Monday, September 29, 2008

Dang Shen & Red Date Tea

I got this recipe from a Taiwanese TV show on traditional chinese herbs. It looks easy enough to prepare.

In a pot, bring 500 ml of water to boil. Add dang shen and red dates. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

This tea helps to boost the immune system.

Dang Shen or Codonopsis Pilosulae
is helpful for the spleen and lungs. It's a root similar to that of the ginseng family. It is considered the poor man's ginseng as it is cheap yet full of amazing properties. As it's mild, the whole family can take this herb.

According to FoodsnHerbs website, this power root helps:
-Build immunity and raise resistance
-Promote the production body fluid
-Nourish blood and energy
-Lower blood pressure
-Raise blood sugar
-Tonify spleen and lung energy

Dang Shen is also suited for people suffering from chronic fatigue, hypertension, loss of appetite, loose bowels, pale complexion, exhaustion after surgery or childbirth, body bloating and facial swelling due to edema, immune deficiency and hypoglycemia.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Homemade Gui Ling Gao Herbal Jelly

Everyone has this idea that Gui Ling Gao, a Chinese herbal jelly, is made from Tortoise Shell. I think it used to contain tortoise shell scrapings but no longer. I bet it must be tough finding people who would ingest anything made out of the poor chelonian.

I made some Gui Ling Gao today with a premix powder I bought from Eu Yan Sang. The packet priced at RM 10 consisted of 2 smaller packets (so it's actually RM 5 per pack). From RM 5 worth, I could make 14 small cups of gui ling gao, which would last me a whole week! (Normally I would buy readymade Gui Ling Gao at RM 2 for a small plastic container but I love to experiment so I thought I should be able to make some on my own. Plus it's cheaper too.)

This herbal jelly has a bitter taste but it is recommended for teens as it helps clear acne (and most women too as it enhances the complexion).

Gui Ling Gao is served chilled and as a dessert after a heavy meal. As it clears heat, it is a cooling dessert and pregnant women are not supposed to take this.

Here's how I prepared this easy dessert.

Gui Ling Gao

1 packet gui ling gao powder from Eu Yan Sang
250 ml water

Dissolve powder into water. Stir well to combine. This is (A).

In a pot, bring to boil 1 liter of water and 150 gm sugar. When water boils, turn heat down to a simmer. Quickly stir in (A). Keep stirring for 10 minutes.

Strain this gui ling gao mixture quickly once you turn off the heat. It solidifies rather fast so you have to be nimble. After straining, again quickly pour the mixture into smaller bowls or cups. Leave to cool in the open for 20 minutes before chilling them in the fridge. Serve cool.

You can also add a few teaspoons of honey if the gui ling gao is a bit bitter for your taste. I take mine as it is (since the sugar has been added).

So what's inside this herbal jelly which slithers smoothly down your throat?

Here's what I discovered...

Japanese honeysuckle

Can anyone vouch that these ingredients are what really go into a bowl of delightfully smooth gui ling gao? (It's a bit like our Malaysian grass jelly or 'cincau')

Let me know if you do!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ning Shen Soup

This is yet another herb soup packet mix which I got from Eu Yan Sang.

Ning Shen Soup is a traditional Chinese soup recipe for calming the mind and keeping the heart healthy.

Its ingredients are:
radix astragali
rhizoma dioscareae
rhizoma polygonati odorati
pericarpium citri reticulatae
bulbus lilii
arilllus longan
fructus lycii

If the above sounds like gibberish to you, it actually isn't. Of course it sounds like a bunch of sophisticated herbs but really, they're normal Chinese herbs.

radix astragali -- Huang Qi or Milk Vetch Root
rhizoma dioscareae -- Chinese yam or shanyao
rhizoma polygonati odorati -- Solomon's seal
pericarpium citri reticulatae -- dried tangerine peel
bulbus lilii -- dried lily bulb
arilllus longan -- dried longan
fructus lycii -- wolfberry

The herbs are clean so a quick rinse was just about it. Next I brought a pot of water (1.5 liters) to boil. Once the water was bubbling, I added in the Ning Shen herbs and blanched pork bones. Boil on high for 10 minutes before covering the pot and simmering on low heat for 2 hours. Season with salt when the soup is almost done.

