Oh how I love thee, my salted orange!  Let me count the ways…

Oh how I love thee, my salted orange! Let me count the ways…

Oh how I love thee, my salted orange! Let me count the ways…

Tea Name:

The Salted Orange

Traditional Chinese Name:

鹽蒸橙子 (yán zhēng chéngzi)

Nature:  warm

Taste:  sweet, salty

For more videos, you can follow us on YouTube.

What?  Salted oranges?

Let’s start by saying that if you see a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor (and even all the old ladies at the wet mart that I meet), that if you’ve got a cough, you SHOULD NOT be consuming oranges.  Especially, if they are cold and super sweet.  From a TCM perspective, this exasperates the cough even more because it’s sweet and the cold creates excess yin, which makes you cough even more.

However, there are ways to modify the nature of the orange!  Almost magic, but not quite.  You literally have to increase the temperature of the orange by simply steaming it!  It’s the same principle in how lettuce is a cooling ingredient, but once fried with ginger and garlic, it becomes neutral or even warming. 

Similarly, you expose the orange to some heat and shift its nature from cool to warm and then add salt to it.  Salt itself, is also a warming ingredient that is salty to taste and softens hardness, eliminates accumulations and dissolves abscesses.  It is amazing for reducing toxic heat, which is normally found with sore throats, and helps reduce swelling, which is also a symptom that sore throats often bring.

From a western perspective, fresh oranges have ample amounts of vitamin C, but does begin to denature and breakdown at temperatures of 86 degrees Celsius.  However, you can still benefit from these benefits if you soak it in warm water (below 86C) and add salt to it as well.  But the Chinese do love their warm healing tonics and teas!

 

What’s involved?

Prep time: 2 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Total time: 12 mins

Serves: 1 person

Ingredients

     

    Cooking Instructions
    1. Cut the orange with the flatter side of the orange down so it can sit properly in a shallow bowl
    2. I will use a chopstick to break up some of the orange so the juices can be released prior to steaming, this is optional
    3. Generously sprinkle the salt on top of the orange.  Again, optionally, you can poke the salt directly into the orange.
    4. Begin to boil your steamer or pot
    5. Once your steamer is ready, put your orange into the pot, ensuring it’s not submerged into the water
    6. Cover and steam on medium for 10 minutes
    7. Once done, remove from the steamer and allow it to cool slightly
    8. Using a spoon, break up the orange inside, mixing up the salt and juices and enjoy!

    Alternatively, you can use the microwave to do it, heating it at 2 minute intervals at a time, covered, until your desired internal temperature.  Be sure to mix it around at the end of every cycle to check.  The microwave is a just a bit more inconsistent in its cooking.

    The other option is that you can directly half the orange and share with someone!  My mom’s done this with me and my sisters and have made 4 halves and the whole family could enjoy this.

    The best thing about this is that it’s such a portable recipe!  You can bring it with you camping, you could take it with you on vacation, and the ingredients are so readily available!  It’s literally, a tonic on the go!!

    Try it and let me know how it goes!

    The Q&A (from TikTok)

    A huge thanks to my TikTok community for the engagement on this video.  I’m now answering some of these common questions and answers here.

    Can I also add honey?

    From a TCM perspective, honey is also sweet and may exasperate the cough further and the point of this particular recipe is to really add salt (see above benefits of salt) to neutralize the sweet and really work to soften the sore throat.  If you really want to add honey, do it in small amounts (orange itself is quite sweet already) and do it once it’s cooled to around 60C as any benefits of honey and the degradation of the product.  I don’t add this to boiling teas at all.

    Will it help relieve the sinuses?

    This is not a recipe to help clear sinuses or relieve phlegm and dispel moisture from the body.  Ingredients that will do this include dried tangerine peels, apricot kernals, or barley, to name a few.  A few like this Snow Pears and Chen Pi (Tangerine Peels) for Coughs and Congestion, will also do the trick.  This recipe is really for soothing and healing the sore throat and some cough relief, albeit quite topical.  

    Can I drink this every day?

    Yes, if you’re feeling the sore throat and cough for a few days, you can definitely consume this daily.  The key is that it’s not completely cooling and is warmed enough it doesn’t create excess yin or yang in the body.  The only thing I would caution is the sugar consumption because an orange still does contain sugar, except we’ve neutralized it with salt, but the calories are still there.

    How do I know if it’s working?

