Chinese Dietary Therapy is one of the most important aspects of Chinese medicine, for over 2,000 years the Chinese have observed the digestive process and have established proper digestion as the cornerstone of the Chinese medicine system and the overall foundation of good health. Chinese Medicine-inspired diets are created to strengthen the digestive fire in what's considered your middle burner.
Too much raw or chilled food will weaken the spleen as the digestive process needs warmth as expressed in Traditional Chinese Medicine-theory as the "digestive fire". Prolonged or excessive use of chilled or raw food will eventually severely weakened the digestive fire leading to the collapse of the spleen function. The spleen does not like too much fluid with the meal. A little warm fluid with the meal is helpful, but too much dilutes the spleen's action and weakens digestion: a teacup is generally sufficient. Most fluid is best consumed between meals.
Fish are an excellent source of nourishment. Fish strengthens weakness in the body and supports the formation of vibrant Qi and blood. Those with what's considered "yin deficient" conditions will especially benefit from eating more fish.
A Soup for Digestive Fire, Your Qi and Taste Buds
For this recipe, I incorporate tuna, mackerel and shrimp into a delicious Brazilian style fish stew. This stew combines so many of the flavors I love in soups – the spiciness of the peppers and ginger, the creaminess of the coconut milk and the sweetness of the peanuts. Then the lime juice balances everything and is accented with the cilantro to create a simple yet exotic tasting stew.
Onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno all have warming post digestive temperatures. Onion improves blood and Qi circulation while helping to detoxify. Garlic invigorates Qi, eliminates toxins and can tonify the spleen and stomach while improving digestion by promoting the growth of healthy intestinal flora.
Ginger is a powerful digestive stimulant and boosts circulation, respiration and nervous system function while having the ability to destroy many intestinal parasites. Jalapeños treat the stomach and spleen while stimulating the digestive system and having antioxidant properties.
A Chinese Medicine Overview of These Ingredients
- Peanuts are a Qi tonic that can support the spleen and have a neutral temperature.
- Fish – Tuna and Mackerel both have a neutral temp and tonify Qi while shrimp is warming and also tonifies Qi.
- Coconut is warming, tonifies Qi and supports the heart, spleen, stomach and large intestine while also being an invaluable medium-chain fatty acid.
- Cilantro is pungent and sweet and supports the spleen and stomach.
- Citrus are a cooling agent and are a general tonic for weak digestion and poor appetite that can help to clear mucus and phlegm.
- Tomatoes have both a sweet and sour flavor, are a yin tonic and are a cooling food that acts on the stomach and liver meridians. They clear heat and detoxify the blood.
The flavors of this stew are similar to a curry and can be enjoyed as a soup on its own or added to rice or riced cauliflower for a heartier meal.
Brazilian Style Fish Stew
Prep/cook time about 60 minutes
Serves about 8
- 1 Large Onion, small to medium dice
- 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2-3 Inches Ginger, minced
- 6 Jalapenos, minced, use some of the seeds
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Dry Shrimp Powder
- 3 Cups Tomatoes Diced
- ½ Cup Peanut Butter, creamy style
- 1 Quart Chicken Stock
- 2 Pounds Fish, we used tuna and mackerel, use any fish you like, small to medium dice
- 1 Pound Shrimp, medium dice
- 2 Cups Coconut Milk
- ¼ - ½ Cup Cilantro, more or less to taste, roughly chopped
- 3 Limes Juiced, more or less to balance taste
- Sea Salt
- Fresh Cracked Pepper
Saute your aromatics for a few minutes in the olive oil, this includes the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno, remembering to season as you go. Add the dry shrimp powder and stir together for a couple minutes to get the oils releasing. Add the tomatoes until they begin to breakdown a bit then, add the peanut butter and mix together to develop a thick consistency. Stir in the chicken stock and bring up to a simmer. Keeping the heat at a medium high temp, add the fish and allow to cook about half way then add the coconut milk and bring up to temp and add the shrimp, cilantro and lime juice, the shrimp will cook quickly. Adjust as needed for example if it is too spicy, add more coconut milk or if it isn’t spicy enough, add more jalapeno. Adjust the balance of the acidity with more lime juice if needed and as always adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.