Chestnuts, sweet chestnuts, chinkapin
Traditional Chinese Name:
栗子 (lì zǐ)
Nature: warm in nature (and even warmer when they are processed such as roasted), although is considered “moistening” and targets the spleen, stomach, and kidneys.
Taste: Sweet in taste
You can get started on your Chinese Soup Kitchen Pantry from this video! With chestnuts, you can use either fresh, roasted (the types that you can find in the winter that are roasting on the streets of Hong Kong!), or processed chestnuts that come in snack packs!
Oh, chestnuts are such a delicious addition to Chinese soups (and dishes such as stews and stir-fry!). The Chinese love to eat them roasted as well and it’s a common treat to find them roasting on a bed of coals in the streets in Hong Kong from local hawkers!
For soups, you’ll need to remove the chestnuts from their shells and use just the flesh. You can use both raw and cooked chestnuts in soups and they’ll produce similar flavours, although roasted and cooked ones also carry some of that roasted delight with them. The best part of the chestnuts in soups is that you can eat them!
How do I prepare it?
- For fresh and raw chestnuts, I will extract the flesh from the chestnut itself with the backside of a butcher’s knife, halving them and gently removing the whole inner chestnut from its shell, including the skin, which is OK to eat. The skin will also come off during soup boiling.
- I will also sometimes use prepared chestnuts (as snacks) because I just want something quick and easy. This is a common Asian snack and the chestnuts are prepared as slightly sweetened, pre-cooked, and ready to eat! These are perfect to keep in your pantry all your round.
- The last type of chestnut I will use are either roasted or boiled before I remove them from the shell for soup making. The roasting ensures a toasty and increased nutty taste to the soup and the boiling will be salted. It just makes them tastier.
What is the cost & where to buy?
A bag of fresh chestnuts cost around $2.99 per pound CAD in Toronto
- While prepared and snackable chestnuts packs cost around $5 CAD for 200g of peeled prepared chestnuts (these are yummy though!)
- You can buy fresh chestnuts in most supermarkets and I see them quite commonly all year round in the Asian supermarkets. They are also more common in Western supermarkets around the Christmas festive season (chestnuts roasting on an open fire?)
- Chestnuts nourish the spleen and stomach (when eaten in moderation) and also tonifies the Qi (especially Kidney Qi)
- Most nuts strengthen the brain (as a muscle, not necessarily as a function, but there is a correlation). The common Chinese narrative that adults tell children is that walnuts and chestnuts will make you smart!
- They also help slow bleeding and reduces inflammation in the body.
Chestnuts are “wet hot” in Cantonese (ie: 濕熱) meaning that they are contain moisture and are warm. True story, I was eating roasted chestnuts in Japan while on holiday a few years ago for 3-4 days in a row and ended up having a stomachache when I got back to Hong Kong. My TCM doctor told me he could feel the moisture and heat in my stomach. This is why I saw, in moderation. And especially as a roasted product, it’s even warmer.
- Be sure to use fresh chestnuts. You can feel this by squeezing the chestnut as they should feel firm and bouncy. Chestnuts that are drying out will have more air pockets between the shell and the flesh (as the flesh is shrinking and losing moisture).
Looking to build your basic Chinese Soup Pantry?