Hainanese mutton soup
Hainanese mutton soup (yang rou tang in Mandarin) is a herbal soup made with mutton, herbs and other ingredients. Traditionally, goat meat is used to make this dish. Its flavours are derived from the meat, the more than 10 kinds of herbs as well as fermented beancurd. The soup is served hot with rice.1 On Hainan island, goats were traditionally slaughtered only for special events such as weddings, and thus Hainanese mutton soup was served only during such festive occasions.2
More than ten kinds of herbs are used for the soup, including ginger, licorice root (gan cau), codonopsis root (dang shen), astragalus root (bei qi), Solomon’s seal (yu zhu), cinnamon, angelica root (dang gui), Sichuan lovage root (chuan xiong), star anise, cloves and wolfberries. Added to this concoction are Sichuan pepper seed, dried wood ear fungus and red dates. A variety of beancurd derivatives are also added such as beancurd sheets, beancurd puffs and fermented bean paste (fu ru).3
A leg of mutton is boiled before being fried together with the garlic, fermented beancurd and mashed bean paste. Separately, the remaining herbs and spices are placed in a pot of boiling water and flavoured with sugarcane. The fried leg of mutton is added to this and boiled for two hours before the beancurd sheets and puffs are added, along with the wood ear fungus and wolfberries.4 Left overnight, the soup would be further enriched with the flavours of the herbs.5 Sometimes, tripe or more exotic parts of the animal are added such as goat’s brain and penis.6 The soup is eaten with rice.7
A Teochew-style variant of Hainanese mutton soup has been attributed to Ng Seok Jua, who began selling the soup at a stall along Beach Road from 1962. This version has a clear soup with a lighter flavour without the fermented bean paste and bamboo shoots, which are usually added to the Hainanese version. Ng also introduced meat balls to the soup, an idea borrowed from the Teochew bak chor mee (minced pork noodles). Aniseed and some tonic herbs are still used to enhance the dish. Ng’s son, Ng Tua Bah, and his son, Bay Koon, have continued serving the family recipe.8
1. Huang, L. (2008, December 7). Soup’s on. The Straits Times, p. 74; Ling, N. (1987, February 19). Mutton soup that’s satisfying. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chan, M. (1992, November 8). Hainanese dishes revived. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Huang, L. (2008, December 7). Soup’s on. The Straits Times, p. 74; Ling, N. (1987, February 19). Mutton soup that’s satisfying. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Huang, L. (2008, December 7). Soup’s on. The Straits Times, p. 74. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Huang, L. (2008, March 9). Fire in the belly. The Straits Times, p. 82. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Naleeza Ebrahim & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Not just a good food guide: Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 42. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL)
7. Ling, N. (1987, February 19). Mutton soup that’s satisfying. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chan, M. (1986, November 9). Mutton soup in Teochew style. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.