Thursday, June 15, 2006

Black Beans, Red Dates and Chicken Feet Soup

This is a super simple soup to make.

Ingredients:

A cup of black soy beans, washed & drained
Half a cup of pitted dried red dates
10 pairs of chicken feet

Blanch chicken feet. Bring water to boil in a 1 liter pot. Put in all 3 ingredients. Let it boil for 10 minutes on high fire and lower fire to simmer for another 3 hours. Add salt to taste before serving (I like to add a teaspoon of brown sugar to balance the taste).

Notes:
Red dates is a must-have in the Cantonese kitchen. It's a blood tonic and helps to balance or harmonize soups. The concept of Yin-yang balance is reflected in the way we cook. Remember to remove the stones as the stones create dampness and phlegm. I always buy pitted dates so it saves me some time in pitting them! Red dates replenishes the Qi, nourishes blood and relieves fatigue.

Black soy beans nourish the spleen and kidney, and expels wind so it is great for people suffering from rheumatism.

Lok Mei or Six Combination Soup

This is another yummy soup to make when you feel tired or don't have much appetite. It is called Lok Mei Soup (Luk Wei Tang) because it consists of 6 types of herbs. You can buy the prepacked herbs from the herbalist or Chinese medical hall. And yes, it is even sold in the supermarkets.

The 6 types of herbs are:
Dried longan flesh
Fox nuts
Dried lotus seeds
Yok Chok/Yuju or Solomon's Seal
Wai San/Chinese yam or Dioscorea
Lily bulb or 'pak hup'


As usual, blanch the meat bones first before you put them into a pot with the herbs. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes before switching to a low simmer for another 2 to 3 hours. Add salt when the soup is nearly ready. The soup tastes even better when it has time to mellow out overnight.

Fox nuts are supposed to be good for strengthening kidneys, relieving leucorrhea (which happens to women)and strengthening the spleen, regulating blood pressure. It is even believed to help if you have numbness and aching near waist and knees.

Lily bulbs help by moisturising the lungs and hence, is good for coughs. Lotus seeds strengthen the spleen and kidney while Wai San is good for spleen and stomach (those with poor appetites) and helps with weak lungs. And it is supposed to be good for enhancing the kidneys.

Longan flesh is known as a good blood tonic due to its high iron content. Pregnant moms usually snack on this. It is good to treat dizziness and insomnia but do not overeat dried longans because it is a 'warming' herb. Usually, you can just boil a handful of longan flesh and dried red dates to make a nice dessert for strengthening one's blood (usually women because we menstruate).

Finally, Solomon's Seal or Yok Chok (Cantonese) or Yuju (Mandarin) helps to nourish the stomach (weak digestion) and lungs especially if you have a dry cough. It is also good for men as it helps with impotence.

Although many people (my husband included) do not like to eat the herbs in the soup, I believe the herbs provide extra 'bite' to the soup.

My cat, Margaret, likes to eat the boiled Wai San and Yok Chok! No kidding! She's a picky eater, often sniffing her food before she eats it but she'll happily wolf down these 2 herbs! (Maybe she has a weak stomach and needs to nourish her cat yin!)