Often times, the word ‘herbal’, especially when applied to Chinese soups, brings to mind an unpalatable, even bitter-tasting medicinal-like concoction that seems less than appealing. But this could not be further from the truth, and it is more likely than not, that some of the savoury soups that you enjoy most in restaurants or eateries outside are herb-infused in one way or another.
Chinese tonic or herbal soups are all about putting together various blends of natural ingredients which balance nutritional value and medicinal or therapeutic function, with taste or palatability.
This is a light-tasting, yet very flavourful, savoury chicken soup prepared with tonic herbs and ingredients that’s easy on your palette, even if you are fairly new to Chinese herbal soups. It has warming properties, which in traditional Chinese food therapy, means that it is used to treat internal cold-related symptoms. Generally, warming foods are foods with properties which help to boost and enhance the body immune system, as well as replenish and revitalise the internal body.
When preparing herbal or tonic soups, it is good to understand each ingredient’s therapeutic function or purpose in our body.
The herbs used in this soup and their medicinal properties are:
Dried figs or fig fruit clears heat and phlegm, nourishes the lungs and improves digestion with its high fibre content;
Honey dates (candy dates) enhance immunity and inhibit cancer cell growth;
Red dates have blood nourishing properties, and are used in conjunction with other ingredients to nourish the body;
Dried longan fruit nourishes the heart and spleen, benefits blood, and calms the spirit;
Wolfberries improve eyesight, strengthen the body’s immunity, are anti-ageing, nourish the liver and kidney, and enhance blood circulation;
Bei qi is anti-ageing and improves the immune system; and
Solomonseal rhizome clears internal heat, dryness of mouth and sore throat, stimulates saliva production, quenches thirst, and heals cough.
I chose to use the double-boiling method to prepare this soup, but you could easily cook this in a pot, with soup simmered over low heat for 2 1/2 hours or so, or in a slow cooker set on Auto for 3 to 4 hours.
This recipe serves 2.
2 pieces Chicken Legs
Sea Salt, to taste
3 Dried Figs
3 Honey Dates
8 Chinese Red Dates
10 pieces of Dried Longan Fruit
20 gm Wolfberries (Kei Chee)
10 gm Bei Qi
10 gm Solomonseal Rhizome (Yu Zhu)
1. Remove skin from chicken legs. Wash and scald thoroughly with boiling water to remove any unpleasant smell.
2. Prepare a double boiler and pour in boiling water. In the double boiler, place herbs on the bottom and place the chicken legs on top of the herbs. Add enough boiling water to cover the chicken. Add a pinch of salt. Cover with lid. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Serve hot or warm.