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

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.