Friday, August 27, 2010

Ginseng

I got this awesome encyclopedia of Chinese medicine while in Taiwan, and I will be cooking through them as winter. Ginseng is the most popular and most well known Chinese medicinal ingredients. Through out history, ginseng had been heavily mystified, because of its slow growing nature (said to absorb the energy of sun, moon, and earth over centuries) and its shape (the fork shape like resembles human limbs). Ginseng is translated to "human root". In Chinese Medicine, ginseng has health properties and help increase "chi" in the human body. It is scientifically proven to have anti-inflammatory property and a stimulant (don't consume it before bed). Moreover, it enhances sexual performance; sort of like the naturalpathic version of Viagra.

In retail, ginseng are usually bought as dried root. Some specialty Chinese store may carry fresh ones and the ginseng flower, but these are usually prohibitively expensive. When you buy your ginseng, ask them to chop or grind it down. You will need to store these in airtight containers in your freezer.

This amount of ginseng is enough for 4 liters of broth
There are thousands of ways to consume ginseng. The easiest way is to steep a couple slices (or a teaspoon of the powder) in hot water and drink it as tea. My mother used to steep few slivers of ginseng with oolong tea overnight in the fridge and drink it the next morning as a refreshing pick-me-up. It sure beats coffee on a hot sunny day.

My favourite way is to cook it with other Chinese medicinal ingredients and chicken broth. Ginseng has a very intense woody, earthy, nutty, gingery flavour and aroma. It makes delicious, soul warming, low calories soups.

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