[a medicinal cooking blog: using food as medicine to treat whatever may ail you]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Keeping a Cold Away

While I was in school studying for my masters in TCM, one of my favorite medicinal recipes that came straight out of the Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica was something almost all of you have probably had: miso soup. Yep, it's that simple. In fact all the ingredients in miso soup are in the materia medica! I'm going to get a little technical here because I find it rather exciting that something so tasty can be found in a medical reference book, and I need to add here that most of the Chinese herbs are rather pungent and not super yummy like this particular combo.


miso paste: dan dou chi (Chinese pin yin name), Semen Sojae Praeparatum (scientific name), tantoshi (Japanese name)
* I suggest buying the miso paste which contains bonito fish stock in it as this will give it the balanced saltiness whereas if you buy the plain kind you will find it rather bland in comparison

scallions: cong bai (Chinese pin yin name), Bulbus Allii Fistulosi (scientific name), sohaku (Japanese name)

seaweed: kun bu or hai zao, two different types (Chinese pin yin names), Thallus Algae or Herba Sargassi (scientific name), konbu or kaiso (Japanese name)

(optional ingredients) : sesame seeds, silken tofu

How to prepare: you should boil the water you are going to use first, add the miso paste (to taste) and stir it in so that it dissolves, add the dried seaweed, then RIGHT before you drink it you should add the sliced scallions (in particular the WHITE part of the scallion) - this is a very key aspect of the medicinal value in this soup!! The reason being that the acrid properties in the scallions that "disperse a cold and release the exterior" (as quoted from the materia medica) will be compromised by prolonged cooking.

**Medicinal Note: This recipe works to perfectly balance your body when it is in the throes of the beginning of a cold, that moment when you start to feel it and it hasn't quite kicked in. The scallions are acrid and warm, and the fermented soy beans (the miso) are sweet and balancing for your digestion and internal organs. The seaweed is a bonus ingredient in that it fights off phlegm (I know - sexy fact!). If you are already phlegmy, it's not recommended that you put in silken tofu, keep it clean and simple. However, you can always add some sesame seeds which are very beneficial in warming you up (especially when you are getting a cold in the winter and you feel cold).

If you want a heartier meal, you can make a miso based noodle soup, below I added udon, a boiled egg (sliced in halves), and crispy garlic:

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