Sweet Rice Ball Soup at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa
The soup you see pictured above was served to me at the Harmony Restaurant in Ottawa’s Chinatown. It turned out to be something of an unexpected novelty for me, first, because it was the first time I had ever tried a sweet Chinese soup, and secondly, because I was expecting something different based on the menu description. In any event, I found the texture of the rice balls and the flavour of the soup broth to be very enjoyable.
The soup I ordered at the Harmony Restaurant was described on the menu as ‘Sweet Fermented Rice Soup’. Now I am somewhat familiar with fermented rice as a cooking ingredient, although I have not encountered it in soup before, and I was rather expecting something along the lines of the Chinese specialty known as ‘Jiuniang’. As such, I was expecting a soup with individual fermented rice grains and the faintly alcoholic, aromatic quality of the wine-like liquor thrown off by the ferment.
As it turned out, there were nor rice grains in my soup, and none of the taste I associate with rice wine or fermented rice, so I am not sure if the menu entry was a misnomer, or if the restaurant ran out of the stated ingredient and went with a substitute.
Anyway, what I received was a soup containing glutinous rice balls of the sort known less poetically, not to mention less-appetizingly, as ‘sticky balls’, or, in Chinese as 圆子 (yuánzi). These were novel to me, as are sweet soups in general, and I found the slightly chewy texture to be really pleasant, even though the balls themselves didn’t have any noticeable taste.
As for the soup itself, t he taste was very sweet indeed and reminded me of either Lychee or apricot syrup diluted with a mild green tea. There were some orange fragments in the broth and when I asked about them, the waitress informed me that they were Goji berries. There were also some Black Sesame Seed included, and while these added a little textural contrast and visual appeal, didn’t contribute to the flavor in anyway I could detect. In short, though, the soup, along with the rice balls, made for an interesting and very tasty dish.