Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Soup for Breastfeeding Moms

I got this recipe from somewhere but I cannot remember where but it was given as Maryann's recipe. So Maryann, thanks to you, I am sharing this soup recipe with everyone here. It's good for breastfeeding moms as papaya seems to increase lactation.

Maryann’s Papaya Soup

4 skinless chicken thighs
1 unripe hard papaya (about 400g)
4 shallots (sliced)
4 cloves garlic (sliced)
10 white peppercorns
1 piece of ginger (about 5cm long)
2 ½ litres of boiling water
½ Tbsp oil
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp chopped Chinese parsley or spring onion (optional)

1. Clean and cut each chicken thighs into two.

2. Peel the papaya, take out the seeds and cut the fruit into big chunks.

3. Do not cut the ginger, but pound it slightly.

4. Heat the pot with oil, add ginger, fry for 3 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, fry for another minute, then add the chicken pieces and fry for 3 minutes. Add the boiling water.

5. Add the papaya and whole white peppercorns to the soup and boil it over low heat for at least 1 hour.

6. Add salt to taste just before serving. Sprinkle chopped Chinese parsley or spring onion on top of the soup.


1. If you are using a slow cooker, put only 2 litres of boiling water and cook it for at least 3 hours.

2. Skim off oil on top of the soup before serving.

3. Pork ribs or fish can also be used instead of chicken.

4. Papaya soup is very nutritious and is especially good for breastfeeding mothers.

5. For vegetarians, take out the meat and substitute with 500g raw peanuts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kidney Tonic Soup

The best part about blogging about soups is that I attract a lot of similar minded people and we become friends and then we start exchanging soup recipes and before you know it, we're diehard soup-lovers and soup recipe exchangers!

Maybe SoupQueen should start a Soup Club! Any takers?

Anyway, last week, I got a wonderful email from Grace Poon who lives in Australia. She was so kind to send me a soup recipe - a kidney tonic soup - to share with everyone here.

It's taken from www.asiaone.com.sg (I believe it's always honest to credit back the source) and it's a soup for those suffering from backaches.

According to the article accompanying the soup recipe, lower back pain is a result of not having enough Qi in the kidney and liver. Lower back pain could also result from stagnation of Qi in the blood.

The kidney tonic soup suggested contains a main ingredient of Eucommia Bark or Duzhong. Duzhong, I read in a TCM book, is actually the name of the man who ate the herb and got well. The things one learns!

Duzhong invigorates Qi and blood circulation. It is a bark of a tree but it resembles some scaly snake skin but don't let that put you off. There are stranger herbs in TCM and this is really a tree bark. Speaking of stranger stuff, there's frog hasma which actually comes from the oviduct of the female wood frog but that's another blog post for another day!.

Pregnant women should not take this soup. Invigorating blood and Qi might be rather harmful for foetuses.

Kidney Tonic Soup

300gm lean pork or chicken

11 gm Duzhong/Eucommia bark
9 gm Niuxi/Acyranthes Root
10 gm Baijitian/Morinda Root
10 gm Huangji/Astralagus Root
15 gm Dangshen/Conodopsis
10 gm Keichi/Medlar seeds
10 gm Dried Longan Flesh
5 bowls of water

* Apparently you can get the herbs in a packet from Eu Yan Sang medical shops if you can't be bothered to pick and combine them.

Bring water to a boil.

Scald meat (remove chicken skin if using chicken - otherwise you will need to skim oil off the soup once the soup's done and we busy ladies really have to be fast and effective sometimes so off with the chicken skin).

Put meat and herbs into pot and boil for 10 minutes on high heat.

Cover tightly, simmer on the slowest heat for 3-4 hours.

Season with salt and sugar if needed. Serve hot.

Grateful thanks to Grace Poon for this kidney tonic recipe!

One more thing, if you wonder what a certain herb looks like, just type the herb name into Google and then select IMAGES. You will find the photos of the herbs!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wintermelon Soup With Chicken Feet

Winter melon gives a sweetness to soups and can be a lovely warming soup on a cold night. The oysters lend the soup a delicate smokey taste too. Overall this is a soup which goes down well with many people.

According to Acupuncture.com, winter melon clears heat, detoxifies, quenches thirst, relieves irritability, dispels dampness and is particularly effective in regulating blood sugar.

Try this soup!

Winter melon Soup With Chicken Feet

1 wedge of medium sized winter melon ("tung kwa")
5 dried oysters, soaked
1 whole chicken thigh (remove skin)
3 pairs chicken feet (chop off claws)
3 red dates (pitted)
Salt to taste

Chop the chicken thigh into bite-sized pieces. Chop chicken feet into 2 sections. Scald chicken thighs and chicken feet.

Bring water to a boil. Put in all the ingredients into the pot. Boil furiously for 10 minutes and then cover pot to allow it to simmer for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and sugar.

This is how winter melon looks like - in case you want to know.

Chicken Garlic Kei Chi Soup

I was clearing off some old files of mine when I found this recipe! I have not tried it yet but I think it should be a delicious soup, as chicken and kei chi/medlar seeds/wolfberries lend a sweetness to the soup. Plus garlic too - I am a big user of garlic and I think this magic bulb does wonders to anything, be it soup or stew.

If you do try it, let me know how it tastes like. This is a quick soup which can be ready in 30 minutes.

Chicken Garlic Kei Chi Soup

2 chicken thighs (400g)
100g garlic (peeled)
25g kei chi (wolfberries)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soya sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp oil
1.2 litres boiling water
1 Tbsp chopped Chinese parsley

1. Remove excess fat from the chicken thighs, wash and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cut each thigh into four pieces.

2. Heat the wok with the oil, add garlic, stir-fry for a minute and add chicken and white pepper. Continue to stir-fry for 3 minutes.

