Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wai San, Carrot & Red Date Soup

This is a soup that I made one day while trying to clear up leftover vegetables in the fridge.

I had half a carrot and some fresh wai san. So I made this soup which I think tastes infinitely better than plain old wai san with pork ribs. 

Carrots in soups make soups taste a lot "sweeter". 

fresh shan yao and carrot

For this soup, you will need:

1/2 carrot, cut into chunks
Fresh wai san, peeled and sliced
2 dried red dates, pitted

300gm of blanched pork bones
1 liter water

Bring water in a pot to boil and add in all the ingredients. Boil on high heat for 10 minutes before putting the lid on your pot. Reduce fire to a mere simmer. Simmer soup for 2 hours. Add salt to taste.

You must let your soup "sit" and have the flavours develop once your soup is ready. I noticed that if I immediately serve the soup, it won't taste as good.

Let it "sit" for 30 minutes or so before serving. The soup is flavourful and of course you must eat up the carrot and wai san - they're good for you! 

wai san, carrot and red dates

Speaking of red dates, I recently managed to buy some huge dried red dates. They're about 4 times larger than most dried red dates and costs three times as much. I got these from my regular market where the herbalist recommended these to me. It is said that three dried red dates a day keeps one healthy with a promise of long life! 

chinese red dates

This packet of dried red dates cost me RM26. Below I compare the red date with a regular lime. See how large the red date is? 

comparing a lime to a dried red date

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Goji Berry Tea For Sparkling Eyes

Each Sunday I try to find a new herbal recipe to test. I love my Sundays when I lounge at home, listening to the jazz channel and sipping homemade herbal tea while reading.

Today I dug out some wolfberries or "kei chi" or goji berries from the fridge. I am usually running out of space in my fridge because all my herbs go into the fridge.

In this tropical weather, herbs will either dry out or go mouldy if you keep them too long in the cabinets. One distinct way to know if your wolfberries are deteriorating is to see their bright red colour becoming a dull, dirty red. That's why you know your wolfberries can go into the compost bin! (Or maybe you can stick them into some soil and grow your own goji berry plants. I might try this though finding available space in my already thriving garden can be tough!)

This packet of wolfberries is considered Super Grade because each wolfberry is larger than regular itty bitty ones you see in most pre-packed herbal soup packets. My regular Chinese herbal guy recommended that not only is this better grade, it is also recommended that one takes a handful of these wolfberries each day. The back of the packet says this:

wolfberries from ningxia region of china - good for kidneys and liver

The best wolfberries come from the Ningxia region of China. (I first came across Ningxia when I drank some Ningxia Red, a product from Young Living. While I like that the drink packs a power punch of antioxidants, I get really hungry after 20 minutes! That said, Ningxia Red products supposedly contain the powerful wolfberries from the famous goji berry producer, the Ningxia region.) 

Just so you know, Ningxia is the principal region of China where wolfberries are grown. 

dried goji berries from ningxia china

Anyway, today's recipe uses 3 basic ingredients or herbs you can find in any Chinese home. You need a handful of each - dried chrysanthemum flowers, dried longan and goji berries. 

Place these into a pot with about 1 liter of water and let it simmer for 15 minutes on the lowest fire. Drink this as a tea throughout the day. 
dried longan, goji berries and chrysanthemum flowers for herbal tea
From top right: dried longan flesh, goji berries, chrysanthemum flowers

If you're really lazy, you can just steep these ingredients in a teapot but I find simmering on low heat brings out the best in the longan - at least they'll expand properly and release their sweetness into the tea. 

This tea helps with dizzyness and improving the health of your eyes. Highly useful if you (like me) work long hours in front of the computer. 

You may also want to know, how often should you consume teas such as these? I say once or twice a week is good enough. Never go overboard and overdo things. 

Whenever I think of excessiveness, think of this: you should eat something regularly rather than consume a big pot of it at one go. 

Health is about regular maintenance. You wouldn't eat 7 apples in one sitting would you, even if apples are great for health? It's better to eat one apple a day than gobble all 7 on a Sunday night!

Update: add a few goji berries to your hot tea - this way you'll always be eating this superfood!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Growing Wai San...Yes, Believe It Or Not!

Whenever I see fresh wai san or shan yao or Chinese yam in the market, I'll buy some. As wai san can keep for a few weeks wrapped in paper in the fridge, it is a worthwhile buy. (And you know how I love making wai san soup and wai san congee).

Sometimes, I forget I have wai san sitting in my vegetable compartment and when I finally dig it out, it has gone all mouldy and icky.

I am not too sure if I mentioned this but I compost all of my organic matter - from cooked stuff to fish bones and meat bones. A lot of people will only compost vegetable and fruit - I am not too sure why they think fish bones or meat bones or chicken bones won't compost. Maybe they fear the smell of rotting animal matter?

As I've been composting using a 10-pot system taught by my friend Don for more than 2 years now, I can tell you that as long as you cover your waste matter with minimum 2 inches of soil, there will be no flies or maggots. Of course bones will not compost easily. It is after all made of calcium. However there is no smell even if I compost stuff like gravy, curry or even cooked stuff.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I found an old piece of wai san in my fridge. Decided to chop it up into smaller chunks and compost it in my compost pot.

I thought that was the end of it.

The wai san was not to be outwitted. My compost pot seemed to be the perfect environment for these chunks of wai san to grow!

When I dug out the compost pot, I saw that the chunks of wai san, left for dead, had grown healthy roots.

It was a surprise indeed.

Since it was growing happily, I decided to transfer these 4 chunks of wai san into a proper pot.

I have been googling about planting or growing wai san and what do you know? It is a seemingly easy tuber to grow. And it can be invasive and take over your entire garden so while it is a useful herb, you don't want to grapple with a wai san overgrowth problem.

The wai san plant grows like a creeper and has flowers which smell like cinnamon!

I shall keep you posted on how my wai san grows. If it really grows well, I may not ever need to buy wai san from the market again. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Nothing Sweeter Than Fruitful Effort

First of all, so very sorry for a long hiatus from this blog.

I have been extremely busy with my business and that left me very little time for blogging (and you know I have another blog, right?). The thing about business is, after sometime, you need to re-focus and re-strategize because we're no longer interested in what we were in interested in say 7 or 8 years ago. Our focus has changed. That's got a lot to do with experiencing everything that a business puts you through - both good and bad.


This blog will resume (I found out just this week that a blogger friend had closed her blog for good! Wow. That takes a lot of courage) and I will continue blogging.

I am never at loss for topics - usually it is a lack of time!

So let's see....remember my pomegranate tree? It's still fruiting with wild abandon. Its branches, puny as they look, are heavy with fruits and supporting the rosy orbs.

I was really eager to taste the fruit but this is my first time harvesting a fruit tree so I wasn't too sure when I should pick a pomegranate to try!

I decided to be brave and cut one off the stem.

I read online that a pomegranate can be harvested after 6 months or when the skin turns a rosy pink. The other way of gauging if it's ready is to hold it in your hand. If it feels heavy, it's ready.

There's a secret pleasure in cutting open a fruit that you planted. For me, nothing beat that intense pleasure when I sliced into the fruit which is the size of a lemon. Those ruby red arils were amazingly sweet and astringent at the same time.

Some people will chew the arils and spit the seeds but I ate everything.

This was truly my first time tasting my own homegrown fruit. Now I am itching to see what other fruit trees I can plant (papaya comes to mind because it is so easy!). Of course, I have eaten sweet basil which I've grown but I used it mainly in making pesto for my pasta. Yet nothing beats eating fruits from your own garden.

By the way, pomegranate is also used for Traditional Chinese Medicine as this blog post informs me.

The rind and seeds are useful for a host of ailments from dysentery to sore throat though you're cautioned NOT to overdose on pomegranates. Pomegranates target the Spleen and Stomach and is Warming. It nourishes blood and stops dysentery too.

What fruit trees have you planted? What do you suggest I plant next? ;-)