Saturday, June 16, 2012

Traditional Asian way of making chicken soup that heals the body and mind

According to Chinese medicine, the human body is made up of different energies. You may have heard the term 'energy' from those new age spiritual gurus all the time and think this is some woo-woo stuff that doesn't make sense. I can tell you this, the concept of energy or "chi" has been used in Chinese language on a daily basis for 5000 years even before these new age gurus even learned how to spell their names.

It wasn't until last year after some acupuncture treatments, I started really understanding the concept of energy. To dive into this topic is going to take a life time, so I am going to skip it now. However, we do believe that in order to be healthy and strong, we need to regulate all these energies in our body. We need to live the lifestyle that cultivate more energies, such as doing morning exercises, staying away from drinking too much, having good sleep, avoiding stress and so on. A big part of a healthy lifestyle is to eat healthy. Food are natural medicines, it can help us cultivate the energy that we lack.

Traditionally in Asia, there are hundreds of herbs and plants that people use in their daily cooking. This time, I am going to describe how to make chicken soup using herbs.

Here are a list of ingredients needed:

1. DangShen AKA poor man's Ginseng or Codonopsis pilosula in Latin

2. Goji Berry

3 Sweet Date (dried one)

4. Huangqi or Astragalus (in Latin)

5. Job's Tears AKA Chinese pearl barley 

6. Lotus Seed or Xiang Lian

7. Huai Shan AKA Chinese Yam or Dioscorea opposita in Latin

8. Last but not least, the silkie, which is a breed of chicken with naturally black skin

Now each of these ingredients has its healing power as recorded in Li shizhen's legendary book "Bencao Gangmu". I won't go into it for details. I will just say that Huangqi is unknown for treating diabetes; Goji Berry and Lotus Seed were common food I had as a child. My mother was eating silkie soup every week when she was pregnant with me, and she was still swimming in the lake 6 months into her pregnancy --- Maybe that's why I was naturally comfortable with water :)

Enough said. Now let's take each of these ingredients except the slkie and soaking them in cold water.

After a while. Replace the water and start boiling the soup until it's completely boiled.

Now, add the silkie into the soup and turn the fire into medium small. Cover the lid and wait for 2 hours. 

Now it is really important to slow cook the soup for 2 hours even if the chicken gets cooked way before that. The medical quality of these herbs can't be extracted into the broth unless it is cooked slowly with small fire. 

Back in the days in Asia when the male of the family use to spend all day working, the female of the house would spend her day cooking at home. I know I don't have all day usually, but I will find time on the weekends to make my soup. Moreover, if you use a clay pot, that's even better. Since I don't have one yet, I improvise with what I do have. 

Do occasionally check on the soup, flip the chicken from side to side to make sure it is boiled evenly. Feel free to add other veggies as you like, be creative. I added some green beans in my case. But don't add spicies nor fatty meat. Other than that, just wait for 2 hours. It will eventually turn out like this:

Now this soup is good for those that have weak "Pi qi". Now how do you know if you are one of those guys? 

1. Don't brush your tongue for a day, don't drink milk. Then check the your tongue to see whether it's pink or white. It's supposed to be pink just like a healthy baby.

2. Do you always feel cold even if it's summer?

3. Do you feel you have very little patience?

4. Do you have problem sleeping because your have a pain in the neck or back no matter how many pillows you have tried?

5. Do you feel tired and think there is something irritating but don't know what it is?

Have this soup for a month or so, you will feel the difference! 

PS: Of course, having healthy food is one thing, stop doing unhealthy stuffs is even more important. Therefore, don't think this will magically take away your problem. The problem you have is the work of a life time habit, it won't go away with one meal. 

Nevertheless, start eating healthy and feel strong!


  1. I might try this! Ive never made soup like this, or even heard of these ingredients or the black chicken :)

    There's a store close by that i could buy these things from, but i do have a concern, these herbs and veggies being from China, are they clean or polluted with pesticides or herbicides? I wish i could get these ingredients organic.

    1. tongrentang stores usually have reliable herb products. I think tongrentang is in any major chinese community.. That's where I go get my green tea from..

    2. Thanks, i will look for that.


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