3. Lastly add boiling water, kei chi, salt and soya sauce, cover and boil on medium heat for 20 minutes.

4. Skim off excess oil before serving with chopped Chinese parsley.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dried Fig, Apple and Almond Soup

I got this link from a reader of this blog. And what a great link it was... it was linked to a soup recipe and of course a book by someone called Grace Young.

Grace's book is called "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing". I hope to find this book at my local Borders Bookstore one of these days. It reads like one of those books I simply want in my TCM book collection!

Here's a recipe called Dried Fig, Apple and Almond Soup taken from Grace's book. There's more information about this soup/tonic from the Global Gourmet website, a link given by a reader, TC!

Dried Fig, Apple and Almond Soup
by Grace Young

According to Grace, this soup helps cure a persistent cough. I always think that it's better to take a tonic than to take cough medicine. A tonic tastes so much better too!

1/4 cup Chinese almonds (nom hung)
4 to 5 Chinese almonds (buck hung)
3 medium red Delicious apples, unpeeled
8 ounces pork loin, well trimmed
10 Chinese dried figs, rinsed

Rinse almonds in several changes of cold water. Soak almonds in 1/2 cup cold water overnight to soften almonds.

Core apples and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add pork and return to a boil, skimming any scum that forms.

Add the apple wedges, dried figs, almonds and their soaking water. Return to a boil over high heat.

Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 hours. Serve piping hot (no more than 1-1/2 cups per person).

For more information, visit Grace Young's website at http://www.graceyoung.com

Melon, Kei Chi and Carrot Quick Soup

Here's a quickie soup for those of you pressed for time (aren't we all? Sometimes I think we're like ants. Busy busy and busier!)

Melon, Kei Chi and Carrot Soup is my invention but it tastes pretty good I must say!

I made it two nights ago, after a long day at work. But the beauty of this soup is that it takes all of 30 minutes or less to boil and you can get instant soup (my other instant soup lifesaver is instant miso which I dump into hot water, add some tofu cubes and spring onions and I am ready to go. But that's another story for another day, ya?)

Melon, Kei Chi and Carrot Soup

You need:

1 small melon (you know the fat, green ones - peel skin and cube, with seeds on. Do not throw away the seeds.)
1/2 a carrot, cubed or sliced, up to you
1 tablespoon kei chi/wolfberries, soaked in water to hydrate
1/2 cup minced pork, marinated with 1 tsp cornflour, some salt and pepper and some sesame oil
1 liter water
2 cloves garlic, smashed with back of a cleaver
1 slice ginger, smashed with back of a cleaver

Bring water to boil in a pot. Once water is boiling, add in the ginger, melon cubes, carrot and kei chi. Boil for 10 minutes and then reduce fire, so that soup simmers.

In a pan, heat up some oil and saute garlic until almost brown. Stir this into the soup. This gives the soup a deeper flavour and a sheen of oil.

After 15 minutes of simmering, turn up the heat so that soup is boiling again. Form balls with the minced pork and add to the soup. When you drop the minced pork balls into the soup, a fast boiling soup makes the meat balls cook faster too.

Season soup with salt, sugar and pepper. Add a little soya sauce too if you like.

Turn down heat and slowly simmer for another 10 minutes. And voila, it's ready to be served.

(Before you serve, please remove the ginger slice. It's not fun to bite into ginger!). As for the garlic, it would have melted into the soup so there's no need to scoop it out.

Quick isn't it? Now you go try it and tell me how it goes!

See ya!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tong Sum and Red Date Tea

I caught an interesting cooking show on TV last night. On Astro's Asian Food Channel (Channel 703), I watched a show on TCM. It was a Taiwanese programme where the host and hostess spoke in Mandarin and sometimes a smattering of Taiwan Hokkien.

The show featured 3 recipes each segment, using TCM herbs with the herbalist host explaining about the uses of the specific herbs. Then the lady hostess would cook up a dish, usually a main course, using the herbs.

While I am not very interested in making dishes like prawn balls with Chinese herbs (it seemed just too much work!), I liked the 2 other recipes they showed.

One was a milk beverage with herbs (I can't recall what now). But the other one was easy. A tong sum and red date tea.

Tong sum or dang shen is a mild herb which resembles a dry, gnarled twig the size of a finger. It is called the poor man's ginseng in some instances because it shares similar properties with the more expensive ginseng. Dang shen is actually a root which benefits the spleen and lungs and is often used together with other herbs in soups.

This inexpensive herb helps to boost immunity, nourishes blood and lowers blood pressure. That's why it is suitable to restore health to the body, especially one that's been ill or unwell. It helps with restoring one's appettite too.

It is also a herb to use for promoting digestion especially if you have a sluggish digestion (indicated by bloating and indigestion).

To simmer this tea, you need some dried red dates (seeded) and some dang shen. Wash and put both into a pot with 2 bowls of water. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes or until water is reduced to one bowl. Drink warm.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Soup Talk & ABC Soup

I have not gone missing, in case you are wondering.

Why no post from SoupQueen for such a long time?

Well, I've been busy with clients' work and of course moving office. We just moved to a slightly bigger office space to accommodate our team. Even though it is moving up 2 floors, it seems like we're moving across the island. And we're still in the midst of rearranging furniture and etc.

Anyway, today's post is just a quick update. I haven't been home much of the time hence the lack of soup activity in the kitchen! Oh how I miss my soup!

So like TV, maybe I should recap some of my old soup recipes for some of you who have just been acquainted with me. (You know how TV sometimes cuts and splices different parts of programmes to make one new episode by itself? Well, this is probably similar. )

Let's see... for superquick soups, you can try

Amaranth or Chinese Spinach Soup

Szechuan Vegetable Soup

And of course, there is this perennial favourite called ABC Soup which I have loved because it's fast to cook and great to slurp. And full of a rainbow of vegetables.

