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Refined lotus seed sweet soup in Hue

TTH.VN - Visitors to Hue in the summer season are greeted with the sight of fragrant lotus blossoms adorning Tinh Tam Lake, their white petals fluttering like delicate butterflies in the breeze. The gentle and refreshing fragrance of lotus permeates the surroundings, and a passing encounter with this scene instantly uplifts one's spirits.

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A bowl of lotus seed sweet soup 

The lotus is a beloved plant in Hue, with its seeds, roots, stalks, embryos, seed pods, and more all holding special value as ingredients for nourishing health. Hue's culinary tradition boasts a rich array of dishes featuring lotus.

From the lotus, we derive dishes like lotus seed and longan sweet soup, candied lotus seeds, steamed rice in lotus leaves, candied lotus seeds, lotus embryo tea, lotus blossom tea, and more. These simple yet meaningful creations, such as the Hue-style lotus seed sweet soup, convey a deeper sense of appreciation and affection from the people of the Ancient Capital.

To prepare lotus seed sweet soup, carefully selected lotus seeds are used. These seeds are plump, whole, and vividly colored. Fresh lotus seeds are preferred, and the embryo inside is removed to prevent any bitterness in the sweet soup. The seeds are then thoroughly washed and simmered in either white sugar syrup or rock sugar syrup.

During the cooking process, it is important to handle the lotus seeds gently to preserve their intact form, ensuring they remain undamaged and whole. The soup should be cooked for just the right amount of time – not too fast to avoid undercooking the lotus seeds, which can result in a gritty texture and underdeveloped aroma, and not too slow to prevent overcooking and the syrup from thickening.

For added flavor, some people choose to include pandan leaves, enhancing the fragrance and appeal of the sweet soup. Lotus seed sweet soup is considered a dish that embodies the gentleness, refinement, meticulousness, and affectionate care of Hue's housewives for their families. It is often said, “If you love your husband, make wild duck congee, make Tonkin jasmine flower soup and make lotus seed sweet soup.”

Lotus seed sweet soup with rock sugar is a “simplified” version of lotus seed sweet soup with longan, eliminating the intricate process of embedding lotus seeds within longan fruits.

Both dishes represent the culinary quintessence of Hue. One is opulent and sophisticated, with a royal touch, boasting a richer flavor profile. The other is modest, fresh, and suitable for everyone.

Lotus seed sweet soup can be enjoyed both hot and cold. A steaming bowl is a nutritious treat that promotes tranquility, aids in sleep, and contributes to healthy skin and figure. When served cold, it becomes a refreshing dessert for the summer, with the coolness of the syrup combining with the sweet, creamy texture of the lotus seeds, creating an irresistible charm.

With its beautiful appearance, lotus seed sweet soup represents the "pearls of Tinh Tam Lake," with their delicate, light-yellow color concealed beneath the "surface of the summer water," glistening like a mirror's reflection. Served in exquisite porcelain bowls, it showcases the inherent elegance of this dish.

Lotus seed sweet soup is a common offering in the rituals of the people of the Ancient Capital. During special occasions, this dish is prepared with even more care to honor and express filial piety toward ancestors. Alongside incense, tea, a fragrant lotus flower, a simple vegetarian meal, and a heartfelt sincerity, it forms a complete offering to pay tribute to departed loved ones.

Story and photo: Thuc Dan
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