearly every household in Malaysia has its oven version of ABC soup, here is how we make it at home regularly.
1. Get ready the vegetables and meat
- Cut the tomato into wedges or thick slices. You have the option to remove the skin, but it does not matter.
- Peel the carrots and then cut them into wedges or thick slices on the bias.
- Also, peel the potato and cut it into large chunks, about one-inch cubes. Submerge the potatoes in water as they change color when exposed to air.
- Cut the onion into thick slices. Otherwise, you can cut it into chunks.
- The basic ingredients for ABC soup are a combination of carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, and some meat. However, every family almost adds onion, making it more wholesome.
- You can use chicken drumsticks, chicken breast meat, pork ribs, or pork bones in the recipe. I take a healthier route by using chicken, but pork bones will give it a better flavor. You also can remove the skin to get rid of the excess animal fat.
2. Blanch the chicken to get a clear broth
- Put the bone-in chicken pieces into a large pot of boiling water.
- Bring the water to a boil again, then blanch the chicken for a minute.
- Remove any scum floating on the surface with a fine wire mesh strainer. This step helps to get a clear broth.
- Wash the chicken under running water so that the final soup will look clean and free from any debris from the chicken.
- The flavor of the chicken is not affected by blanching as it only takes a few minutes.
- Some home cooks omit this step for simplicity. Although the soup will look a little cloudy, it will not affect the flavor. However, if you use pork instead of chicken, I strongly suggest blanching it to remove the unwanted porky smell.
3. Slow boil the ABC soup
- Place the blanched chicken in a slow cooker. Add about one liter of cold water or just enough to cover the chicken, and wait until it comes to a boil again. Let the chicken slowly cook for half an hour to release its maximum flavor.
- Remove any impurities floating on top with a wire mesh strainer. Next, add the onions, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.
- Cover and let it slow cook until the vegetables are soft. It will take another hour for my slow cooker and should be faster if you do it over the gas stove,
- You may also want to add some black peppercorns (or white peppercorns), but omit it if you make it for young kids.
- Season the soup with salt.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.
- You can also use a stockpot on the stove instead of the slow cooker. The steps are the same, except you need to adjust to heat to sustain a bare simmer temperature. Also, you might need to add more water as it evaporates faster than in a slow cooker.
- I use a slow cooker to boil the soup to simplify the steps. Since the slow cooker will automatically set at a bare boiling temperature, I can put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and let it boil for four hours without worrying that it will dry up. The slow cooker is highly recommended as you do not need to pay attention to adjust the heat. You can also use a pressure cooker if you want to save time.
- Always use bone-in chicken or pork to make the soup more wholesome and flavorful.
- Reducing the heat to just enough to keep it at a slow boil is the key to keeping the meat tender and preventing the vegetables from becoming too soft and disintegrating. On the other hand, high heat will toughen the meat in the soup.
- MSG or other flavoring agents like store-bought chicken stock or bouillon can be used to enhance the flavor of the soup, but I do not recommend them as this should be a healthy soup with loads of nutritional value.
- Remove the skin of the chicken chunks to make the soup healthier. (less oil)
The soup is so simple to make, and it has all the nutrition you need, with vegetables and protein and a whole range of vitamins. It can be a meal on its own, and the Chinese will serve it with steamed rice.
Variations for this ABC soup recipe
The recipe is not set in stone. There are many ways to prepare it, and every family has its version. Here are some suggestions:
- The vegetarian version. I would suggest starting with a vegetable broth instead of water to make it more flavorful. Another way is to add some sweet corn and celery and double up the amount of onion.
- Use pork or anchovies. You can use pork or anchovies instead of chicken or the combination. The ABC soup recipe is versatile. For example, you can omit the black peppercorn if you want to make it for young kids.
- Other suggestions. Adding a few dry cuttlefish can significantly enhance the taste. Some families also include red dates and a handful of goji berries, which I would omit to let the flavor of the carrot, tomato, and potato shine. Finally, you can add any extra ingredients from the leftovers.
Some common questions about the Chinese ABC soup
1. Can I refrigerate the soup?
You can keep the ABC soup in an airtight container and refrigerate it for a few days. Then, when you want to serve, and a few tablespoons of water and gently heat it over low heat until it boils.
2. Is it better to double-boil the soup for a better result?
The flavor of this nourishing soup is better with the double-boil method. I would suggest doing this if you want to serve your guest, or for any special occasions. Cooking it directly over the stove at barely simmering is relatively closer to double-boil and is more practical daily as it is quick and easy.
3. What type of potato to use?
Both starchy and waxy potatoes are suitable for the soup. I like using the less starchy type to keep the soup clean and clear, but others may have different preferences.
Other related traditional Chinese soups
You will likely like to try other nutritious Chinese soups on this food blog. Here are my picks:
- Chinese-style chicken herbal soup is well-known for its health benefits. The soup recipe is what we have appreciated in my family for decades.
- This winter melon soup recipe 冬瓜汤 is the adaptation of my mother’s recipe, which she cooked for our family when I was young. This refreshing and comforting soup will be a hit for you and your family.
- 1 pound chicken drumsticks
- 4 cups water, more as needed
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
- 1 medium onion, thickly sliced
- 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
- 3 medium potatoes, cut into one-inch cubes
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Put the bone-in chicken pieces into a large pot of boiling water. Blanch the chicken for a minute.
- Remove any scum floating on the surface.
- Wash the chicken under running water.
- Place the blanched chicken in a slow cooker. Add cold water or just enough to cover the chicken. Slow cook for half an hour.
- Next, add the onions, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.
- Cover and let it slow cook for one hour or until the vegetables are soft.
- Add some black peppercorns and season the soup with salt.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 192mgSodium: 771mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 42g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 11/5/2022