How to make this ABC Soup?

Glad you asked!

You will need:

1 medium sized potato, peeled and cubed
2 small tomatoes, washed and sliced
1 big onion, quartered
1 cup of ikan bilis
3 cloves garlic, smashed with skins
1 liter water
1 teaspoon whole peppercorn
salt & sugar to taste

In a pot, bring water to boil.

In a separate pan, heat 1-2 tablespoon of oil. When oil is hot, fry ikan bilis and garlic until ikan bilis is crispy. Add this to the boiling water in the pot.

Put into the pot all the 3 vegetables - the potato, onion and tomato. Bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.

Next, cover pot and simmer gently for 20 minutes (turn fire down to low).

Once vegetables are soft, add in peppercorn and salt and sugar to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finally dish up into bowls and serve hot, on its own or with rice. Makes for a healthy dinner!

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jing Bu Tang with Fresh Cordyceps

It helps to be nosey and poke around the wet market. Last week at the market, I saw some fresh cordyceps and asked the vegetable lady how to cook it. It ended up one of the more amazing discoveries - culminating in some soup of course!

She told me that fresh cordyceps can be simmered with Solomon's seal/yuk chuk and Chinese sage/ tong sum for a delightfully tasty and nourishing soup.

The best part about this Lip Sin wet market is that every stall is within walking distance. In no time I was at the Chinese herbalist - this youthful, ever-cheerful guy who sits in a tiny cubicle of herbs and stuff! He's practically hemmed in by his herbs. Anyway, I show him the fresh cordyceps I just bought and asked him what goes well with this herb. He gave me a packet of pre-packed herbs labeled "Jing Bu Tang" (Clearing and Nourishing Soup).

When I got home, I got right into action. And the end result was good. The soup was flavourful and clear, and best of all, it healed my coughing! Fantastic stuff.

So what's in the Jing Bu Tang? And how to make this anti-coughing soup? Here's the recipe.

1 packet fresh cordyceps (or Dong Chong Xia Cao)
1 packet Jing Bu Tang comprising Solomon's seal, medlar seeds, wai san, pak kei, tong sum and red dates (if your herbalist doesn't have this prepacked, just list the herbs and he'll probably be able to make up a pack for you on the spot)

As usual, bring water in a pot to boil. Add in blanched pork ribs, fresh cordyceps and Jing Bu Tang herbs. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Lower fire, cover pot and simmer for 2-3 hours on low fire. Add salt to season after 2.5 hours. (Use Himalaya rock salt if you can.)
Serve hot.

When I was young, I often heard my aunts say that cordyceps were dried caterpillars. Now I know it isn't true - actually cordyceps sinensis is a caterpillar fungus that grows on a type of caterpillar. These days, this parasite is cultivated using grain. Strange or not, this herb works on the lung and kidney meridians to help nourish the lungs and strengthen the kidneys and enhances essence/jing. It also helps combat coughing by nourishing lung yin.

In olden day China, the emperor kept this herb exclusively for himself!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Cough Cure: American Ginseng and Honey Dates

This recipe is thanks to Erina who saw me having a coughing fit yesterday and recommended that I try her mother-in-law's recipe. She said her son had been coughing too and after drinking this concoction 3 times a week, he had been cured.

For this cough cure, you will need some slices of American Ginseng and 3-4 dried honey dates. These go into a pot with 2 bowls of water. Simmer until only half the water remains. This could probably take 20 minutes or so. Drink warm.

American Ginseng (panax quinquefolius) or Pao Sum (in Mandarin) is one of the milder ginsengs from the ginseng family. It is milder because it is yin or cooling in nature. It was first discovered by the Jesuit priests in Canada around the 18th century. This root herb was shipped in massive quantities to China - it was a valuable export in the 19th century. Hence the name American Ginseng because it really comes from America.

The taste of American Ginseng is sweet and slightly bitter but is highly suitable for the Heart, Lung and Kidney meridians. That's why it is often used for chronic coughs, fatigue and kidney ailments. It is traditionally used to nourish Qi and nurture lung yin.

But it is not suitable for pregnant women or those with cold and damp in the stomach (due to its yin nature).

Dried honey dates are larger than dried red dates. They're sweeter too. Accordingly they come from Anhui province in China.

I suppose like dried red dates, they're used to harmonize the concoction.

Take this concoction 3x a week until your cough improves.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chai Boey with Pork and Duck

OK, this isn't really a soup. It's more of a dish than a soup but I want to share this recipe with everyone because my first time trying this recipe was truly a success. And if I can cook this dish, so can you.

"Chai boey" is a Hokkien term - we Cantonese call it 'choy mei' or 'leftover vegetable' (literal translation). It's a tangy, salty, sour dish of mustard greens boiled with meat (usually roasted pork/ roast duck). It's great on its own and even better eaten with rice.

In the olden days, it's called 'chai boey' because people really used leftovers in this dish. My aunt makes this dish each Chinese New Year eve, once we're done with the reunion dinner. In our reunion dinner, we'd have lots of leftover dishes - roast meats, minced pork balls, etc. One should have leftovers for Chinese New Year as this signifies that we would have "plenty" for the coming year. It's symbolic most times.

For the chai boey dish, my aunt would put all these leftovers in a pot and boil with fresh mustard greens. Lots of mustard greens. The vegetable will wilt as the dish is simmered slowly.

