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Soup of Rejuvenation of Long Life, The

by Wonona Wong Chang

Soups and Congees

Fall Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(3) page(s): 5 and 23

The goals of the Chinese people are to achieve Fu or Happiness, Lo which stands for High Honors, and Shou meaning Longevity. Three sayings which echo these sentiments are: 'Blessed are those who have good appetite and find happiness in food,' 'Those with high honors and wealth, may dress in fine garments,' and 'Blessed are those who can relax for they will enjoy long life.'

In many homes, temples, meeting houses, and market places you can find those three characters Fu, Lo, and Shou or their words written in capital letters and vivid colors. They are often seen in a mural or in a picture, or found as three porcelain statues. In the figures, the one on the right carries a baby boy in his arms with another boy on his side to symbolize the epitome of happiness. The old man, often on the left, with white locks and long beard is seen supported by a dragonhead staff and holding a peach in his left hand. He symbolizes long life/longevity or Shou Shing Gung. The tall man, usually in the middle, is garbed in the court robes of a prime minister holding the scepter of his office, the symbol of highest honor and success in life.

Since the beginning of Chinese civilization, Sun Nung, The God of Agricultural, also written as Shen Nung is said to have documented and classified all herbs according to their functions. He systematically sought out, found, and cultivated herbs that would give people better health and long life. Many famous Emperors such as Ho Yi of the Hsia Dynasty (2200 - 1786 BCE) and Qin Si Huang, Emperor of the Qin Dynasty (255 - 207 BCE), were interested in a magic potion so they could live forever.

Incidentally, Qin Si Huang was also famous for burning books and known for his cruelty. Emperor Qin sent three hundred youths and maidens, all virgins, to the Eastern Sea in search of such an elixir of youth. Many later Emperors and Empresses were also interested in such a magic potion, but to no avail.

Of course, not just Emperors and Empresses who came and went were interested in improving health and extending life. We living mortals are also interested in the subject. So when my friend Jubilee told me that she had been feeding her husband three or four cups of a soup that would rejuvenate him and make him younger, even I became interested. She pushed his silver hair away and said: "Doesn't his hair look darker?" Then, pointing to his face, she said: "Even his age spots are getting lighter and his face is getting fuller; his wrinkles are disappearing, too."

I looked at this happy, proud and middle-aged, newlywed lady and felt glad for her. She had brought from China the knowledge of Chinese herbs and was putting them to the test of time. I was glad that she was willing to share her knowledge of this special soup; and I am willing to share it with you. The ingredients for this potion is as follows:

1) Shan zha, the edible fruit of Chinese hawthorn, Crataegus pinnatifida. It is a product of Shandung, China and also called the red fruit. It is harvested in the months of September and October, often from Shandung, and sent dried and exported to all of China. In southern China, it is processed into three forms, round, thin candied disks called Shan Zha Bing, into square cakes called Shan Zha Gao, and as a sauce known as Shan Zha Jiang. The flat dark red disks called Shan Zha Bing are the most popular, probably because of their easy handling and that they can be used as a candy while traveling, also given to keep little children quiet and occupied. As a child, I remember them were readily available throughout South East Asia and Hong Kong. I see them now in Chinese markets in the United States.

According to the Basic Classification of Herbs, an antiquated book of Chinese Medicine, the extract functions as a coronary vasodilator and is believed to help dissolve deposits in the arteries, help digestion, and reduce the development of phlegm. I have found them readily available in the South Sea Islands, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and in the United States.

2. Gou ji is also known as Chinese wolfberries or the fruit of Chinese matrimony vine, Lyciium chinense. These, too, are readily available in Chinese grocery stores. The small berries are usually packaged in transparent plastic bags and are bright red or orange-red in color. They are also sold in tea bags and marked Fructus Lycii. For those who enjoy herbal teas, perhaps this is a new one for you to try. Chinese medical treatises claim that they help cure eye problems and can even cure impotence. They make a very tasty everyday dish when cooked in combination with pork, bamboo shoots and a few slices of ginger; and are good in chicken dishes, too. Gou ji berries give dishes added color, and their sweetish and acidic flavor actually provide a wonderful lift. They, and other foods, make Chinese food interesting. There is often no clear demarcation between an everyday fruit or vegetable and a medical herb, becasue to the Chinese, food is medicine and medicine is food.

3. Hung tzao are Chinese red dates, also known as jujubes. They are botanically known as Zizyphis jujuba. The best red dates come from Tientsin, in China's Shandung Province. They taste slightly sweet, are fragrant, and have a delicate flavor. According to Chinese herbal medical information, they help digestion and neutralize stomach acid. They easily enter the blood stream to help blood circulation. In some places I have also seen these red dates called Dattes roages denyautees.

4. Sun jiang is ginger, a spice as well as an herb. It is used a lot in cooking seafood and is sold in the Chinese groceries in large volume. It may even be available in your local supermarket, miscalled ginger root; it is not a root but a rhyzome. You can purchase Lao jiang which is old ginger, or ginger shoots called tze jiang; these are purple ginger. A very good example of an outstanding dish is filet mignon and ginger shoots. The tender filet mignon with a hint of ginger is a special treat that our editor loves. The recipe she uses can be found on page 351 in An Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking that I wrote with my husband Irving B. Chang, also Helene W. and Austin H. Kutscher. It was published in 1970 by Crown Publishers.

In candy form, ginger is prepared and sold in plastic packages as crystallized ginger. For mothers who had just given birth, a favorite dish is to cook chicken in rice wine with plenty of old ginger. The chicken and wine soup helps the mother produce plenty of milk for the baby; also the ginger stimulates the mother's appetite and helps make her uterus contract, thereby hastening and promoting recovery. By the way, ginger grown in Northern China is often harvested as old ginger and those harvested in Southern China as medium ginger. The shoots are harvested in either area in the spring.

Most Chinese grocery stores carry all four ingredients for the Soup of Rejuvenation and Long Life. The following recipe suits my taste. If you find it needs further adjustment, dates will make it sweeter, the shan tza make it more sour, and the ginger make it hotter, that is spicier. I hope it rejuvenates us all.
Rejuvenation and Long Life Soup
1/3 cup dried shan zha
1/3 cup gou ji berries
1/2 cup seedless red Chinese dates
1/4 pound fresh ginger
1. Rinse the shan zha and gou ji berries. Next, rinse the ginger and crush it with the side of the cleaver. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and add three quarts of water and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer for one and a half hours.
2. Crush the dates in the pot or cut them into small pieces with a scissor and cook the soup for another two hours.
3. Drain reserving the liquid and discard the solids. Cool and refrigerate.
Note: This soup can be served hot or cold. In case it is too concentrated, dilute it to suit your taste.

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