    This is the age old question of Traditional Chinese Medicine (and even for any holistic approach to wellness).  Trust.  LOL.  Western medicine is usually more symptom based whereas Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a Confucianism (source: Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine: encouraging the twain to meet).  So long as you keep to the understanding and practice of achieving and restoring balance in the body, mind, and spirit and that everything is connected, it’s working.  You can read up on “Getting Started with TCM in Soups“.

    What’s the best salt for this?

    I’m using kosher salt here, but you can use table salt or Himalayan salt as well.  The point is to be using any type of natural salt to neutralize the sweet taste (and nature), but the calories as the same. 

     

    THANK YOU TO MY COMMUNIty (AS ALWAYS!)

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    Learn more about how these types of teas and soups can help improve your overall blood circulation and how you actually know that it's working?

    It's not a perfect science (still working to perfect it), but I'd say the methodology and thinking is sound 🙂

    Would love to hear your thoughts!

     

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    Simple Roasted Chicken Congee

    Simple Roasted Chicken Congee

    Simple Roasted Chicken Congee

    Soup Name:

    Roasted (leftover) Chicken Congee

    Traditional Chinese Name:

    烤雞粥 (kǎo jī zhōu)

    What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

    When it comes to leftovers, congee with meats is the ultimate!  The best are with left over roasted chicken (even Costco bought ones are great!), left over turkey (from Christmas or Thanksgiving), left over roasted pork (from Chinese banquets), left over roasted duck or goose (which you can get from Chinese stores) are a few to name.

    The amazing thing about these meats is that they store really nicely in the freezer for a few months, so when you feel like congee, you can even use them frozen dropped into boiling rice water.

     

     

    What’s involved?

    Prep time: 10 mins

    Cook time: 40 mins

    Total time: 50 mins

    Serves: 6 bowls

    Ingredients

    • Your leftover roasted meats (I will portion about one quarter of chicken for 2 cups of rice as not to overwhelm the dish with too much meat, this is completely up to you!)

    • 2 cups of rice (your choice, for this one I used Japanese sushi rice)
    • 3 L of water
    • 1 handful of dried scallops
    • 5 fresh garlic

    Toppings (optional):

    • chopped raw carrots (for crunch)
    • preserved olives
    • chopped fresh green onions

     

    Cooking Instructions

    1. Prepare your meats by either cutting up or peeling off the bones.  I will remove the meat from the bones to make it easier to remove the bones from the congee later.  
    2. OPTIONAL:  If you want, you can blanch some meats in a pot of boiling water first to render some of the fat off, such as duck and goose
    3. Add the meats to a pot
    4. Add in 2 cups of rice (your choice)
    5. Add in your herbs 
    6. Add in 3L of water
    7. Cover your pot, boil on medium high heat until it boils (at this point, I will take an oil strainer and remove any debris, foam from the top of the congee before it cooks (while the water is still separate from the rice)
    8. Reduce to a medium boil (still covered) for 30 minutes
    9. At this point, I will use chopsticks and physically remove all the chicken bones fro the congee
    10. Serve and top with your favourite congee toppings!

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    Sweet Rice Cakes for Chinese New Year’s!

    Sweet Rice Cakes for Chinese New Year’s!

    Sweet Rice Cakes for Chinese New Year’s!

    Happy Chinese New Year’s!!

    Wishing you and your family a very happy, healthy, and beautiful year of the rabbit!!

    As a tradition, the Chinese will eat what’s called “New Year’s Cake”.  It’s basically sweetened rice and glutinous rice flour pan fried until soft and chewy.  These days, there are so many variations of this dish, such as coconut flavored, red dates, ginger flavored, and a range of colors that these cakes come in. 

    The characteristics of this dish is defined by it’s shape as well as it’s name.  It’s round because when wishing people good health, fortune, and happiness, you want it to go endless (so it doesn’t end).  It’s name also implies “year high” in Cantonese, which means, wishing you a fruitful and boundless growth in the year.  

    So don’t forget to enjoy this over the New Year’s!  It’s really only available during this time commercially, or you make your own.  This year, I had an Auntie give me a few batches.  I will be trying my own next time for sure time permitting!

     

    Name:

    New Year’s Rice Cakes

    Traditional Chinese Name:

    年糕 (nian gao)

    This dish is sweet to taste and slightly warming

    Visit us on YouTube for cooking videos.

    What’s involved?

