Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
One of the first herbal medicine formulas I learned in acupuncture school is called Cong Chi Tang. The Cong refers to Cong Bai (scallions) and the Chi refers to Dan Dou Chi (fermented soybeans). The word Tang is typically translated as “decoction” in the medical books, but it also means “soup.” One day, I was looking at the formula and I realized fermented soybean soup with scallions is essentially the same thing as miso soup.
Cong Chi Tang is used in Chinese medicine for when you just begin to feel like you might be getting sick, and should be taken before any serious symptoms have manifested in order to prevent things from getting worse.
Miso soup is traditionally made with a base of dashi broth, which is typically made from kelp and dried fish. Sometimes the fish is replaced with dried mushrooms when a vegetarian version is desired or simply for variety. When making miso soup, the miso paste is added at the end and never boiled as boiling kills off the probiotic properties of the miso, which is a living, fermented food product. The probiotic qualities of miso are great for the health of our gut; this helps improve our digestion, our immune system, and even our mood, which is heavily influenced by gut health.
Experimenting with Medicinal Cooking
Recently, a friend was complaining that she was feeling a bit off and also of some tummy discomfort. Being a big fan of Chinese medicinal cooking and wanting to help ease her suffering, I decided to make her some miso soup. When I got to my kitchen, I noticed this big bundle of fresh ginger I had just purchased and it dawned on me that ginger is used in so many herbal formulas in Chinese medicine and is great for tummy discomfort. I thought, “why not just make ginger broth instead of dashi?” So, I sliced up a good chunk of ginger and boiled it for a bit, then added the miso and sliced scallion. It was delicious and for the record, helped her tummy; I think it also helped prevent her symptoms from getting worse.
The next time you’re feeling like you might be getting sick, have some miso soup; it’s delicious, nutritious, and has tons of health benefits. If you’ve got the ingredients, miso soup is quick and easy to make from scratch and is so much better than the dried stuff. If you’re feeling some tummy discomfort or just want to try a little variety, use ginger instead of dashi.
- One 2” piece of fresh ginger root, skinned and sliced
- 2½ cups water
- 2 Tbs. miso paste
- 2 scallions, sliced thin
- Slice ginger and bring to boil in the water.
- Reduce heat and simmer ginger for approximately 10 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, add several tablespoons of the broth to the miso paste and mix until thinned.
- Add miso mixture to ginger broth and turn off heat.
- Add sliced scallions and serve.
For a heartier version, add some chopped greens such as kale or chard and ma
Jorga Houy, L.Ac.