For my chai boey, I had advice from my vegetable-seller and my butcher from the wet market. I pre-ordered a roasted pork leg (RM13) from the butcher. Here's a tip: get the front leg and get the leg chopped up into bite-size pieces. The front leg (or what the Chinese call the pig's hand) is less fatty. The back legs of the pig is oilier and makes your dish very oily! Enough to throw your cardiologist into a heart attack!

You will need to get a huge bunch of mustard leaves too. My vegetable-seller, once she knew I was going to cook THE dish, helped me cut up the greens into bite-size pieces too (see how useful it is to make friends with your market folks?). She reminded me to get some fresh serai root too.

Chai boey is simple, and now that I've cooked it successfully, wonder why I didn't cook it earlier. Hmmm. The good part of this dish is that it tastes much better the next day, and the next day... you will get a huge pot of it. Nic and I got sick of eating it after 3 days! We had it for lunch and dinner and then again the next day. Chai boey is a family dish - it means get lots of family members to partake in this dish. (Personally I felt nauseous after eating too much of it but that's another story again. Anything that's overdone can be rather offputting.)

Here are the chai boey ingredients:

1 roast pork leg (chopped)
some roast duck (chopped)
some cooked/roast chicken feet (get this from your chicken rice seller - he'll have plenty)
mustard leaves (chopped into big chunks)

dried chillies, about 10 pieces (or more if you like it spicier)
2 stalks of serai, bruised
8 pieces of dried tamarind slices (or more if you like it extra tangy)
2 tablespoons of tamarind paste, mixed with water and strained (to get tamarind juice)
Salt and sugar to taste

How to cook chai boey:

Bring a pot of water to boil (about 2 liters). Into the boiling water, add serai, dried tamarind slices and dried chillies. Boil for 20 minutes. Add meat at this stage (roast pork leg, chicken, duck, etc). Lower fire, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add mustard leaves.

Add in tamarind juice, salt and sugar. Now it's time to taste your chai boey. Adjust the seasoning and tamarind juice accordingly. If the water's reduced, you can add more water to thin out the dish. The dish shouldn't be too soupy though. If you like, you can simmer for another 20 minutes to allow the taste to mellow out. Serve piping hot. As I said before, this dish tastes excellent when left to mellow overnight.

*There are some extra stuff you can add to the dish - some recommend adding tomatoes (for added sourness instead of adding a lot of tamarind) and some suggest adding cili padi instead of dried chillies. Whatever you add, it's up to you. You can even add Chinese cabbage (torn up into fairly large chunks) if you wish.

Wai San Soup with Pork Ribs

I've written about using fresh wai san in porridge, thanks to the recipe passed on to me by my regular vegetable-seller in the Lip Sin wet market.

A couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon fresh wai san again in the market and bought it for cooking porridge. But the wai san was huge, so I used up only half. The vegetable-seller told me I could keep the other half of the wai san in the fridge for a week or so, provided I wrapped it up in newspaper.

One of those days while rummaging through my fridge for something to cook, I saw the wai san again and this time decided to try it in a soup. I had read somewhere (forgotten where now...tsk tsk, must be old age) that it is good as a soup too.

The recipe is simple (ah, I am a big proponent of simple recipes, ya) and just needs 3 major ingredients: freshly peeled and sliced wai san, 4-6 de-seeded dried red dates and about 400 gm of pork ribs, blanched.

As usual, bring a pot of water to boil. Put all 3 ingredients into pot; bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Lower fire, cover pot and simmer for 2 hours. Season with salt and serve hot.

The best part about this soup is that it's clear and sweet! There's something utterly unadulterated about fresh wai san - we Cantonese call it 'cheng theem' or clear sweet. It's a taste that's a bit tough to describe - like love, you need to experience it to know what it really is!

Wai san isn't expensive at all. The next time you are in the wet market, look out for this unsightly root vegetable. It resembles a long, brownish stick!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vegetarian Lotus Soup

I got this soup recipe from The Star newspaper a couple of months ago. Haven't had time to make this soup but since it's so easy, I thought I'd share this with all of you. Maybe you can try it and see how it goes!

I've always enjoyed vegetarian soups at Buddhist temples. There's one near my home and the soups are often clear and sweet!

Vegetarian Lotus Soup

1 whole lotus root or 200gm, washed, peeled and sliced thick
1 cup peanuts, soaked and rinsed
5 red dates, seeded
2-3 honey dates
50gm vegetarian chicken
1.5 liters of water
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pott and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add salt after 2 hours of simmering and serve hot.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Immortality Herb or Jiagulan, Southern Ginseng

I was at my favourite TCM shop (Veng Tatt Soon @ Campbell Street, Penang) two days ago to pick up some bee pollen for myself when I saw this packet of tea called Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Nic and I were looking to buy some nice Chinese tea, maybe Ti Kuan Yin, as our tea supply was running low and we were sick and tired of our regular brand.

The shop assistant told us that this Gynostemma tea (it looks like tea) is good for health. I like the honesty of the owners and shop people at Veng Tatt Soon (they also have a branch at Jalan Paya Terubong, Air Itam but I usually frequent this corner shop at Campbell Street) and I decided, sure, why not try it? At RM10 for 70gm, it wasn't very expensive.

Of course, I am often curious and when I got back, I did an internet search on what this gynostemma herb is about. What a surprise to find out that this herb is actually very beneficial for health - particularly for stress, cholesterol, blood pressure, immunity, antioxidant properties, the list just goes on and on. It is also called the immortality herb as regular consumption of this tea/herb gives you long life. In Japanese, it is called Amachazuru.

Other common names of this herb include

  • 5-leaf ginseng
  • poor-man's ginseng
  • southern ginseng
  • miracle grass
  • fairy herb
  • gospel herb

It comes from the cucumber or gourd family. You can see how this plant looks like at http://www.aumtea.com/botanical-name-listing.htm

Research has confirmed that this plant or herb can help with your cholesterol levels, and is effective in maintaining cholesterol levels. It was first found by a Japanese researcher who wanted to find an alternative sweetener. What he found was Jiagulan which showed properties akin to ginseng (contains saponins like ginseng) but was not ginseng.

