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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Healthy Goji Berry Chicken Soup in 4 Easy Steps

Afraid that creating a phenomenally hearty and healthy soup from scratch is too hard or will cost too much money? Well, it's time to too aside that kind of thinking because this recipe will show you how easy it is to make a simpler version of a popular and traditional Chinese soup.

I first came across this soup during my travels in Singapore and had it as a side dish in a restaurant. It was pretty good, and I had heard of such soups before and the healthy ingredients used in them, but I had never tried it before. The kind I had in the restuarant was pretty okay, but the flavor profile didn't quite do it for me. It tasted almost a little too medicinal, which is maybe due to using echinacea (a herb) as an ingredient, which, according to google, is very commonly used in chicken and goji berry soups.
(Edit: the friend I ate this with informed me that this soup was actually ginseng chicken soup and is different from standard gogi berry and chicken soup. Echinacea is not used in this soup (click here for a traditional recipe), though there are many soups with chicken and goji berries that do use echinacea)

The soup from the restaurant in a cute tiny bowl~

Why goji berries?

Goji berries are one of those superfoods that actually lives up to its hype pretty darn well. Just naming a few of the benefits makes me want to go grab a handful to munch on right now: these berries are high in antioxidants, contain essential amino acids, are high in vitamin A, and are a good source of protein. While scientific studies have yet to study in depth the actual effect of some of the properties of these berries, they are definitely a great addition to any diet. If you want to read more about goji berries and their nutrient profile, click here. This site is nice because it very neatly cites its sources, making it easy to do additional research if you so desire. 
(Do note however that they can cause a reaction when taken with blood-thinning drugs, so please do your research first if you are taking any such drugs, before going out the buy goji berries)

Goji berries are excellent for snacking when craving something sweet.


Why echinacea? ....Or, why not?

Echinacea is a herb that is very commonly used for the prevention and treatment of the flu and colds. It is also used for treatment of many other problems, such as migraines and pain. Unfortunately, this seems to be one of those herbs that is flaunted as being healthy and medicinal without any scientific evidence firmly backing it up; most of the 'evidence' promoting its use are purely anecdotal. I remember that back in Canada my mom would give my brother and I echinacea to mix in with juice when we started getting a cold... but now since I've looked into I know that there are both studies showing echinacea having an effect on cold prevention and studies showing the exact opposite.

The echinacea plant.


Let's Make This Baby! 

Since I brought home two huge bags of goji berries from Singapore, I decided that making a soup like this would be a great way to help chase away my cold. Since I didn't have access to echinacea even if I wanted to use it just for the heck of it, and would have to make some adjustments to a traditional recipe anyways, I decided to just take the idea of chicken and goji berries and make my own soup.

-store-bought rotisserie chicken (or whole chicken that you can cook yourself): approximately 1/2 of the meat, shredded
-6 shitake mushrooms (or any other mushroom of your choice)
-1 handful of goji berries (put them in shallow water to allow them to soak)
-2 inches fresh ginger, thinly sliced/peeled
-black pepper (to taste)
-1-2 cups bone broth

Prep-work: Eat most of your chicken and keep all the bones

Because I can't easily find a whole chicken to cook myself (it's very rare in normal Japanese grocery store), I decided to opt for using a store-bought rotisserie chicken. For the soup I saved approximately half of the chicken meat and all of the bones. Using the bones, some spices, and whatever vegetable scraps you have lying around, create a bone broth that you will use as the base of your soup. There are many simple recipes you can find online for this, so I won't go into any details here. For reference, I based my broth off of this recipe.
The broth can be made in advance and it's not something you really have to babysit, so don't be lazy and skip this step! Bone broths are very nutritious and making your own is very economical.

Putting It All Together


The finished product!
1. In a large pot add about 1-2 cups of bone broth. Add extra water to help fill your pot to a level about 4 inches from the top. I don't really measure when I make soup because my goal is simply to make enough of it that it'll last me for many meals. Bring to a boil.

2. Add your chopped/sliced vegetables, ginger, and freshly ground black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add chicken meat, mix well, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

4. Add goji berries and the water they were soaking in (don't want any nutrients lost by tossing the water, do we?). Stir the berries in and cook for a final 5 minutes and then the soup is ready to serve.

So there you have it! If you try this out, please let me know if you make any adjustments to suit your tastes and send a photo! 

Gonna finish off here with a question for you today: what do you use goji berries for? I have so many in my house right now that I think I should make something new with them. Any recommendations (aside from trail mix)?


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