OK, after yesterday's suspected poisoning, I thought I should fortify myself. Had a couple of dumplings and lots of milk last night to counteract the poisoning and spent much of the time looking through my notes from my grandfather's Chinese medical books. Ahh ... flip, flip ... helps prevent backache .. I've got that ... strengthens bones .. good, good ... dispels wind and damp .. good thing not going on a date ... revitalises the kidney. OK, that settled it. I was going to make Grouper Soup with Angelica. Except I was going to use catfish instead. I'd bought a whole catfish & had chopped it in half to freeze.
Cool. Having decided that, I was so knackered I fell asleep to a re-telecast of Rockstar INXS. I swear I am addicted to that. Those guys can SING! Roll over American Idiots. Anyway, I wake up extra early so I can go buy the Chinese herbs to make the fish tonic soup. The recipe is simple but the herbs are not and the balance of the herbs are important. Too much of one item versus the rest could end up making you grow testicles. OK, I exaggerate ... but not by much. LOL. You need Chinese angelica root aka dang gui to those who can mouth Chinese. Dang gui is a fairly strong smelling and tasting herb that has many uses. It strengthens the blood and is especially good for women. I remember my grandfather telling me that women going through their menstrual cycles or just after childbirth can drink a tea brewed with this herb. It helps in healing as it encourages tissue growth. Well, move over botox and your plastic-faced devotees.
You also need morinda root aka ba ji. This one is fairly new to me but apparently it is good for eliminating muscle atrophy and for arthritic patients, it is a real boon. Woo hoo .. a difinitely must have for me then! From what I read, ba ji should be good for peeps who are Viagra addicts. It is supposed to help in impotence and infertility and "pain in loins" - cor! You know I am almost afraid to ask why anyone would have "pain in loins". But moving swiftly on ... The other herb in the mix is cistanche aka rou cong rong. Not sure what it does yet but I've seen it used many times and I reckon it helps in enhancing your kidneys too.
The last herb is one of my faves. Wolfberries aka gou qi. My grandfather used to make soups and add these, telling me to eat up as they'd make my eyes sharp like a hawk. Many bowls of soup later and with a degree of 500 in each eye, I still eat them for their taste. So here is my modified Grouper Soup with Angelica ... now known as Catfish on a Hot Tin Stove. Why tin stove? Because I always find that when cooking Chinese herbal soup, it is better cooked on a gas stove versus a electric stove. Remember to use only earthernware pots. No metal or enamel pots as they interfer with the herbs. Right ... to work.
Catfish On a Hot Tin Stove
500 g catfish
6g Chinese angelica root aka dang gui
9g morinda root aka ba ji
9g cistanche aka rou cong rong
12g wolfberries aka gou qi
1 cube chicken stock
5 cups water
1. Really, really clean your fish. Make sure there is no trace of blood left or it's gonna be fishy as all get out. Not a good thing when mixed with Chinese herbs.
2. Boil 5 cups of water in an earthen pot vigorously.
3. Rinse the herbs and add to the pot and cover.
4. Bring it to the boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes.
5. If your fish is big, chop it in half and add to the pot.
6. Cover and keep simmering for 10 minutes.
7. Crumble the cube of chicken stock into the soup and simmer for another 5 minutes.
8. Serve immediately. Never, ever have herbal soup at any temperature but hot.
I must say the soup was still a bit too fishy for my liking but it was very hearty indeed. I had the entire pot without any other accompaniment. And I was stuffed. But I felt distinctly healthy after that. I'm not sure if it is the herbal concoction's benefits kicking in already or just a psychological effect from knowing all the properties of the herbs.
Everytime I brew a herbal dish or read up on Chinese herbs, I think of my grandfather. Every mouthful of gou qi laden soup carries with it the twinkle in my grandfather's eyes as he encourages me to eat the tender little morsels. When I cook with my claypot, I think of the morning exercises between a grandfather and his 3-year-old grand-daughter .. hefting giant claypots like weights to build strong biceps. Ah, those were the days. I miss my grandfather and wish I had paid more attention all those times he talked about herbs. I did not realise then as I do now that he was teaching me to follow in his footsteps.
I am well pleased with this dish for its health benefits but not so much for the taste. I would give it a 8.5/10 for health benefits and about 6.5/10 for taste. Perhaps catfish was too strong tasting a fish for this soup. Next time I will try a milder fish like sea bass or grouper as originally suggested.
Categories - In Hot Soup, Fish Tales, Chinese Herbs