    Prep time: 5 mins

    Cook time: 15 mins

    Total time: 20 mins

    Serves: 1 batch (5″ diameter) serves 4 people

    Ingredients

    • 1 batch of sweet rice cakes (5″ in size)
    • 2 teaspoons of butter
    • 2 eggs

    Cooking Instructions

    1. Cut up the sweet rice cakes into your chosen size (thickness and length).  I like square pieces because they’re easier to eat and handle when cooking, especially when they get soft!  I tend to use about 1/2 inch in thickness.
    2. In a bowl, scramble 2 eggs (use 2 eggs for a 5″ size, if you want to make half, use 1 egg)
    3. In a shallow pan on low-medium heat, add your butter until it’s melted
    4. Then swash the sliced sweet rice cakes fully in the eggs and lay gently on the pan
    5. Cook on low-medium heat until they soften and lightly brown and turn over and repeat until the cakes are soft and you can poke them (squishy soft!)
    6. Serve right away and enjoy!

    Tips

    • use eggs to prevent them from sticking to each other
    • use butter (oil works) in a warm pan
    • low-medium heat max. It’s a slow cook, so allocate time
    • 2 eggs for 1 round 5.5″ rice cake
    • serve right away so it’s soft, this is best!

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    Mushroom Medley with Cabbage and Black Moss Stew

    Mushroom Medley with Cabbage and Black Moss Stew

    Mushroom Medley with Cabbage and Black Moss Stew

    Soup Name:

    Mushroom Medley with Cabbage and Black Moss Stew

    Chinese Name:

    冬菇髮菜 (dōng gū fa cai)

    This dish is neutral in nature.

     

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    In an earlier video on “How to use mushrooms in Chinese cooking” I spoke of a fear of using mushrooms.  So what better way to tackle this than to make a mushroom medley (which my hubby actually loves) with black moss (which I was also scared to use).  However, honestly, this dish is SUPER EASY and tasty!  It was amazing served with rice!

    You’ll notice that a lot of these are made from dried ingredients, which means it’s pretty easy to use.  You just need a bit of planning to pre-soak, but all of these have good soak life and don’t disintegrate so you can soak in the morning to use for evening or lunch!

    You can follow a video on “How to use and prepare mushrooms in Chinese cooking“.

    What’s involved?

    Prep time: at least 2 hours to soak, 15 mins prep

    Cook time: 30 mins

    Total time: 45 mins

    Serves: A whole happy family!

    Ingredients

     

    Cooking Instructions
    1. Wash in cool water and pre-soak your dried mushrooms in separate bowls.  Use just enough water to cover them.  The longer mushrooms will absorb most of the water since expand quite a bit, but not the shiitake mushrooms so much.
    2. Soak the black moss in water, ensuring it’s fully covered.  Black moss doesn’t expand that much.
    3. Soak the dried optional tangerine peel
    4. When the mushrooms are fully hydrated, in your cooking pan, add some oil and on medium heat, gently brown the ginger and garlic (more to bring out the flavours into the oil)
    5. Pan fry the shiitake mushrooms first, browning both sides
    6. Once that’s fragrant and looking lovely, you can drop in the whole bowl of the other mushrooms, including the water they were soaking in.  This will create part of the stew base.
    7. I’ll take out the tangerine peel at this time and thinly slice 2-3 pieces and drop them into my dish as well. 
    8. Let that cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, letting it come to a soft boil
    9. Here’s when I’ll add my soy sauce and oyster sauce and let that simmer for about 5 minutes
    10. Add in the fresh napa cabbage and also your black moss
    11. To mix up your corn starch thickener:  Add the corn starch to half of cup of cold water and mix until it’s fully dissolved.  Then you can add this to you stew.
    12. Let that simmer for 10 minutes, serve and enjoy!

    Tips for this dish:

    • You can pre-soak a lot of these ingredients ahead of time (first thing in the morning or when you remember) as they need to be rehydrated anyways and can stay in the water with no risk
    • Always dissolve corn starch in cold water before adding it to stews.  This will ensure it’s fully dissolved and allows to thicken consistently
    • To make this a truly vegetarian dish, you can replace the oyster sauce with hoisin sauce.
    • Keep the mushroom water in which you hydrate the mushrooms in!  This is just as tasty and will help keep the fragrance of the mushrooms in the stew!
    • This dish is saucy and savory, so perfect to be served on top of rice or noodles.
    • You can follow a video on “How to use and prepare mushrooms in Chinese cooking“.