It is also useful for weight loss but in the undernourished, it helps with nutrient absorption, hence it is much prized as an adaptogen. It also helps by calming the brain and nervous system; that's why it is a herb good for stress prevention and alleviation.

Basically jiagulan is a herb that's good for overall health maintenance.

Find out more about this amazing poor man's ginseng at http://www.immortalityherb.com/Jiaogulan.htm

How to drink Jiagulan

We prepared the jiagulan tea normally in a teapot with boiling water. Steep for 3 minutes and enjoy. The taste is very much like ginseng, yet with a fragrance of its own. It goes smooth on the palate and leaves a tingling peppermint like aftertaste which isn't really unpleasant. It does take some getting used to, though. Me, I like the fact that it helps me with stress as the kind of website development we do is sometimes quite stressful!

If you find it in your supermarket, go on, give it a try. It might just be the kind of tea you need!

Friday, May 11, 2007

My Favourite Traditional Chinese Medicine Books

Here's a peek at some of my favourite herb books on my bursting bookshelves! Many of these books can be bought or sourced from any good bookstore like Borders, Popular, Kinokuniya and MPH.

I refer to these books a lot as they're full of information and one read cannot glean them all. Books by DK (www.dk.com) or Dorling Kindersley are fantastic - they come with colour photos and that's always helpful when I am trying to figure out which herb is which!

Slowly build up your books on TCM and herbs as there are plenty out there. Get them with hardcover if you can - they're sturdier and last longer because you will be referring to them a lot in your study of herbs off and on.

I started collecting these books about 5 years ago and am still slowly building up a collection. I cross-refer when I am unsure (and refer online when I am really stumped!). But books, unlike websites, can be picked up anytime for a quick perusal. Switching on my laptop takes much longer!

If you have a good book on TCM, please share with me!

Secrets of Chinese Herbal Medicine
By Penelope Cody (2001)
Published by DK Books
*Small and compact, easy to refer to. Full of colour photos and quick for a refresher on popular herbs. Bought this in Kinokuniya KLCC many years ago!

Chinese Herbal Secrets
By Stefan Chmelik (1999)
Published by Avery Group
* A large book but again, full of enjoyable colour photos. The illustrations are good too.

Practical Chinese Medicine
By Penelope Cody (2000)
Published by Godsfield Press
* Always a handy reference, Cody writes well and explains in detail. Much recommended.

Chinese Food System for Health & Healing
By Henry C. Lu (2000)
Published by Pelanduk
* A bit complicated and hard to understand. Needs some mental workout but good list of hot/cold food categories.

The Chinese Way to Healing: Many Paths to Wholeness
By Misha Ruth Cohen (1996)
Published by Perigee Books

New Cantonese Cooking: Classic and Innovative Recipes from China's Haute Cuisine
By Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (1988)
Published by Viking Group
* An old book I found at a garage sale going for a song! Full of real Cantonese recipes.

Longevity: The Tao of Eating and Healing
By Aileen Yeoh (1989)
Published by Times Books
* My first book...a bit pricey but a good reference, always. Aileen is Malaysian by the way.

Herbal Secrets for Total Health
By Letha Hadady (1996)
Published by Vermilion

Braised Chicken with White Radish

I know this is not a soup BUT it does taste so good and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. It has a bit of a gravy that goes well with plain rice.

White radish is a versatile root vegetable. You probably have eaten radish in its other forms in Japanese or Korean cuisine. In Korean food, you probably have eaten radish as a spicy kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, you would have been familiar with "daikon" used in Japanese stews or even as a white shredded pile of mush you usually add to the dipping sauce for tempura.

But a word of caution, if you have taken herbal soups such as ginseng a few hours before, you should NOT take anything (soup or otherwise) that is cooked with white radish. White radish detoxes the body of all the goodness that you have just eaten. I once heard that if you have food poisoning, taking white radish is good as it helps flushes out the unwanted from your body.

Anyway, white radish is a vegetable you should eat if you want a clear complexion. Perhaps that's why the Japanese and Korean girls look so radiant and pretty.

This recipe comes from Karen Mok's recipe book. While I am not a big fan of Karen Mok, this recipe is a knockout success each time I've made it. And it has become my husband's favourite dish, among the other favourite dishes like ginger chicken.

You'll need:
2 chicken thighs (remove skin if you're on a lowfat diet, otherwise keep it on; chop into bite-size chunks)
1 medium size white radish, wash, peel skin and cut into chunks
2 slices young ginger
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 sliced red chili (for garnishing)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the white radish. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a separate pan, heat oil. Saute ginger until fragrant. Add chicken and radish. Stirfry for a few seconds before adding water. Add in the fish sauce, rice wine and soya sauce. Bring to a fast boil. Then turn the heat down so that chicken simmers gently for 25 minutes or so (don't let the gravy dry up, add more hot water if you find the gravy disappearing!). Once chicken is tender, dish up and garnish with red chili. You should have a bit of gravy with this dish.

That's it. A quick dish you can make even if you think you don't have time.

Try it and tell me how it went! And of course thanks to Karen Mok for such a simple, delicious dish.

By the way, radish soup is also really good and simple. Just throw some chicken carcasses into a pot of boiling water with some chunks of radish. Add a slice of ginger and some red dates if you want. Simmer 2 hours or so and season with salt at the end of the cooking time. I prefer to add some chicken feet to this soup as I am a chicken feet lover! Radish is also good for the lungs and clearing heat.