I like to 'rest' my soups for at least 30 minutes before serving. This seems to make the flavours more rounded and robust.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Five Flower Tea

I bought a packet of Five Flower Tea (comprising 2 sachets) from Eu Yan Sang for my mom-in-law not too long ago but she only kept 1 sachet and gave the other sachet back to me. I think older people do not dare to drink too much of these cooling teas...something I should have remembered when I bought this tea!

But one learns!

I've become a fan of Eu Yan Sang of late, possibly because I visit Jusco in Queensbay Mall so often. I am the mad sort, the type who loves the smell and fragrance of herbs in a TCM shop and that's what Eu Yan Sang/EYS is. And perhaps the great thing is, I can ask for the herb in English and the staff knows what I am talking about.

But EYS is also a modern shop which means a lot of the herbs are packed hygenically. Of course the prices at EYS is much higher than my regular TCM stall inside the Lip Sin market BUT the herbs really do look better - they don't look too dried up!

One of those things I would spend on is food and herbs are food and I stand to gain if I buy better herbs, so sometimes I do splurge a bit at EYS. (I still buy from the TCM stall at the wet market sometimes!)

I've been going to EYS mostly to get the Gold Label Bak Foong Pills which at RM88 for 6 bottles of tiny black pills aren't exactly cheap but after all this quality issues with China and what-not (tainted milk powder from the Sanlu brand which has now extended to other dairy products), I'd rather pay a bit more and rest easy that I am NOT ingesting some poison. And like I always say, EYS is a reputable brand and they are surely more careful of its products.

Anyway, I do go on a chinese herb buying spree whenever I step into EYS. Bad for my credit card though Jusco Card holders do get a 5% discount OFF EYS products.

OK, so back to my Five Flower Tea or Wu Hua Cha (RM8.90 per packet of 2 sachets). According to the packet, 1 sachet is to be boiled with 3 liters of water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the honeycomb sugar (it's included in the packet) and that's it - serve warm or cold. Apparently this 3 liters can serve 4-5 people.

It's a delightfully light tea that's good both warm and cold. The flavours did remind me of spring - delicate, fragrant with flower aromas and not-too-sweet.

So what's inside this sachet? The Five Flower Tea has more than just five flowers; it contains:

pearl barley
licorice root
stir fried white bean
pagoda tree flower
cotton flower
peuraria flower

Update: A kind reader, Joe, wrote and told me this: 

Five Flower Tea helps to rid the body of uric acid build-up. The flowers contain saponins and the efficacy is evident from the bubbly urine output. Adding licorice reduces acidity in the stomach.

Thanks Joe for the helpful info. ;-) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Madam Chin's Easy Soya Sauce Chicken

Madam Chin is my grandmother who is touching 91. She's my dad's mom and a mother to 9 children.

One of the best recipes come from my grandma. She cooks the best stuffed crabs, the best braised ikan terubok with black beans and the best soya sauce chicken. In fact, her salted chicken is a family favourite.

But she's 91 now and can hardly walk, what more cook. She now spends her time in her room, watching TV, reading magazines and talking to her sons and daughters and grandchildren.

My grandma's soya sauce chicken is my life-saver for days when I do not know what to cook or when I get too darn lazy to cook.

This recipe is a sure success because the ingredients are easily found in any good kitchen. It's also a dish for children because they will love the soya sauce gravy to bits. It's a foolproof dish that keeps well and one that you will adore for its so easy and quick to prepare. (My husband loves this dish too!)

And if someone asks you where you got this recipe, do acknowledge that it came from Madam Chin from Penang, Malaysia. ;-) It's proper that she gets the accolades.

Soya Sauce Chicken

2 chicken thighs
1/2 bowl good quality soya sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
3 bowls water or enough to cover the chicken
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
dash of pepper
3-4 tbsp dark soya sauce
5 slices young ginger
1 stalk spring onion, cut into 2" lengths
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed, skin removed
3 tbsp butter

In a pot, put all ingredients except chicken and bring to a brisk simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken and cover pot. Simmer for another 15 -20 minutes until the chicken is done.

