A Chinese friend introduced me to this several years ago. In China, one of the most popular ways to use tonic herbs is to cook them in a soup with some chicken and sometimes a piece of fresh ginger. The herbs are believed to have tonifying and medicinal properties. Whether you believe these claims or not isn't the point; this soup is delicious and nutritious.
I buy these packages of herbs at Asian supermarkets. There are different herb combinations, but most of them include one or more of the following: jujube, angelica, dried orange peel, astralagus, dried longan, cardamom, dried lotus seeds, and goji berry. The packages often have accompanying English translation labels listing the ingredients, and are sometimes labeled as "CHINESE HERB SOUP" or "NUTRITIOUS SOUP." Sometimes I buy specific herbs separately at my local Chinese herb store.
To make the soup, I basically poach a chicken. Using a whole chicken or chicken parts (my friend says silkie chickens are best, but I use regular organic chicken) I add it to a large pot and cover with water, add the herbs and some vegetables, and simmer for a few hours, and voila!
Chinese Chicken Soup
1 package Chinese Herbal Soup or Nutritious Soup herbs, found at Asian markets (Sorry, I haven't found an online source, yet)
1 whole chicken or chicken parts
About 3 inches of ginger root, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
Rice or Asian noodles
Baby bok choy or any other Asian green
Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add the herbs, the ginger, and the garlic. Simmer for about 3 hours or until chicken is cooked thoroughly and soup broth tastes flavorful. Remove the chicken and remove the skin and bones; shred the chicken and add it back to the pot.
Five to seven minutes before serving, add some baby bok choy or other Asian greens and cook them in the broth until bite-tender.
Serve soup in bowls with cooked rice or noodles and Asian greens. If you have leftover broth, strain it and freeze.
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(Image: Kathryn Hill)