Dong Quai Soup

This is one of my favourite blood tonics!

I have grown up with this herb because my mom used to boil dong quai for my sisters and me especially when our menses are over. Mom used to emphasise that women benefit most from this herbal soup/tonic.

Now that I've married and left home, I still make this dong quai tonic for myself each month. Not many people like the smell of dong quai - but I do. The smell of dong quai simmering in the slow cooker for a few hours is out of this world.

Again, I am one of the many odd ones out. Many people I know will run at the smell of chinese herbs but not me. I enjoy going into Chinese medicine shops, and the smell of herbs is divine!

Dong quai is really a woman's herb because it helps to correct women's problems such as painful periods, irregular periods, PMS, hormonal imbalance, anaemia, fatigue, high blood pressure, postpartum conditions and menopausal symptoms. If you're a woman and feeling blah most of the time, you should take dong quai. In fact, dong quai helps to make women's reproductive system better!

Scientifically, dong quai does effect the uterus positively. It strengthens and normalises uterine contractions due to the ferulic acid and lulgutilide in this herb.

Dong quai or angelica polymorpha var sinensis is one of the most popular Chinese herbs with a warm character. The part that's used is the root which affects the liver, heart and spleen.

Like I said, it is traditionally used to nourish blood and invigorate blood circulation and as a laxative. A typical dose is about 3 to 12 grammes.

I usually make this tonic a few days after my period ends. Put a few slices of dong quai into a slow cooker with a piece of chicken drumstick/thigh. Add 3-4 dried red dates. Remember to remove the skin from the chicken; otherwise your tonic will be very oily!

Pour boiling water into the slow cooker - enough water for one small bowl of soup. Cover pot, switch on electricity and turn the dial to Auto. Let it simmer for 4 hours.

Just before I drink this soup, I add in some salt. Take the soup/tonic, eat the softened slices of dong quai and of course, eat the tender chicken meat. The soup will be a clear yellow, somewhat like a light tea colour.

I take this soup just before I go to bed. It does tend to be a bit heavy on the stomach but the wonderful aroma of dong quai is simply too irresistible.

One more tip: Do not drink water after you drink this soup. You want the full benefits of this herb which you have just boiled for 4 hours. The next day, do not take Chinese tea or whatever tea for a full 12 hours. As with all chinese tonics and herbs, drinking tea will prevent the goodness of the herbs from being absorbed by the body.

Dong quai is also good for coughs but you should avoid taking this herb if you are pregnant, having diarrhoea or abdominal fullness/congestion.

And men, well, men have often been advised NOT to take this herb. It is after all a women's herb.

My husband won't touch this soup, no matter how tempting it smells like. He's worried his hormones will change!

Note: Another blood tonic to try is Ba Zhen Tang or Eight Precious Soup. This is another women's herbal tonic concoction. Simmer in a slow cooker with some chicken (like the dong quai recipe) but this tonic is really black when it's done. The taste is somewhat strong too. If you don't like putting chicken with Ba Zhen Tang, use a hardboiled egg. Drop a peeled, hardboiled egg into your Ba Zhen Tang as it is simmering. Eat the egg later when you drink the soup.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Easy Chicken Porridge with Dried Scallops

What do you do when you're too tired to cook dinner? Sometimes I resort to making porridge or congee.

Porridge is filling yet nutritious and with a rice cooker, you can cook porridge in 1 hour or less.

This time, I will show you how to cook a simple chicken porridge with 3 basic ingredients - chicken, dried scallops and rice.

I use chicken wings because I like the texture and softness of chicken wings but you can use any part of the chicken you like. Chop the chicken meat into fairly large pieces. Set aside.

Wash rice as if you are going to cook rice. A cup of rice is enough for two persons. Put rice into your rice cooker and add 3 times the water. More water is better than less. Your porridge will thicken as it sets.

Into this rice + water mix, add chicken. Add 3 large dried scallops (pre-soak in water to soften). Break up the scallops gently.

That's it. Place the lid on the cooker (do not cover tightly or your porridge will boil over! And what a mess that will be) and switch on the electricity. Stir it every 15 minutes.

As there's more water than rice, the cooker will not turn off automatically until the water is almost dried up. Keep stirring the porridge until it reaches a consistency that you like. I usually boil it for 40 minutes before I turn off the electricity.

Add a little salt and pepper and a good dash of roasted sesame oil (Ghee Hiang brand). The sesame oil makes the world of difference. It's aromatic and brings out the best in your porridge. Trust me.

Once you turn off the electricity, cover the lid tightly so that the porridge will continue to thicken slightly for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with good quality soya sauce like Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce.

Simple, easy and so yummy!

Note: Dried scallop is one of the more nutritious ingredients you can buy. Get the large ones if you can. This is a pricey ingredient (about RM38 for 1 tahil - you get about 20 scallops) but what a tasty ingredient it is. It is also nourishing for the Yin and good for children and the elderly. It imparts a slightly fishy taste to food but a fragrant fishiness. Dried scallops is a premium ingredient which can be used with broccoli too (as you usually see in expensive chinese restaurants).

Soup for Vegetarians

It's often difficult to find soups which cater specifically for vegetarians as most Chinese TCM soups do contain some meat or other.

I got this recipe from Bao Ma, that famous Taiwanese mother of Ah Bao (Eric Tsang's bubbly daughter who is a TV host in Taiwan). A few years ago, Ah Bao and her mum (or Mrs Eric Tsang) did a cooking show over TV - all about soups! How I loved that show. I was inspired to be more kitchen-friendly after viewing those episodes.

