Change of season is upon us again! Hot, cold, hot, cold – it sends our immune systems askew, we’re more likely to wear inappropriate clothing for the weather and all of a sudden before we know it there’s a lurgie on the way. In TCM we call these Exterior Wind patterns, because the ancients believed that they were caused by exposure to Wind and Cold, or Wind and Heat. They are awful & debilitating, but thankfully (usually) short-duration illnesses. But fear not! An easy-peasy, 3 ingredient, no fuss, traditional change-of-season soup uses soy-based Miso, due to its similarity to a Chinese herb, Dan Dou Chi (fermented soy beans). There is a Chinese Medicine rationale as to how and why it might assist with Exterior cold or heat invasion, when combined with other herbs. Here’s the recipe, along with some explanations as to what Chinese medicine properties each of the ingredients has. Try it out. Apart from being delicious and a fantastic base for seasonal dinners, its individual ingredients also have therapeutic benefit.
1tb miso paste
Red, white or brown miso all work for this recipe, depending on your taste. You can buy little sachets at the supermarket with wakame seaweed mixed in already. Asian food stores also sell vaccuum sealed bags or containers of miso paste. Miso is accessible to most Westerners and, although it is not Chinese but stems from Japan, it is very similar in preparation to the Chinese herb, “Dan Dou Chi” – prepared (fermented) soybeans. They are part of the Release Exterior – pungent cool category of Chinese herbs. Scientifically, there have been immuno-modulating lactic acid bacteria discovered in miso paste and research continues.
2 spring onions, sliced
Spring onions (Chinese Chives) are called “Xie Bai” in pinyin, and are in the Release Exterior – pungent warm category, and are used in several Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas for moving Lung Qi and dispersing phlegm. They are also used for “Wind-Damp Bi Syndrome” for Phlegm accumulation in the upper extremities. They have been found to act as an antiviral, antimicrobial, and expectorant agent for coughs, among other scientifically verifiable actions (Lanzotti et al 2014).
2-3 slices of fresh ginger
Chinese herbalists use ginger a lot in formulae, for its warming and circulation enhancing properties. Dried and fresh ginger are seen as different herbs. This could be because drying the plant may dissipate some of its volatile oils, changing its nature. Dried ginger is most often used to “Warm the Middle” in cases where there are digestive issues from stagnation or Cold invasion. Fresh ginger is seen in TCM theory to be more “Exterior acting” on a more acute, surface (Wei) level by affecting the pores in the skin (as a diaphoretic to promote sweating), to ventillate Lung Qi with “Warming” volatile oils and activate the Stomach Qi and send it down to subdue “Rebellion” (which is when peristalsis goes upward instead of downward because of blockage in the middle). These are the organs that are closest to the outside world in the TCM view and are those affected when we contract Exterior Wind type diseases. From a scientific standpoint there are numerous studies on ginger and its actions through different biomedical systems including immunomodulatory, gastrointestinal (Giacosa et al 2015; Gao et al 2019; Pertz et al 2011) and the female reproductive system (Daily et al 2015).
How to do it:
- Get your miso paste and put it in a cup, jug or bowl. Boil the kettle and use about two tablespoons to 1/4 cup of boiling water, and mix it in with the miso so you form a bit more of a runny paste.
- Slowly and gradually add more boiling water to the bowl, stirring as you go, allowing the paste to thin out. As you go along, you should start seeing the curdling effect that is such a uniquely awesome feature of miso soup. Taste it as you go, and continue adding water until you have enough soup liquid. If you’ve added too much water and it tastes bland, just add a bit more miso to balance the flavour out. Everyone likes different levels of salt.
- Once your liquid is done, add the other ingredients. Simple. Really, really not difficult at all.
If you happen to have any made up, or you like to buy those premade stocks from the supermarket, add some heated chicken stock in with the soup instead of water. Chicken stock contains gizzards, which are also, believe it or not, a Chinese herb, Ji Nei Jin which is also, believe it or not, in the Release Exterior category. That means that instead of 3 Exterior Release herbs, you get 4, without doing very much at all. You can pick up some amazingly flavoursome organic chicken stock at Spade to Blade to make yourself something really delicious.
Other optional ingredients that you can add toward the end are cooked chicken or fish, tofu, mushrooms, noodles, broccoli (I add these raw to prevent overcooking – the boiling water will blanch the veggies and leave them crunchy and nutritious). Anything you really enjoy in a soup can be added to make it a yummy lunch or dinner. If you’re into food, medicine shouldn’t always have to taste awful. Enjoy!
If you would like to book an appointment to discuss this and other healthy recipes, and customise them to suit your specific Chinese Medicine diagnostic profile with some acupuncture & herbs, you can do so here via Cliniko or call 0422 353 446
Chen, C. X., Barrett, B., & Kwekkeboom, K. L. (2016). Efficacy of Oral Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2016, 6295737. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6295737
Daily, J. W., Zhang, X., Kim, D. S., & Park, S. (2015). Efficacy of Ginger for Alleviating the Symptoms of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 16(12), 2243–2255. https://doi.org/10.1111/pme.12853
Giacosa, A., Morazzoni, P., Bombardelli, E., Riva, A., Bianchi Porro, G., & Rondanelli, M. (2015). Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract?. European review for medical and pharmacological sciences, 19(7), 1291–1296.
Lanzotti, V., Scala, F., & Bonanomi, G. (2014). Compounds from Allium species with cytotoxic and antimicrobial activity. Phytochemistry reviews, 13(4), 769-791.
Pertz HH, Lehmann J, Roth-Ehrang R, Elz S. Effects of ginger constituents on the gastrointestinal tract: role of cholinergic M3 and serotonergic 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 receptors. Planta Med. 2011;77(10):973-978. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1270747