Slice Bun FAIL

In food on 02/10/2009 at 6:38 pm

Yesterday we tried ordering pizza for delivery. We found Slice Bun on our local neighborhood coupon website. Tick tock tick tock; we answered the door, but it was just a friend dropping by, wife in tow. Tick tock tick tock. We waited one hour. The other half called back and the guy said the delivery person stepped onto our block, but fled because he saw a group of black kids sitting on the stoop next door, and is never delivering to our neighborhood again.

Hmmm….what to do when dinner plans suddenly go awry? We go digging into our pantry and usually find a pack of Chinese herbs in the back corner, and cook up a pot of soup. This genre of cuisine is like the beer of soups — it’s an acquired taste only adults can sometimes appreciate. The theory of Chinese medicine is to balance your chi; if you have a fever, you need to eat things to cool yourself down. This has nothing to do with temperature, more with your faulty organs and which are considered ‘hot’ and ‘cold,’ and to balance the Yin (hot) and Yang (cold) properties within each body part and as a whole.

Father used to drink a tincture of Chinese herbs during dinner, for health and strength. One time, there was a snake in the bottle. It lived behind our couch. He was such a boisterous character when he drank and got redder and redder from his magical brew.

Our favorite blend is a package for general health boosting which contains:
1. condonopsis lanceolata
2. angelica
3. cinnamomum
4. paeonia lactiflora
5. atractylodes
6. rehmannia
7. glycyrrhiza
8. astragalus
9. smilax
10. ligusticum

To make a decoction, just dump all the items, sans the darkest black one if you can’t take the bitter, and boil with pork neck bones at least one hour. To this I usually add two more items: star anise and fructus litchi, aka wolfberries. The former I add in the beginning, the latter I add to the strained portion that I am eating for that meal. I found the sweetness of the fructus litchi packs more of a punch when it’s not simmered too long. When you bite into them, they still burst with fresh fruity flavor. Mother used to say that it’s good for the eyes, these little red pods. A third ingredient to add a woody, thick, almost meaty, twist to the soup are lily bulbs. They overpower the subtle flavor of the other herbs, so this is good to add if you are only using a few herbs.

If you think drinking a liquid of dried herbs and sticks is weird, there’s also dried seahorses and  other animals, including insects. I’ve even been fed a rhinocerous skin brew to prevent mosquito bites. Whether you believe in these time-tested soups or not, the fact that understanding this ancient medicine is required curriculum in order to obtain a modern medical degree in China is a testament to the degree of regard for the teachings of the shamans of ancient centuries. (Okay, half the time I think it’s bull-puckey. I just like the taste of the herbs – very earthy and musty, in a good way)

To up the ante on the strangeness, you could add black chicken to the mix. This breed is called a Silkie, fowl with massive white furry feathering and dark black skin. They were considered too strange to eat in Europe, but the practical Chinese just chalked up the skin color to mystical virilizing powers and ate them, saving the minimal flesh for the men. If you can find it, add the black chicken whole to the the pot, and simmer with a few pork neck bones for added flavor. Add noodles or rice to make a meal out of it. Season with salt and pepper before serving. Get funky.


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