Bao Ma used to recommend super simple soup recipes which I often scribbled down, and that's how I brushed up on my Mandarin. I never went to a Chinese school (which is often a big regret) but I have always felt at home with Mandarin. I do speak the language though, and am able to read basic Mandarin. With Bao Ma's how to make soup TV series, it was two favourite passions rolled into one: I got to learn how to make soups and learnt how proper Mandarin is spoken. As well as what certain herbs were named in Chinese.

Well, that series is no longer on TV because I don't subscribe to Wah Lai Toi channels on Astro anymore. Cantonese drama serials can be addictive, and I don't want to be pulled in that direction. I'd rather read a book than get pissed each time I watch a drama series where someone's taking revenge on someone else, or where everyone is polished and pretty, and talks in cliches.

Anyway, I got this vegetarian soup recipe from Bao Ma while watching some Chinese/CCTV channel two weeks ago. Again, I got excited and started scribbling down the ingredients.

You will need 6 types of ingredients for this soup.

Soup for Non-meat Eaters

  • A cup of fresh chestnuts
  • A cup of sliced (fresh) lotus root
  • Half a cup of lotus seeds (remove green pith)
  • Dried tangerine peel (or "chen pi")
  • A cup of walnuts
  • A handful of red dates (remove stones)

* As with all soups using dried tangerine peel, remember to put peel into cold water and bring water to boil. Once water is boiling, put in the rest of the ingredients. Let it come to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Cover, lower heat to a mere simmer and let it simmer for 2-3 hours. Season with salt before serving.

All above ingredients should make the soup tasty because each one contributes a delicate sweetness to the soup. I have yet to try this soup out though.

Sacred Lotus - The TCM Herbs Website

It's been a busy month for me. Every other day, I've had to work on some client's project or go out and discuss something or another. That's why the SoupQueen has been missing from the kitchen and as such, not many soups to recommend!

Anyway, I came across a website which talks about TCM and TCM herbs. I'm always on the lookout for good herb glossaries because herbs are just wonderful for health. And always good for soups.

This website which I came across is called Sacred Lotus Arts Traditional Chinese Medicine. I was looking for a reason why I am spotting after my menses. Yep, there is a term for this. It's called Metrorrhagia.

Anyway, one search led to another and that's how I ended up at the Sacred Lotus website which is truly a gem of a find. It has herbs plus photos of herbs. I always believe photos are always better than illustrations.

And the herbs are in Pinyin too so it's easy to find the herb you want. If you like, you can search using Latin or English if Pinyin is too hard. So for each herb, you not only know its English name, you get to know its Latin equivalent and Pinyin too. For instance, did you know that Pu Gong Yin is Dandelion with a Latin name of Herba Taraxaci Mongolici cum Radice?

Or you can even choose to view pictures of Herbs, alphabetically by choosing the "ON" option for Herb Pictures from the left column.

This is definitely going to be one of my favourite sites for a long time to come. ;-)

Go ahead, do visit http://www.sacredlotus.com/herbs/index.cfm

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Flower Teas for Beauty and Health

I'm a big believer in flower teas - you know, teas made from real flowers. Of course, the easiest is chrysanthemum tea.

But lately, there's been much interest about other flowers such as rose, lavender, jasmine, rosemary, sweet osmanthus and globe amaranth which can be made into healthy teas. Plus the fact that it helps with detoxing and beautification is another reason why women like me buy into these teas!

Personally I've enjoyed drinking rose tea. Just add a few dried roses into a mug, pour in freshly boiled hot water and let it steep for 10 minutes. Instant rose tea. Add some honey if you want it sweet. Roses naturally add to women's health because it relieves menstrual pains, invigorates the blood and helps rid one of bruises. Rose is essentially the woman's flower!

Globe amaranth tea is also easy to brew. Buy dried globe amaranth (those purple heads of flowers in any good tea shop) and add to a mug of hot water with a slice of dried haw, some cubes of rock sugar and some medlar seeds. This humble purple flower can detoxify your liver, stops coughs, reduces fatigue and more importantly, slows aging!

Rosemary is of course not a flower but a herb that has 101 uses. Dried rosemary can be steeped as a tea and drunk but not too much though. I've experienced giddiness from oversipping this tea. It however is great for calming nerves, improving blood circulation, relieving muscle ache and increasing body resistance. Inhaling fresh rosemary is one good way to start my day - I have a pot of fresh rosemary on my balcony and whenever I need a quick refresher, I go and smell my rosemary! It really freshens the mind and body. And it helps with hair growth too - steep some rosemary in water and use this as a final rinse after you wash your hair. It makes your hair shine!

Jasmine tea is another favourite at Chinese tea houses. But do not take too much as this flower can be quite cooling. It relieves body heatiness and aids in sleeping. It is also best taken after a meal because it can be quite "harsh" on an empty stomach.

Besides flower teas, I love drinking spiced teas as well. Masala tea is one favourite drink whenever I am at my favourite Indian restaurant in downtown Georgetown. Masala tea is milky sweet black tea scented with lovely spices like cardamom, clove and cinnamon. And spices like these are good for health too. Here's where you can find more spiced tea recipes to brew at home.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Amaranth or Chinese Spinach Soup

Amaranth or Chinese spinach is a leafy vegetable streaked with red. If you make a soup with amaranth, your soup will look red! But don’t worry. The colour is all natural and is really good for your health.

I always remember this soup because as a child, I’ve often been persuaded to drink it so that I would grow strong like Popeye the Sailor Man! Only when I grew up that I realized Popeye’s spinach and Chinese spinach were totally different!

Amaranth is called ‘een choy’ in Cantonese or ‘bayam’ in Malay. It is good for women particularly as it contains iron for blood-building and folic acid for women who intend to get pregnant.

