Herbs and Helpers ®

Herbal Services and Solutions | Herbalist | Supplier | Herbs

   Jan 17

Keep calm and drink herbal soups

Recover from the festive binging with cleansing and nourishing Chinese herbal soups.

Had a little too much to eat and drink over the festive season? Keep calm; drink herbal soups.

When does soup cross over to tonic? A very long time ago. The Chinese herbalists know this well. Kenny Chen of Oriental Bowl restaurant in Kuala Lumpur is known for herbal soups. The third generation owner of Soon Hing Cheong Ginseng, a traditional Chinese herbalist, specialises in healing and nourishing the body and soul using herbs and natural food ingredients.

Chen grew up in a world where the squeaking of medicine cabinets as they were opened and shut was the norm. Hidden in those sturdy drawers were herbs of every shape and size, used for millennia to treat myriad ailments.

“Chinese herbs are natural. They’re from the earth. Don’t think of them as medicine per se, but as vegetables with healing properties,” he says.

He is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding Chinese herbs: they’re exotic and foreign, far too bitter for human consumption and even deleterious to health.

To the sceptic, it’s all a bunch of hocus-pocus and pseudo-science.

“The biggest misconception about Chinese medicine is that it works like Western medicine. It doesn’t. You won’t be instantly cured. Herbs are more like vitamins; they take time to work,” he explains.

As for their unpalatable bitterness?

“That’s why you can get all their nutritional goodness from drinking delicious soups! Make the soups and incorporate them into your daily diet.

“After any festive period, when you’ve eaten a lot of rich and unhealthy food, your ‘inner heat’ goes up, what the Chinese call ‘heaty’. These herbal soups will help you to lower your heat and release toxins from your body.”

The Burdock Soup, he says, is good for eliminating toxins and waste, and for preventing constipation and getting rid of wind (i.e. flatulence). Burdock is known as the king of vegetables because it’s so nutrient-rich.

“To combat all that excessive eating and build-up of toxins and heat, you’ll also want to drink a cooling detox soup like the Eight Treasures Soup.”

The sweet soup is a colourful mixture of dates, white fungus, Chinese yam, lotus seeds, mushrooms, barley and Chinese wolfberries (goji berries).

The good news for those who have “must lose weight” as a New Year resolution: It’s good for slimming and boosting your immune system, too.

“The thing about Chinese herbal soups is that you have to get the balance of ingredients correct for them to be effective. So if you have a ‘hot’ herb, you must counter it with a ‘cold’ herb,” Chen says.

He discourages anyone without proper knowledge of herbs to create their own soups, because getting this balance right is imperative.

“Our recipes have been refined based on sound traditional Chinese medicine knowledge,” he says.

Still, you don’t have to be a medicinal herbalist to enjoy herbal soups. Just follow trusted recipes.

Chen also doesn’t subscribe to the rather ludicrous notion that Chinese herbs are only for Chinese people. They can be taken by anyone.

Ushering in another year means ageing another year, and we all go grey on top. To banish salt-and-pepper hair, drink Chinese Knotweed Soup.

“Chinese knotweed is good for darkening hair. The black beans in the soup help to enrich the blood as well.”

This is the most full-bodied of the soups, but well worth making and drinking, because it leaves such a distinct aftertaste.

What about the bitter gourd soup? What’s the herb in that?

“Bitter gourd,” Chen says with a laugh.

“People don’t think of bitter gourd as a herb or having medicinal properties, but it does. You see, this vegetable-fruit is a ‘herb’ too!”

Steaming the bitter gourd in a soup takes away quite a bit of its bitterness, so even if you’re not a fan of the taste, the melt-in-the-mouth texture of the melon is very yummy indeed.

Moreover, bitter gourd helps to lower blood sugar and is good for diabetics. It also expels toxins and improves liver function.

Chen says that the secret to making herbal soup taste delicious lies in the stock.

Make good stock and you’ll have good soup.

So, get your ladles at the ready, and have yourself a soup-er start to the year.

(Serves 10)

1.5 old chickens (literally chickens that are older in age)
1.5kg pork bones (or replace with chicken carcass)
15g peppercorns
60g dried squid
2 litres water
4.5g salt

Clean and chop the chicken into large pieces. Place in a stock pot with the remaining ingredients and bring to boil.

Lower heat and simmer for six hours. Strain stock with a cloth strainer before using.

Chinese Knotweed Soup has a strong taste because of the slight bitterness of the knotweed. The black beans in the soup help to enrich the blood.

(Serves 1)

8g Chinese knotweed
8g black beans
30g lean pork
1 red date
180ml stock
¼ tsp salt

Rinse black beans and soak in water for 30 minutes.

Slice pork into bite-sized pieces. Blanch the pork in boiling water until cooked. Rinse with cold water and place in a porcelain Chinese soup bowl for steaming.

Add all remaining ingredients except salt, and steam for 3 hours. Add salt to taste, and serve.

Many people dont think of bitter gourd as a herb, but it lowers blood sugar and is good for diabetics.

(Serves 1)

40g bitter gourd
1 dried oyster (ho see), rinsed
2 pieces chicken
1 red date
180ml stock
¼ tsp salt

Peel and deseed bitter gourd. Cut into 1.5cm thick slices.

Blanch the chicken in boiling water until cooked, remove any skin, rinse with cold water, and place in a porcelain Chinese soup bowl for steaming.

Add the remaining ingredients except salt, and steam for three hours. Add salt to taste, and serve.

The key ingredient in Burdock Soup is known as the king of vegetables because it is so rich in nutrients. Burdock is good for preventing constipation and for getting rid of wind.

(Serves 1)

8g burdock
30g radish
2 pieces chopped chicken
180ml stock
¼ tsp salt

Peel burdock, then rinse and cut into 1cm-thick slices. Peel radish, then rinse and cut into 2 thick slices.

Blanch the chicken in boiling water until cooked, then rinse with cold water and remove any skin.

Place all the ingredients except salt in a porcelain Chinese soup bowl for steaming. Steam for three hours. Season to taste with salt, and serve.

The Eight Treasures Soup is a flavour-packed sweet soup that will help your body detox.

(Serves 1)

1 Chinese dried mushroom
3g white fungus
1 Chinese dried fig
10g Chinese wolfberries
5 lotus seeds
3g dried Chinese yam
3g barley
1 Chinese candied date
180ml stock
¼ tsp salt

Soak Chinese mushroom and white fungus. Remove the mushroom stem and the harder part from the white fungus.

Cut dried fig into halves.

Put all the ingredients in a pot, pour in stock and salt, then steam for three hours. Add salt, and serve.

Source: The Star Online

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.