Monday, July 14, 2008

Fresh Cordycep, Medlar Seeds & Honey Date Soup

I bought some fresh cordyceps from the Lip Sin market just last Friday and asked the vegetable lady how to cook it.

I remember clearly the last time I cooked this fresh cordyceps - I went to the Chinese herbalist and got a packet of prepacked herbs to add to the fresh cordyceps. It made a lovely soup.

This time though I wanted to try something else. My vegetable lady told me that it's also good to boil fresh cordyceps with medlar seeds/wolfberry seeds and honey dates.

And I, being the adventurous sort, never say no to a new soup recipe. Yum!

Luckily I had some honey dates in my fridge as well as some leftover medlar seeds. (It's good to stock up on herbs - buy a little of everything and store in jars in the fridge. On any good day, I have dang gui, red dates, honey dates, tao ren, medlar seeds and dried longan which I can use to make anything from soup to sweet dessert! It's my stockpile of Chinese herbs... which is very important, well to me anyway!)

I also had some chicken feet, besides the basic pork bones so I blanched them too.

In a pot of boiling water, add the blanched pork bones and chicken feet together with some fresh cordyceps, a handful of medlar seeds (soaked to re-hydrate) and 3 honey dates. Someone once asked me how much of water is needed for soups and I go for at least 1.5 liters of water. This feeds me and my husband comfortably for 2 meals.

Clockwise from top: honey dates, medlar seeds & fresh cordyceps

Boil on high for 10 minutes, uncovered. Then cover with lid, turn heat down to very low and simmer for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt when it is almost done. Let the soup "sit" to develop flavour for about an hour before you serve. I usually boil the soup around mid-afternoon, 4pm or so and once it's ready by 6pm, I let it 'rest' until 7pm before dinner is served.

In some soups, I add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the saltiness but in this soup, I refrain because the honey dates lend a natural sweetness. Honey dates are sweet so don't go adding anything but salt.

If you cook soups with chicken feet (which is really a favourite with me), remember to scoop off the oil which floats to the top of the soup. Chicken feet are good for the skin as it contains collagen but it is also very oily.

I'll post another recipe on how to cook chicken feet as a main dish later on.... as you can see, I am a big fan of chicken feet (which are really cheap and nutritious). I'm Cantonese, what can I say! I like all those things which people look upon with horror such as pig liver, pig blood, duck blood, chicken feet, chicken intestines, duck tongues and etc. OK, maybe I'm old school but I do so love the dracula stuff!

Until then, try out this soup and let me know if you like it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

American Ginseng Soup

Clockwise from top: dried longan, dried lotus seeds and American ginseng slices

I was wondering what kind of soup to cook this week when I saw a box of American Ginseng in the fridge. It had been sitting there for almost 2 months now. Usually I will use pre-packed herbs for soups but this time around, none were to be found. So American Ginseng it is.

American Ginseng, unlike its cousin, Korean Ginseng, is the best kind of ginseng to brew and drink as it is not cooling nor heaty. Korean Ginseng is very heaty - it is a tonic after all. My 90 year old Grandmother consumes Korean Ginseng to give her strength and warm up her limbs. At the same time, the Korean Ginseng is helping turn her grey hair black - I am not kidding. I saw her with partially black hair and wondered why. Did she dye her hair? My cousin then remarked that her health (and hair) started to improve eversince she started taking Korean ginseng.

But if you are of the heaty type (which means you have a heated blood system), do not overconsume Korean ginseng.

But if you are looking for a mild ginseng which isn't too cooling or heaty, American Ginseng is good enough for weekly use.

I wrote about American Ginseng sometime back so check this post if you want to learn more.

This time, the soup recipe calls for American Ginseng, Dried Longan Flesh and Lotus Seeds.

It was supposed to be boiled with pig's heart and pork but I doubt anyone sells pig heart if it isn't ordered in advance. So I made do with pork bones.

You need:

2 tbsp American ginseng slices
1 handful of dried longan
1 handful of dried lotus seeds (soaked, split into 2 and remove the green pith)
1 bowl pork bones (blanched)
1.5 liter of water

Bring water to a boil. Add in all ingredients and bring to a furious boil for 10 minutes. Cover pot, lower heat to a mere simmer and simmer for 2 hours minimum. Season with salt to taste when soup is almost done. Serve warm.

That's it. I make it a point to boil a little more so I can freeze the rest for days when I need a good soup to warm the body!