Before you serve, bring the dish to boil again and thicken the gravy with some corn flour. That's it!

Try it and let me know if you like Madam Chin's easy chicken recipe.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lemongrass Tea with Brown Sugar

Today's recipe is not so much a soup but a drink! And this one comes with its own little story.

One day, many moons ago, I was at the Tropical Spice Garden. This was at Teluk Bahang, almost near the end of the tourist hotel strip.

My sis, cousin and I decided to lunch there, not knowing what we would find. But adventurous girls that we were, we headed there, despite the oncoming drizzle.

It didn't help that my sis and cousin were in 'urban attire' - short skirt, shorts, heels. It was a bit of a climb up to the cafe of the spice garden (which by the way is a must-see for horticulture fans. It's a spice garden so it's full of plants and herbs for the green fan.) I'd been on the spice garden walk years ago so we skipped that. We were there for the grub.

Which wasn't much and that itself was a disappointment. The cafe basically served as a snack and beverage corner though the view of the sea off Batu Feringgi was amazing. Imagine, post-rain, the aquamarine sea.

The sandwiches were palatable. But what I loved were the drinks. Made with spices and herbs, the drink menu attracted me, particularly the lemongrass drink.

I ordered that and it was the best thing that day.

Best of all, it was a thirst quencher and a mosquito repellant. I say repellant because no mozzie came near me throughout the time we were lounging at the open air cafe. This is tropical Malaysia and mozzies are everywhere, and it had just rained so my sis and cousin yelped in agony each time a mozzie bit them. Or the mozzie just buzzed around them, annoying them totally.

As I had just drunked my lemongrass tea, I was mozzie-free!

The aromatic and citrusy lemongrass shrub, if planted around your home, dispels mozzies. The oil extracted from lemongrass, citronella, is a key ingredient in most mosquite repellant sprays, candles and rubs.

But more than that, lemongrass tea is so easy to make. Its health benefits are plenty, According to a Buzzle article:

[It's] a good cleanser that helps to detoxify the Liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and the digestive tract...cuts down uric acid, cholesterol, excess fats and other toxins in the body while stimulating digestion, blood circulation, and lactation...alleviates indigestion and gastroenteritis...helps improve the skin by reducing acne and pimples and acts as a muscle and tissue toner... reduce blood pressure.

This is my lemongrass tea recipe. I drink it warm but you can cool it and add ice.

2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and sliced thickly
1/2 stick of brown sugar (available from Chinese shops - this is brown sugar made from sugarcane and comes in flat sticks)
5 cups water

Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

That's it.This is not a very sweet tea. If it is not sweet enough, you can add more brown sugar, perhaps a whole stick of it.

Your own fresh lemongrass tea, perfect for a Saturday afternoon as you read your favourite novel.

*** You might want to read this for more uses of lemongrass.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cold Remedies, The TCM Way

It's been raining nonstop the whole of today. And I've been sneezing and having such a running nose! I woke up with a little bit of a sore, parched throat but I quickly drank a warm glass of water mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. That seemed to do it but my nose is still red and runny!

Yes, even SoupQueen sometimes get the sniffles!

That's the main reason I stuff myself with soups. So that I don't get the sniffles and have to down some pills. I was thinking of popping 2 cold pills and going to bed (since it is lovely and cosy to be in bed right about now) but I shall let my body battle the cold the natural way.

Maybe my cold is due to the sudden changes in the weather - it is hot and sunny in the morning and suddenly rains nonstop in the evening. The weather changes from warm to cold can be unnerving for my body.

Or it could be the KFC which I took for dinner last Tuesday. I was hankering for some fried chicken and thought, time to try out the new Spicy Crunch chicken. It wasn't very spicy but it was hot off the oven. I'm always fearful of anything fried or baked because of my tendency to get 'heaty'.

But cold or no cold, I made soup today too. Lotus Root soup. Yum. Can't wait for a bowl of warm goodness in a while. Did anyone try the Vegetarian Lotus Soup?

What I really wanted to share with you today is that I found a site which teaches you about the different types of Colds and Flus, according to TCM and the acupressure points you can press to lessen the awful effects of a cold.

Besides, the page also has a few folk remedies to cure a cold depending on what type of cold you have.