Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup
One of the most common ways to use tonic herbs in China is cooking them in a soup with chicken and vegetables. This is because chicken is thought to bring out the Chi tonifying and blood nourishing aspects of the herbs. Generally speaking, tonic herbs have a pleasant taste which does not adversely affect the flavorful aspects of mealtime soups.
Huang Qi Astragalus
Hei Mu Er Black fungus
Dang Shen Codonopsis
Shan Yao Dioscorea
Kun Bu Kelp
Long Yan Rou Longan
Lian Zi Lotus seed
Gou Qi Zi Lycium fruit
Yu Zhu Polygonatum
Hai Zao Seaweed
Xiang Gu Shitake mushroom
The herbs astragalus, codonopsis, and dioscorea are classified by Chinese herbalists as chi tonics. They are reputed to benefit digestion, aid the absorption of nutrients, and enhance energy. The two dried fruits, lycium and longan, are classified as blood tonics. They are reputed to treat anemia, reduce fidgeting, and benefit sleep. Black fungus and seaweed add a satisfying texture to the soup. Polygonatum is traditionally classified as a yin tonic, which restores moisture. Lotus seed is a mild sedative useful to relieve hyperactivity; it is rich in proteins.
For individuals recovering from serious illness or other debilitating experience, the soup can be taken daily for about one week to restore strength. Others may wish to enjoy this dish about once a week for a great energy boost.
To make the soup, place 1 to 2 pounds of chicken with skin removed in a medium-sized pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and remove any residue which floats to the top. Add the whole package of herbs, two cloves of crushed or grated garlic, two thin slices of fresh ginger, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a slow boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Add sliced fresh vegetables, such as carrots, cabbage, and celery at this time, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes to soften them. Then add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of wine (optional). Remove from heat. All the herb materials are edible except astragalus (the long, flat herb), which is too too fibrous and should be removed before serving.
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