Ginseng is the most celebrated medicinal herb among Chinese everywhere. Of ancient provenance, it has a rich history and is extensively used as a restorative and preventor of disease. After speaking with many herb doctors and specialists in China, I came away thinking the only thing it is not credited with is actually reviving the dead. No other natural product can match its reputed healing powers. Ginseng, they believe, imparts energy, assists the body’s natural healing powers, increases one’s efficiency, and tranquillizes the soul, so it is often prescribed to those suffering from mental disorders. It’s mysterious to me how the price of ginseng is determined. Some ginseng costs only a few dollars a root, while another root, looking much the same and, I am sure, exactly the same chemically, will cost thousands. Geography does play a role because ginseng from northern China and from Korea, commands the most money. Widely accepted legends confirm that those at death’s door who drank a brew of ginseng from the north (or from Korea) recovered immediately and lived long, healthy lives.
In any case, this aromatic relative of wild sarsaparilla imparts a certain je ne sais quoi to any dish, especially one like this which combines some rather hearty flavours. Whatever its medicinal properties, this is a delicious and traditional Chinese squab soup.
Blanch the squabs in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes.
In a large pot, combine the chicken stock, squab, ginger, and onions and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Add the ginseng and cook for 1 more hour.
Remove the ginger and spring onions, and skim off all surface fat. Add the rice wine or sherry, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Stir the soup and serve at once.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.