But amaranth like spinach contains oxalic acid too so it may not be too suitable for those who cannot digest too much oxalic acid. According to Wikipedia, the high content of oxalic acid prevents calcium absorption and this vegetable should not be taken by people with kidney problems, gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Reheating this vegetable is also not encouraged because it turns nitrates into nitrites. However it contains more iron compared to spinach so it should be a good choice for anaemic-prone women.

This vegetable is very useful for children who are constipated or those who have too much Heat in their bodies. Amaranth helps move bowels and clear Heat.

Amaranth soup is a quick soup which can be ready in 20 minutes.

You’ll need:
  • A bunch of fresh amaranth, cut into 1 inch lengths and soaked in water and then drained
  • 1 cup of mince pork (marinate with soya sauce, pepper, cornflour and sesame oil)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (smashed, skins removed)
  • 1.5 liter water
  • Seasoning (salt, pepper, sugar, soya sauce)

In a pot, heat up some oil. Fry garlic until fragrant. Add water and bring to a boil. Using a teaspoon, drop mince pork into the soup to make little dumplings. Let the soup come to a boil again. Add amaranth leaves and stalks. Lower fire and simmer, uncovered for another 10 minutes. Add seasoning and simmer for another 5 minutes. Turn off fire and serve in individual soup bowls.

You can also substitute meat with sliced fish (white fish meat preferred). If you use fish, remember to add a slice of ginger into the soup to get rid of the fishy taste.

Here’s how the vegetable looks like http://www.agric.nsw.gov.au/Hort/Fmrs/Asian_veg/amaranth.htm

Here’s where you can find out about the nutritional content of the amaranth

Find out more about this vitamin-packed vegetable at http://tinyurl.com/ytaljw

If you’re a big fan of greens (like me), you can find out more about vegetables at http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/vegetables/veg.html

Papaya and Almond Dessert for Nourishing Lungs

Today I looked up a recipe for nourishing lungs and found this simple dessert soup. I’ve been feeling out of sorts for the past two days, itchy throat, blocked and stuffed nose and sniffles all about. These symptoms indicate that my lungs were weak and if you have problems with your lungs, you will also have constipation because the nose, lungs and large intestine are interconnected, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

You can use acupressure to relieve the stuffed nose, like I did. Press with your fingers both sides of your nose, on your cheeks. You can also press on the ‘third eye’, the area between your eye brows. Or press both sides of your nostrils, near your eye area. These will help clear your sinus a bit or at least allow you to breathe easier. The other point is behind your head, near your ears. Feel for a soft spot on both your left and right and press to get rid of the stuffy nose. You can also massage your jawline to stimulate the lymph glands so they can work overtime to help fight your flu.

Aside the above, you can also try making yourself a sweet soup. It’s of course better to prevent rather than cure – prevention means one sweet soup per week or at least nourishing soups 2 to 3 times a week. But the past week has been hectic for me so I guess that’s the reason I’m feeling a bit out of sorts.

On with this dessert soup… Anything that’s good for the lungs also helps maintain a clear complexion. Clear skin means that your toxins are regularly flushed out and the organ in charge of doing this is the Large Intestine and the Lungs. So it’s a no-brainer that if you have good skin, your lungs and large intestine must be in good working order!

You’ll need:

* 1 small, ripe papaya (peeled and cut into cubes)
* 2-3 pieces of white fungus (soaked in water, drained and torn into small pieces)
* 4 dried red dates (deseeded)
* 1 tablespoon of bitter almonds
* 1 tablespoon of sweet almonds
* 1 tablespoon rock sugar
* 1 liter water

Place all above ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover tightly and simmer for an hour. Serve warm. (Remember to eat the ingredients too.) You can also stew this in a crockpot if you have one.

Note: Bitter and sweet almonds can be bought at any Chinese herbalist cheaply. Although beneficial for your lungs, do not use too much of either as almonds can be toxic (even regular whole almonds shouldn’t be eaten too many either).

White fungus is naturally good for the lungs. White fungus is an ingredient that can be used either in sweet dessert or savoury soups in Chinese cooking. A little goes a long way because the fungus starts expanding when soaked in water. Get the best, freshest dried white fungus you can buy. Papaya is also another ingredient which is often used in Chinese soups – both sweet and savoury recipes feature this humble tropical fruit.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Red Dates, Longan and Medlar Seeds Tea

This is a nourishing tea/sweet dessert soup recipe I picked up from a recipe book which I bought a few weeks ago. It’s decidedly simple and easy to make – that’s why it makes a great introduction to 2007 – it is in fact the first post of the year.

I would call this a nourishing drink because the three main ingredients (see title above) are good for building blood, regenerating Qi and beneficial to the eyes.

This can be served on its own, as an afternoon drink (please serve it warm) or after a lovely dinner to clear the palate.

Here’s how you make this tea/sweet soup which serves 4 persons easily:

Red Dates, Longan and Medlar Seeds Tea

* 8 large red dates, pitted
* 2 tablespoons of medlar seeds/boxthorn seeds, rinsed and soaked in water for 10 minutes and then drained
* 10 dried longans, washed
* 4-6 small cubes of rock sugar
* 1 liter of water

Bring a liter of water to boil in a pot. Add all ingredients and let it come back to a boil for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down low to a mere simmer, cover the pot tightly and let it simmer slowly for 30 minutes. Add the rock sugar and simmer until the sugar’s dissolved. Serve warm.

Note: This tea is not overly sweet. It should have a tinge of sweetness and no more. It gets its sweetness from the 3 main ingredients so its sweetness is clear, not cloying or artificial.

Also, serve the tea with the ingredients – I know some people (such as my picky husband) who dislike eating the herbal ingredients of a soup as he feels the essence of the herbs has gone into the soup. However, I think eating the herbs give additional benefits – they’re fibrous and a good chew!