How to Eat Chinese Stew

From reading various Chinese food reviews online, I realize that I’ve been posting about Chinese food assuming that people know how to eat them. This is clearly not true.

One article that I read about a Si Chuan soup from a major website said that it had overly absorbant mushrooms, ooey garlic, and overly spicy but addictive Si Chuan peppers.

I found the review to be completely laughable, because reviewing the garlic is like reviewing the silverware. The other two comments are just as absurd. You’re not supposed to eat the dry peppers!

Photo Aug 29, 8 16 13 AM

Here is a picture of mouth watering turtle stew. When meat is braised, it’s served with the stock and the aromatics. So what can one eat in this mishmash of flavors?

What is always edible:


Large chunks of non-herb vegetables



The Meat is usually the feature of a stew, and it can come in all different cuts. Do not be surprised if it’s not easily identifiable at chuck steak or chicken thigh. A lot of the other body parts have different or added flavor. The chef is not trying to disgust you, but trying to give you the best balance of flavors, so don’t judge. Americans eat some weird stuff too… which is mostly all of the kids meals.

Large pieces of green leafy vegetables and radishes are obviously edible. When they are left in a big chunk, it means that aren’t meant to melt into the soup

Tofu and mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, both fresh and pre-dried. Some dried reconstituted tofu and mushrooms do tend to be highly absorbent. Don’t be afraid of them – they are full of flavor! One note though on the mushroom, the little stem isn’t always edible. If you need to chew it more than usual, then don’t eat it.

Here are a list of common aromatics, which you can eat if you want to be special or crazy but it’s certainly not required:



green onions that are no longer green because it’s been simmering in the stock the whole time

pieces of bone

really spicy chilies dried or otherwise (the dried ones like the one reviewed in the article is never food)


These things are left in the stock to add to the look and smell of the dish when it comes out. Of course the garlic is ooey after it’s been simmering in the stock for hours. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to eat the clove whole and knock out your dinner mates with your breath.

Optional parts:

When you’re in China, you’ll find cutouts of corn occasionally. A lot of people eat it, but it doesn’t taste as sweet as American corn. It’s mostly used to add flavor and body to the soup, so you don’t have to feel bad if you pick around it.

The soup: The soup is often edible. It’s often enjoyed with rice or sprinkled onto the main meat and veggies. However you’ll want to taste the soup first and use logic, because depending on the dish, the soup base might be entirely oil, too spicy, or too salty. If you’re fishing pieces of meat out of a pot of red hot chili oil, you’re not supposed to use that soup for anything other than enjoying its red color.

Now let’s all go out there and spread the word so people don’t start eating the lotus leaves off the zong zi and start complaining that it’s too fibrous.

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