To me, chicken soup is THE great unifier. No matter where in the world and what culture you come from, there is always your version of a steaming bowl of chicken soup that hits the spot! Besides, they did name a whole series of self-help books "Chicken Soup for the Soul" you know.
The idea is simple - add some chicken into a pot of water, boil for a couple of hours together with whatever herbs and ingredients native to your culture, and you get chicken soup. I did a simple Google search and I was surprised to find the vast varieties of this humble dish. From Malaysian ABC soup, Jewish Matzo Ball soup, Filipino Arroz Caldo soup, Moroccan Chicken soup, Thai Curry Chicken soup, Korean Samgyetang, Colombian Ajiaco soup, Portugene Chicken Caldo Verde soup, to my ultimate favorite Chinese Herbal Chicken soup.
Here, I share how incredibly SIMPLE this dish is to make. The flavors are complex but the steps are not. What's more, the herbs used in this traditional Chinese soup is said to be incredibly beneficial to your health. It is said to strengthen the body and immune system, and balances the heat in your body. Herbs used are easily available in traditional Chinese herbal shops, or if you're like me and clueless on what to get - just drop by your nearest supermarket where you can find pre-packaged herb mixes.
Recipe serves 4 people. 5 mins prep time, total cook time approximately 2 hours.
1 pack Dun Ji Tang Liao herbs - I bought this from NTUC Fairprice
Astragalus Membranaceus root
Boxthorn Fruit/ Goji Berries
Dioscorea Opposita/ Chinese Yam
Polygonatum Odoratum/ Solomon's Seal
4 pieces chicken thighs with drumstick on
5 cloves of garlic, skin still on
1 inch knob of ginger, skin still on
3 medium potatoes, cut in four
2 carrots, cut in 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt & pepper
Chopped spring onion to garnish
1. Add all ingredients except potato and carrots in 1500ml of water. Boil with lid covered in low heat for 1 hour.
2. Add potato and carrot in the last hour.
3. Remove any scum/fat floating at the top of the surface.
4. Salt and pepper to taste.
5. Soup is ready for serving when the soup has reduced by half, and chicken meat is falling off the bone. Serve hot with chopped spring onion as garnish.
ALY'S COOKING TIPS
1. This recipe uses a slow cooker for cooking. I did not have one so I went old fashioned and cooked it on low heat for the full two hours.
2. You can add whatever seasonal vegetable like celery, potatoes and carrots. Just make sure they are root vegetables that are able to stew without disintegrating.
3. Some recipes require you to blanch the chicken in boiling hot water twice before adding into the soup. This process is said to remove the fat and produce a clearer soup. I was lazy so I didn't do it and it turned out completely perfect. In fact, the fat brought out a more flavorful soup!
4. You can use chicken breast instead too however soups are best cooked with chicken on bone. This adds to the ultimate flavor of the finished dish, and the fat in the meat brings out a much much more tender melt-in-your-mouth end product which I love!
HEALTH BENEFITS - *BONUS!*
Astragalus Membranaceus root (info extracted from here)
Immune system booster and protector against stresses, both mental and physical.
Contains Saponins, known for their ability to lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer.
Contains Flavanoids, which has antioxidative qualities, control and scavenge off free radicals, and can help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses.
Contains Polysaccharides, known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities, among other health benefits.
Boxthorn Fruit/ Goji Berries (info extracted from here)
Good source of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C & A, Fiber, Iron, Zinc & Antioxidants.
Contains 8 essential amino acids.
A single 4 ounce serving provides nearly 10 percent of your daily value for protein.
The carbohydrates in Goji Berries are also complex carbs. This means your blood sugar will raise slowly, reducing your risk of a sugar crash afterwards.
Dioscorea Opposita/ Chinese Yam (info extracted from here)
Strengthening the spleen and stomach to aid digestion.
Nourishes your kidney, increase sperm count, and improve sperm quality.
It contains saponins and mucilage, which have a lubricating and moisturizing effect needed to threat coughs.
Contains mucus protein that can lower blood sugar. Therefore, it can be used in the treatment of diabetes or a good diabetic diet.
Soothes your mood and regulates sleep.
Codonopsis Pilosula (info extracted from here)
The roots are viewed as an effective and more affordable substitute for ginseng, hence the common English name “poor man’s ginseng”.
Promotes digestion, increases nutrient uptake in the body and enhances the immune system.
Used traditionally for ailments associated with weakness, fatigue, poor appetite and anemia.
Helpful for diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence and excessive stomach acid.
Improves digestion by reducing the secretion of pepsin in the stomach and slowing of food as it passes through the stomach on the way to the intestines.
Considered to have blood building properties and to be effective in reducing chronic fatigue syndrome.
Polygonatum Odoratum/ Solomon's Seal (info extracted from here)
Great for repairing cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Contains mucilaginous compounds that sooth away irritations in the GI tract.
Good expectorant to help get rid of mucus, and it helps with bronchitis and other lung conditions.
Aids minor skin irritations and rashes when used topically.
Anti-inflammatory herb helping with irritation, redness, swelling, and pain in every part of the body. Solomon’s Seal contains allantoin which is a great anti-inflammatory agent which has been used in modern anti-inflammatory lotions.
Contains Convallarin which is a good heart regulator thus helping to with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.
Contains flavonoids that help with DNA repair and remove free radicals.
Contains asparagine which is a nutritive and toning agent for the nervous system.
“Yin” boosting agent for the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Which increases vitality when we feel weak, short of breath, and fatigued.