Tian Qi Dang Shen Chicken Soup
After the week I've had, and also because of my persistent bouts of exhaustion since my viral flu attack, I decided I needed a tonic this weekend. I even blew off a date because I thought I would be better off ensuring I am fully operational when our exhibition opens during the week, and also to endure the court appearance on Thursday.
This was a recipe I remember my grandfather making for me when I was young. Being a fairly klutzy kid (OK, who am I kidding? Klutzy adult ...), I was forever bearing bruises or breaking or tearing something or other. He would sigh, and go off to his drawers and start picking out herbs. This soup is not one of my favourites as it is bitter and as a kid when I saw him reaching for the Tian Qi, I would start looking for escape routes.
However, it is undeniable that it works. My grandfather told me that besides strengthening the body, this soup helps improve blood circulation, which is why it was excellent for helping me heal from my myriad bruises and injuries. Also, it apparently eliminates pain and soothes swellings and bruises but honestly, I really did not notice that much difference. But I did notice that my injuries seemed to heal faster when I was taking this soup. Also, I tend to bruise easily and they take forever to fade. Without this soup, I might have gone through life a permanent black and blue hue.
Doing a little bit more research, I realised why my grandfather made this prescription for me. Tian Qi aka pseudoginseng or notoginseng is warm in nature and helps promote blood circulation (knew that!), stops bleeding (ah, must remember that - might be good for if & when I get internal injuries), eases bruises and swelling while killing pain. Dayum, my grandfather was good. It also apparently cures external swelling and sprains; vomitting, spitting or coughing of blood; bleeding from orifices (eeeuuwww) or in any er ... bodily waste products; bleeding due to internal injury (I knew it! I do my grandfather proud I think!); vaginal bleeding after delivery of newborns and treatment of abcesses and boils. Wow, that is some herb. I can imagine that it would be an essential herbs for women in confinement. Hmmm ...
Tian Qi also has "significant healing effects" on coronary heart disease (brilliant, but what does significant signify eh?), chest pains due to temporary shortage of blood supply to the heart, and stroke due to thrombosis in brain arteries. Cor! I must make a little vial of the soup for when I go on long, economy-class flights then! It also aids in the recovery from haemorrhagic stroke and can cure chronic hepatitis due to poor blood flow.
It sounds like an amazing herb and now I understand why my grandfather prized it so much and why it is costlier than the other herbs. In its whole form, it looks like a piece of turd. I know ... I am such a classy chick. But usually, you buy it in sliced pieces so it just looks like pieces of bark chips.
Another benefit I remember reading about is that Tian Qi helps alleviate acute sore throat - my throat has been a little sore since my illness. And it helps dizziness too. Not dizzy or preggers but thought it is a useful benefit too. The fact that it strengthens bones is definitely something I need right now. I hate feeling weak.
The other herb in the soup is Dang Shen aka codonopsis. It is neutral in nature and is widely used to strengthen the qi or essence or internal energy. It is also good for the lungs and fortifies the blood. Many prescriptions use it to aid in the recovery or strengthening of internal organs (especially the lungs, spleen and stomach), cure bad appetite, heart palpitations and dizziness due to poor bad circulation. It is excellent for broadening the blood vessels and lowering blood pressure and is an important herb to build up your immunity system. It's good for helping you get over gastrointestinal problems and diarrhoea.
This dish is essentially very potent and I highly recommend taking it in moderation and not more than once every two weeks maximum. Also, preggers women (you can have it after you deliver your baby but not during your pregnancy so put down this recipe right now) can only have this soup in extreme moderation ... like once a month at the most. Most Chinese doctors would not stop preggers ladies from taking selected Chinese medicine but I come from an extremely conservative school of thought. I think preggers women should not take any form of medication whatsoever if possible. Although Chinese herbs are all natural, they are potent and I am never fully sure what the effect would be on an unborn child. So, although you might read of certain Chinese tonics or herbs that are safe or good for expecting mothers, you will never get those from me. I will only advise that they eat as well as they can of natural foods that fortify the body instead of messing with the chemical make-up of the body - the baby is doing enough of that.
Essentially, for normal people, take Chinese medicine in moderation and pace yourself. The Chinese have a belief of having too much fire and going to the dark side (like Anakin Skywalker) in both martial arts and medicine. Do not go to the dark side. Moderation is key.
Anyway, here is the recipe.
Tian Qi Dang Shen Chicken Soup
1 spring chicken - quarter it
12 g Tian Qi slices
19 g Dang Shen
2 slices ginger - use old ginger
Chicken stock cube
1. Wash your chicken well
2. Rinse your Tian Qi and Dang Shen
3. Place the chicken quarters in a slow cooker or a traditional Chinese double boiler. You can use a clay pot or any stoneware pot in a pinch but do not use any metal pots. Metal interferes with the herbs.
4. Put the herbs and chicken stock cube on top of the chicken
5. Pour water over the chicken so that it is almost 80-90% submerged in water
6. Bring to boil and turn heat down to low to simmer for 3 hours
7. Eat the chicken but discard the herbs
I usually eat the chicken with a sweet chilli sauce only because I find the dish too bitter for my taste. Do not add sugar or anything like that though. Any additional ingredients may neutralise the effects of the herbs. Chinese medicine is all about balance and specific quantities of herbs working together. By adding another element which may have too much heat or coolness would completely change the chemical output.
Tastewise, this dish scores a 4.5/10 because I hate the bitterness. But I know that healthwise, it scores a 9.5/10. Sigh ... so I will suck it up and just finish my soup. Will make it up to myself later at night with a nice, juicy pear for dessert.
Categories - In Hot Soup, Chicken Run, Chinese Herbs