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    What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food?  Hot Homemade Congee!

    What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

    What’s the Best Chinese Comfort Food? Hot Homemade Congee!

    Growing up, I’ve had many variations of this watery Chinese porridge called “Congee” (aka, the 粥 in Chinese).  

    And all of them, are memories of home and comfort.

    I don’t know what it is about this dish, but the simplest of ingredients, the white rice (there are also variations of the rice used) can produce such a profound feeling when it’s mixed and cooked in the right proportions of water and toppings.

    Follow this post to learn how to make this!

    What makes Congee, Congee?

    By definition, congee is watered rice, or gruel, or porridge.  The word originated from the root word “to nourish” (according to wiktionary).  Across many cuisines and cultures, you’ll see the variations of congee from generation to generation and country to country.  From as far as India to Japan to the South Asian Countries, they all have some variation of this dish.

    So what makes congee, congee?  The most basic premise is that it’s some sort of grain (usually rice) that is cooked to a semi viscous state.  The viscosity (how fast or slow it flows as a liquid) depends on the type of congee.  

    The Chinese version of congee exists in almost the same proportions as culture Regions available.  From Guangdong Province,  you’ll find the more liquid versions of the congee base and then quick boiled with preserved eggs or minced beef.  This is very typical of the congee you’ll find in Hong Kong.  And don’t forget, served with fried dough sticks!
    The congee base is usually the same with variations on toppings and flavouring.  What I do is make this congee base for the kids, Cantonese-styled, and our toppings spread on the kitchen table is AMAZING!  We all like different toppings, so we’ll crack out preserved pork floss, vinegared cucumbers, spicy preserved radish, or pan fried salty peanuts!  Get creative!
    In Thailand, it’s Jok (โจ๊ก, pronounced joke).  Pictured here is a fragrant Thai fish congee.  The congee base is made with rice and water, with a selection of toppings such as peanuts, fresh spring onions and parsley, and preserved salty duck eggs.  The Thai will also add spicy peppers and chilies, which I didn’t opt for.  Too exciting for me in the mornings!
    In Taiwan, it’s also called Jook (粥) and the congee base is similar to that of the white congee in Hong Kong, but the toppings are out of this world!  Here I’ve got pork floss (there are so many beautiful variations of this), preserved and flavoured seaweed, preserved salty duck eggs, root vegetables such as lotus root and even yams, and all sorts of preserved vegetables such as cucumbers, and fresh cilantro, baby celery (a Taiwanese favourite), and spring green onions.
    And in Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Mongolia, they all have their own variations of congee.  I love trying all of them as I travel and it’s truly amazing how one dish has evolved in so many ways through the cultures!

    Making Congee

    There are 2 basic ways to make congee.
    1. You make the congee base (with simply rice and water) and then spice it up
    2. You spice it up first and mix in the rice to create this blended, beautiful congee concoction

    In the recipes below, you’ll find both variations.  Try them both and see how you like them.  It really depends on what you feel like eating.  If you’re having side dishes, like meats and vegetables, the congee is usually served plain (rice and water).  If you’re eating the congee like a meal, it usually has all the works inside.  

    There’s no right or wrong to making or eating congee!  And the type of rice you use, can also vary.  I’ve used long grain rice before, round little rice, brown rice, purple rice, even Japanese rice.  They all work!

     

    What’s involved?

    Prep time: 5 mins

    Cook time: 25 mins

    Total time: 30 mins

    Serves: 8 bowls

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups of rice
    • 2 L of water
    • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
    • Whatever toppings you want

    To Stir or Not To Stir?

    Ah, the age old question of whether you stir your congee or not.

    From my experience, it depends on the type of congee you’re making.

    For example, I also make the Chiu Chou style of congee where it’s got a thick base layer of congee and beautiful rice soup on top.  In this congee, you don’t stir AT ALL.  It’s basically, a quick boil for 20 minutes, turn off the heat, let it rest for 30 minutes to “bake”  and settle and serve.  My mom is Chiu Chou, so I’ll hear her repeat this technique to me many times over!

    For the Cantonese-styled congee, I will mix.  I will stir fry the ingredients first, add in the rice and water and mix it around, ensuring that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Have your heat on medium to medium-high for that control.  I find when you max out the heat, it becomes harder to manage and this sticky congee to the bottom of the pot happens.

