Chinese Herbal Chicken Soup
Chinese herbal chicken soup is great way to help boost your immunity and strengthen your Qi and Blood, especially during the colder months of the year. Chicken soup is known throughout many cultures to help you feel better, quicker. This hearty recipe, with the addition of therapeutic doses of Chinese herbs, makes for a delicious and healing remedy. When the herbs are added in the correct quantities it adds a depth and complexity to the flavor without making it taste too “medicinal.” This herbal soup is best to be consumed to help boost immunity and used preventatively to ward of sickness rather than during the midst of a cold.
Chicken is a very nourishing neutral temperature meat and is considered a digestive tonic in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). When making this herbal soup I suggest to add the whole chicken, meat, bones and giblets in, as all together they have a more powerful impact in influencing the bodies Jing-essence and blood. Free-range and organic chicken is best to use, best for the environment and they have lived happier lives. I believe that if choosing to consume meat it is important to have the bigger picture in mind as well.
It is thought that the most nourishing chicken is the Black Silkie Bantam breed, Wu Gu Ji. This breed of chicken has black bones, skin and darker flesh. Black is a color in Chinese Medicine that is attributed to the Kidney organ system and foods in that color are helpful to tonify the bodies Jing and increase vitality. When looking at the energetics of this meat it is used to strengthen tendons and bones, nourish the Spleen, tonify the Jing-essence, and invigorate and nourish Qi and blood.
Chinese yam (Shan Yao)- is a food grade herb that helps to tonify the Qi. It is a nourishing digestive herb which helps to boost digestive function and tonify the kidneys. It can help with issues such as diarhhea, fatigue, and lack of appetite. It is sweet in flavor and neutral in nature, and long term use is recommended to help increase vitality.
Goji Berries (Gou Qi Zi)- A delicious and well-balanced herb that helps to tonify the Liver Blood, brighten the eyes, nourish the Lung and Kidney Yin, and mildly tonify Kidney Yang. They can be eaten raw, cooked, died, made into tea. They are high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, thiamine, vitamin-c and riboflavin. Many studies have shown the benefits they have upon eye and liver health. Amazingly healthy and a great snack!
Lotus seed (Lian Zi)- This herbs helps to gently tonify the Spleen, Kidneys, stabilize the jing-essence, Calm the Shen and nourish the Heart. Great to help boost digestion. They are sweet and neutral.
Dried Red Jujube dates (Hong/ Dao Zao)- This herb is another gentle and mild digestive Qi tonic, they are warming and can help nourish the Blood, strengthen the Spleen and Stomach, calm the Shen, and moderate any harsh or toxic properties of other herbs. They contains a lot of vitamins such as C, B, phosphorus, calcium, iron and more. They are also known to harmonize other ingredients in herbal formulas.
Astragalus Root (Huang Qi) – Western herbalist know this plant as Milk-vetch root, but there are more than two thousand types of astragalus, and the Chinese variety is particularly distinctive. This powerful herbs helps to boost the immune system, promotes digestion, strengthens the inner energy of the body to increase energy levels, as well as can help to lower blood pressure and balance blood sugar levels. This herbs is considered one of the most “important” herbs in the Chinese Materia Medicia. It is sweet and slightly warming.
Codonopsis Root (Dang Shen) – An excellent herb to help combat tiredness, chronic fatigue, stress, adrenal fatigue and a variety of digestive problems. This herb is used to help boost vitality overall. This herb is sweet and neutral and works upon the Spleen and Lung organ system/meridians.
Longan (Long Yan Rou) – These little delicious dried fruits, which are similar to lychee, are full of vitamins, add luster to your skin, used to promote restful sleep all while replenishing your Qi and blood. This herb/fruit is sweet and warming, acts on the Heart and Spleen organ system and can help calm the spirit.
Ginger (Sheng Jiang)- This culinary and medicinal herbs is a staple in Asian cuisine and medicine. It has dramatic results in aiding digestion, helping nausea, alleviate upset stomachs and motion sickness. It pungent and warming nature can help to warm the organs and meridians, boost the immune system, improve respiratory health to help stop coughing, even eliminate toxicity due to food poisoning. A staple in both your medicine and spice cabinet!
I also like to add nourishing root vegetables to my soup to increase the nutritional value and make it hearty and delicious. Root vegetables can help to strengthen and boost our digestive capabilities while supporting the Spleen/Stomach functions. They are also high in fiber, antioxidants and absorb minerals and vitamins from the soil. I also throw in some celery and onion for taste!
1 organic chicken (preferably black chicken if available)
2 tablespoons Shan Yao/Chinese wild yam
2 tablespoons Gou Qi Zi/wolf berries/ goji
2 tablespoons Lian Zi/lotus seed and/or 1 cup sliced fresh lotus root
8 Hong Zao/dried red jujube dates
4 Pieces of Astragalus
5 Pieces of Codonopsis
10 Dried Longan
4 slices of fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 turnip, sliced and quartered
1 sweet potato, sliced and quartered
1 carrot, sliced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped onion
4-8 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
Sesame seeds and chopped green onion for garnish.
Rinse all the herbs and let them soak in a bowl of water for about 20 minutes.
Rinse and dry the chicken and giblets. I like to leave the chicken whole, but you can also cut it into 4-6 pieces using a cleaver or kitchen scissor to cut through the bone so that the marrow can easily infuse the broth.
Rinse and slice the turnip, sweet potato, ginger, garlic, onion.
Place all ingredients (herbs, chicken, giblets, vegetables and sea salt) in a large stockpot with enough cold water to cover the ingredients, this amount can vary but is usually around 4-8 cups
Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.
Once boiling, lower the heat to a medium-low and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is tender. I like to add my celery and carrots at this point so they are not over cooked .
I like skim any impurities from the soup while it is cooking- the froth the bubbles to the surface. You can add a bit more water to make sure the chicken is fully submerged.
When chicken is tender and fully cooked, take it from the soup carefully and place onto a cutting board. When it has cooled enough to work with, remove the skin and bones, and cut the meat into small pieces and place back into the soup. Remove from heat.
Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with sesame seeds and green onion.
*Some herbs are best to be removed such as the large prices of astragalus, ginger and codonospis.
You can omit any/ all herbs from this recipe if they are hard to find! ( But stick with the ginger, garlic, onions and veg for a tasty soup)