(above: steamed chicken and medicinal mushroom soup
If you are a fan of soup, and have a large repertoire of recipes on hand to get you through sickness and health, then this recipe is your friend. Perhaps your very best friend! A meal is not a meal in China sans soup, nor are you eating in health without soup. Soup is warming and in essence a dish which has already done some digesting for you so that your digestion can be soothed and aided instead of challenged. In Sichuan, you eat soup at the end of a meal but in Cantonese cooking it is eaten at the beginning. Sometimes soup is the only dish in a meal if it is full of hearty ingredients. Whether it be the only dish, eaten at the beginning or end, is no matter - it is still a wonderful medicinal. One suggestion for those of you eating a lot of cold salads, in this case soup should be eaten before that as it will warm up your stomach prior to plying it with cold and raw ingredients that are damaging to the digestive fire.
Now, the method. A steamed soup is just that, a soup which you put all the ingredients into a (preferrably, ceramic) pot and place in a much larger cauldron of sorts (or a very large pot) with water underneath it and a cover for the large pot/cauldron and steam for 4-8 hours. The way to achieve the water underneath the small soup pot is to have it resting on an elevated surface such as a metal grate on legs that have at least 2-4 inches length and which you can easily find in many cooking supply stores and definitely in all Asian grocery stores. Traditionally in China you will have a small ceramic pot with a cover that has tiny holes on top, this will rest on a huge steamer basket over fire and water and the soup will steam for anywhere from 4 - 8 hours. Given that these little specialized pots are difficult to find in the U.S. and Europe the aforementioned method works just as fine. Steamed soup leaves you with a much creamier, without cream, soup consistency that has not been watered down as other soup methods are with the constant adding of liquid to them and because of this the medicinal quality of the ingredients remains intact and concentrated in this silky soup.
Next, the ingredients. There are endless varieties of medicinal soups to be made, below is a list of 3 key ones (using chicken with bone) that you can begin with. All you need to do is prep the ingredients first (washing, chopping, peeling, etc.) then place them in your soup pot with water covering them, add some salt and maybe some pepper, cover the large pot (no need to put a cover on the small pot in this method) and let it simmer away for 4 - 8 hours depending on how much time you have. Obviously, the longer, the better but if you can manage 4 hours then you are going to be fine. You should however check to make sure that there is always water at the bottom of the large pot so you don't burn your pot and of course so your soup keeps steaming!
1. Black Chicken and Dang Gui Soup - for blood building; gynecological irregularities; post partum; post menses
2. Chicken and Bai Guo/Ginkgo Nut - for urinary incontinence; spermatorrhea; leukorrhea; wheezing and coughing with copious thin sputum
3. Chicken and Shitake Mushroom - for the digestion; liver; nodule reduction; blood cleansing