    If you’re also using a thermal pot, insta-pot, or a pressure cooker, stirring is also suggested.   

     

    CHECK OUT SOME OF OUR CONGEE RECIPES

    POST YOUR FAVOURITE RECIPES BELOW IN THE COMMENTS!  WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR THEM!

    EQUIPMENT USED

    To answer your questions on what equipment I'm using, I've built a section here where you can find and explore what I'm using to make soups.  Ingredients are a little harder, but I will do my best as I source them around.  However, you can always message me on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or Facebook, and I will reply and try to point you in some direction!  

    A great help for fish or small bones in soups, including small ingredients such as barley, fox nuts, spices just to keep everything together.

    A MUST HAVE in the kitchen!  Energy saving, cost effective, and perfect for busy chefs!  Check out my article here that explains it.

    Another MUST HAVE in the kitchen for soups!  It's so fine that it will scoop off the top oil and foam layer when using meats in your soup!

    I use these types of stove top safe tea pots to make most of my herbal teas!

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    Homemade Do-it-yourself Wontons in a “Cheat” Chicken Broth

    Homemade Do-it-yourself Wontons in a “Cheat” Chicken Broth

    Homemade Do-it-yourself Wontons in a “Cheat” Chicken Broth

    Did you know that wontons literally means “cloud swallow” in Cantonese?  These little delights are like clouds and bite-sized enough to be swallowed in one gulp!

    For more videos, visit us on YouTube.

    Check out the video on how to create awesome wontons at home!  

    What I’ve done here is used a “cheat”  chicken broth where I’m using a chicken stock as a base, but flavoring it a bit more with some additional ingredients.  A great use of veggie scraps sometimes in these cases.

    And one of a Chinese Soup Chef’s best friend, the soup bag is used here.  I highly recommend getting a few at home.  Be sure to wash and boil first before usage.  Since they are made of cotton, you can throw them in the wash as well or wash by hand.  They keep EVERYTHING in, including onion skins, seeds, flower petals, fish bones, the works.  Instead of straining, just use one of these which you can just drop into your soup and voila!  easy to remove ingredients.

    What’s involved?

    Prep time: 45 mins

    Cook time (broth): 30 mins

    Cook time (wontons): 10 mins

    Total time: 1 hour 30 mins

    Makes: 50 wontons

    Equipment needed:

    Ingredients (for cheat chicken broth):

    • 500 mL of chicken broth

    • 1 L of cold water
    • 1-2 pieces of star anise
    • 5 dried scallops
    • 5 dried longans
    • 1 whole garlic
    • 1 whole fresh onion
    • 3 shallots
    • 1 leek

    Ingredients (for wontons):

    • 500g of ground chicken

    • 6-7 fresh shrimp, deveined and diced

    • 20 bunches of fresh chives, diced

    • 3 bunches of fresh green onions, diced

    • 1 tablespoon diced garlic

    • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce

    • 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce

    • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

    • 1 teaspoon of white pepper

    • 1 teaspoon of cooking wine

    • sesame oil to taste

    • 50 wonton skins

    Cooking Instructions

    1. Begin to boil your chicken broth in your soup pot
    2. Chop up the soup “cheat”  ingredients and put them all into the soup bag
    3. Add directly to your chicken broth and boil on medium heat for 30 minutes
    4. For the wontons, mix in ground chicken, diced shrimp and all the seasoning together
    5. Chop up the chives and fresh green onions and add them in
    6. Mix well together until the meat creates strands (it should be pretty sticky)
    7. Put a small amount of meat into the middle of your wonton and using your finger, wet all around the edges and fold as you’d like (there are so many techniques out there, I just like to squish it at the top to form a little package)
    8. Wrap them all as to ensure the wonton skins don’t dry out
    9. Remove the soup bag from your soup, ensuring there’s nothing remaining in the soup
    10. Add in 10-15 wontons.  This should bring the soup down from a boil.  
    11. Once the soup begins to boil, add in 200mL of water to reduce the temperature.  This will keep the wontons whole and not boiled and destroyed in the voracity of the boil.  Do this 2 additional times meaning, when it boils again, add 100mL of water.  I know this will dilute the soup somewhat, so you can also do this in a separate pot of water or add more chicken broth.
    12. Once it begins to boil the 3rd time around.  Strain out, scoop some soup, garnish and serve!

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