lotus seed soup (tongsui) with gingko nuts

Once upon a time, I used to watch those 7o’clock Hong Kong family serials on TV and the thing that struck me most is how frequently the ‘families’ are shown drinking or talking about drinking soup and tongsui.

Tong sui literally translates to mean sugar water, or sweet soup commonly eaten as a dessert or during tea time. It’s a big feature in Cantonese meals and is considered to be a comfort food drink.

One of my all-time favorites is leen chee tong sui, a Cantonese term for lotus seed soup. I love it when they serve it as dessert in the last course of wedding dinners.

It needs just a few ingredients.

  • a cup of leen chee or white lotus seeds
  • a cup of pak kor or gingko nuts, shelled and skinned
  • 2 cups dried longans
  • a handful of pak hup or lily bulbs
  • rock sugar to taste

Fresh gingko nuts come in a shell. You need to crack that open with a nutcracker and soak the pods in hot water to loosen and remove the skin.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Throw in the lotus seeds, gingko nuts, dried longans and lily bulbs. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer on low for 2 hours or until the ingredients are soft. Then add rock sugar to taste.

Lotus seed tongsui can be served hot or cold. I prefer mine chilled because I’m always trying to beat the heat. So I either dunk in a handful of ice cubes or stick a bowl in the fridge.

This is a soup that’s not only yummy, it really healthy too. Lotus seeds strengthen your kidneys and spleen. Gingko nuts boost your memory.

Longans are high in iron content so they’re good for your blood, dizziness and insomnia. Lily bulbs are good for coughs because they strengthen your lungs.

Oh, and I usually add sueet yee or white fungus as well. But I’ve run out so I didn’t this time. The white fungus adds a crunchy texture to this fruity, nutty combination and makes it doubly yummy.

You can also throw in a small handful of red dates to sweeten the whole deal. If you do use red dates, remember to reduce your rock sugar.

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