This wonderful soup is in the category of recipes for gently cleansing and renewing the body in Spring, or whenever you feel weak or are recovering from illness. It relies on the deep flavors of root vegetables, sea vegetables, and shitake mushroom. It is a simple soup with subtle flavors to be savored slowly and mindfully.
Shitake mushrooms are an excellent fragrant mushroom that in Chinese Herbal Medicine are used to strengthen the stomach and intestines, invigorate the blood, fortify the bones, and re-enforce the Qi and Yang of the body. The Qi and Yang are, among other things, in charge of the Immune System.
Indeed the polysaccharide found in Shitake, Lentinan, can induce interferon and promote T-lymphocyte and macrophage activity. They are rich in vitamins B1 and B2; contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron; and 7 amino acids. They are also one of the few known vegan and kosher sources of Vitamin D. 1.
Regular consumption of Shitake is used in Chinese Dietary Therapy to protect against colds and flu, to fortify, and to promote longevity. It is traditional to consume it in soups, sometimes with other herbs like Ginseng, Dang Gui, or Astragalus, for this purpose. Studies in Japan have shown that shitake is also useful for lowering cholesterol
While you can get fresh Shitake at the market, somehow the dried ones from Japan, (not China) have a stronger fragrance and darker color. They may be a different variety, or could just have better growing conditions. I know the fresh ones here in California are grown indoors.
The use of large amounts of Kombu and Wakame in this soup make it useful for cleansing the lymphatic system.
In Chinese medicine we use these sea “weeds” medicinally in herbal formulas for people with swollen glands due to infectious disease, or for lung conditions in which deep seated phlegm needs resolution.
I have written about Kombu and Wakame elsewhere on the blog, suffice to say they are also full of minerals, and natural salts. I do not add any additional salt to this soup, which enables you to really sit with the ocean taste from these guys, and the subtle saltiness. Over-consumption of salt in our diets can dull our palate’s ability to perceive more subtle flavors.
Another key ingredient is Burdock Root. Burdock root is a vegetable that grows deep into the ground, like a long stick. It has an intense, but mild tasting character. It is excellent in stir fry, and medicinally is an excellent blood cleanser. The seeds of this plant are used in Chinese Medicine for heat clearing in viral infectious illness.
Parsnip is an excellent vegetable that levels blood sugar. Along with the onion and carrot it provides a subtle earthy, sweet flavor that balances the taste of the sea veggies and shitake.
Here’s a recipe for about 1.5 quarts of soup.
1/2 large brown onion, in quarters
5 dried shitake mushrooms, previously soaked in water to soften. use the water, too.
1 bunch parsley, including the stalks, or 1/2 parsley root.
3 small burdock roots, chopped, about 1.5 cups worth
2 small to medium carrots
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
4-5 slices fresh ginger root
a piece of kombu sea veggie, about 1″x5″ broken into 4-5 pieces
a piece of wakame sea veggie, same size as kombu
white pepper to taste
Add everything but the parsley leaves (put the stalks in) in 1.5 qts of water and bring to a boil.
Cook on a low medium heat until the onions are clear and the kombu is totally softened.
Kombu will enlarge considerable, but will retain its shape, whereas the wakame will nearly dissolve.
I like to cook this soup for about an hour. If you want your carrots or celery less cooked, add them later.
I add the parsley leaves with about 10 minutes left on the stove.
This should produce a deep clear broth that tastes of the ocean and the land. You should really be able to taste each ingredient, from the onion to the wakame. Peraps parsnip and wakame predominate.
To increase the cleansing affect of this soup, add dandelion greens, nettles, or chicory leaf (italian dandelion). These are all very easy to grow in your own garden. I collected Nettle seeds from the canyon last year and sprinkled them in the worst soil in my garden (in San Diego in the shad) and I now have Nettles.
In San Diego at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market there is a man and wife who sell herbs and vegetebles for growing; he often has the “italian dandelion” called chicory. It is bitter like our native dandelion, but produces beautiful blue flowers. Mine is now two years old and keeps coming back again and again with lucious dark green leaves.
Non-vegeterians can cook this soup with chicken bones, or chicken, or some ocean fish to make a deep toning soup that would be suitable any time of year, but especially winter. Once could also cook this soup with chinese herbs like Dang Gui, Ren Shen, or Huang Qi to assist tonification after illness, or for prevention. Do not cook with tonic herbs while sick with a cold or flu, but during the late stage recovery period.
I also like, on the second day, to turn this into a miso soup. Just add your favorite miso paste (mix it with some water first to liquify), bring to a very low boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. You now have a different soup. Two soups in one!
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego