Lazy Man’s Pickled Cabbage Soup 咸菜汤

I might have bought an oven, a blender and a steamer over the past year or two, but if you ask me what is the ultimate cooking methods that a lazy man can use, I would say that it is boiling, and that remains my favorite cooking method so far.

Of course, the easiest thing to cook when it comes to boiling is instant noodles. But I’m here to encourage you into (somewhat) healthier eating and instant noodles doesn’t fit into that. I mean, sure, everybody loves a good steaming bowl of instant noodles (especially if you are Asian), but the fact remains that it is incredibly unhealthy to constantly have that as your meals. So, I prefer to boil soup.

Now in my vocabulary, there are two types of soup:

  • Herbal soup – extremely easy to cook, nowadays there are all sorts of pre-packaged herb packets that you can buy from the supermarkets. You basically just bring a pot of water to boil, chuck the herbs and a slab of meaty bone in, turn down the heat and wait for an hour or two. That’s it. But I hate the cleaning up, because there will be leftover herbs that are wet and mushy and you need to wrap them in layers and dispose of them quickly. I personally don’t really fancy cooking this kind of soup too frequently.
  • Non-herbal soup – still easy to cook, but involves a bit more preparation work. You basically prepare the ingredients that you need (wash, cut, chop, etc), then chuck them all into a pot of boiling water, turn down the heat and again, wait for an hour or two for nature to take its course. Although there are some conventional recipes like ABC soup, tripe soup, lotus root soup etc, there is really no specific recipe. Basically you add what you like and omit what you don’t like. And the best part of this soup is, you consume everything in the soup and there’s no troublesome cleaning up to do.

Today I am going to show you one of my non-herbal soup recipe. Of course, like I said, these are my preferences, you can develop your own freestyle soup.


  • 1 tomato
  • Quarter of a pumpkin
  • 2 pieces of Chinese pickled cabbage (咸菜 ham choy)
  • a bit of pork belly (I purposely saved a small chunk from my braised pork belly dish for this soup)
  • some green leafy vegetables and mushrooms

You can use whatever meat you want or none at all. I happen to have pork, so I used pork. A pair of chicken drumsticks work just fine. Ideally, to make the soup even more flavorful, you need a piece of chicken/pork/beef bone, but I don’t have any so I’m going to omit it.

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  1. Cut up and wash all the ingredients.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  3. Throw the pork, pumpkin, tomato and pickled cabbage in and wait for the water to boil again. Add lots of pepper if you like your soup to be hot and spicy.
  4. Turn the heat down to low heat and let the soup cook for two hours / Turn the heat down to medium heat and let the soup cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Throw the leafy vegetables and mushrooms in and let the soup cook for another 5 minutes.

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That’s it, the soup is done and ready to be served. This portion will feed two people if served with rice or noodles, or if you are like me and (sometimes) prefer not to have rice for dinner, then you can wallop all the soup by yourself.

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This soup is so simple to make, an idiot can do it. Basically the ingredients will ensure that the soup is tasty by themselves, you just need to throw them into a pot and let the magic happen. There’s the saltiness from the pickled cabbage, sourness from the tomato and sweetness from the pumpkin. And the meat sort of binds everything together.

Let me import a term that Jamie loves to use: The soup is bursting with flavors, and so so delicious! You’re gonna love it!


  1. Yes, RG… there is no fixed recipe on what to cook and so forth… as long as it is edible, we can create a new dish each day! Good and balanced dish you have there… sapu la all! I did a simple dish too this evening…one soup, one chicken mushroom dish and cucumber with sambal dried prawns… 🙂

  2. I will visit Penang soon with my old man and my wife for Bridge Run. After that we will pop over to your place for dinner! You can still cook this soup and steam your cakes for us. We are easy and simple folks.

    • Bridge run still more than half year away lah. I might not even be in Penang anymore for all we know. We’ll see!

    • And you can tipu the kids to eat things that they don’t normally eat by adding them into the soup! My mom does that all the time.

  3. Soup is the easiest thing to cook! I like to make a big pot that will last me for 5 days. That salted vegetable is mustard and not cabbage 🙂 If I am not mistaken, in Cantonese it is called Kai Choy. It has big leaves and is bitter. I love the fresh ones fried with garlic and salt.

    • Oh, no. When I bought, there were 2 types side by side, one is Chinese cabbage and one is mustard. The mustard one has some red paste covering it and I didn’t fancy it, so I took the other one. 🙂

  4. I love making soups too (you can see how many soup posts I have on my blog…kekeke!) I would never have thought of putting salted vegetables with pumpkin…I think this is a cross between a Chinese and western soup! 😀 First, you have the traditional Chinese ingredients for soup of pork, vegetables and tomatoes…and then you added mushrooms and pumpkin which made the soup thick and yellow (not clear)!

    • Haha I suppose you are right. I actually did what my mom did, all the ingredients are from her type of healthy soup, except for the bellies 😀

  5. I think soup is one of the best creations in the kitchen. You can just throw ingredients together – whatever’s left in the fridge – and it usually turns out quite well.

    • Well that’s the general term anyway. I think it is Chinese cabbage rather than normal cabbage. I suppose it should be called pickled Chinese cabbage rather than Chinese pickled cabbage.

  6. Your harm choy soup looks so flavourful.. Anything with harm choy, sure will taste good.. Boiling soup is really very easy, just chuck everything inside and boil.. Psssttt, I don’tv even rinse my pork bones in hot water first.. I just take them out from the freezer, then terus chuck into the pot, press on, and boil!

    • Hahaha, I get it. You are even lazier than me! But that hot water move is optional lah, if you prefer a more meaty flavor then great. For this round I want to taste more of my vegetables, so I did what I had to do! 😀

  7. wah, this soup is really full of goodness i would say!!! must be very nourishing and also cooling (i think ham choy i cooling stuff right??).. actually when you scooped all the stuffs into the bowl, i find it rather ratatouille (with soup) instead!! western style of cooking chinese soup~~ :p

    • Actually I don’t even know what ratatouille is. I thought it is that mouse cartoon?? When I cook for myself, I always go overboard with the ingredients to cover my lack of skills, that’s why my soup is always overflowing with ingredients! 😀

    • You need to use low heat and cover with lid (leave just a tiny gap open). And of course add more water than you expect the soup to be. Typically, we would boil until the water is halved (eg start with full pot of water, boil until the pot is half full) then the soup will be considered 入味. Usually it takes an hour or two. Of course if you are in a hurry then you can use high heat, but you need to watch the water level.

      Well, at least that’s how I do it. It is more Cantonese style though, maybe Shanghai style of soup could be different. 😀

  8. I can see why your soup is so flavourful – with the ham choy, pork belly, pumpkin and all the other veges – full of sinful goodness.

    Do you know that you can eat almost all the herbs in herbal soup? That’s what I do – eat all the herbs.

    • I know, but I don’t like to eat those herbs, I will just throw them away. To me, herbs will have served their purposes after the boiling process. 😐

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