Oh how I love thee, my salted orange! Let me count the ways…
The Salted Orange
Traditional Chinese Name:
鹽蒸橙子 (yán zhēng chéngzi)
Taste: sweet, salty
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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!
Prep time: 2 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 12 mins
Serves: 1 person
- 1 fresh orange
- generous sprinkle of kosher salt
- Cut the orange with the flatter side of the orange down so it can sit properly in a shallow bowl
- I will use a chopstick to break up some of the orange so the juices can be released prior to steaming, this is optional
- Generously sprinkle the salt on top of the orange. Again, optionally, you can poke the salt directly into the orange.
- Begin to boil your steamer or pot
- Once your steamer is ready, put your orange into the pot, ensuring it’s not submerged into the water
- Cover and steam on medium for 10 minutes
- Once done, remove from the steamer and allow it to cool slightly
- 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.
CHECK OUT OTHER SIMILAR HEALING HERBAL SOUPS
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!