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
http://www.prodigyweb.net.mx/centeotlac/eng/pages/valor.htm

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.