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Happy May and welcome to Ginger and Scotch inaugural week!
To commemorate the new blog name, this entire week I will be posting a daily recipe that contains – what else?! – ginger and scotch.
Yum! I’m excited already but SHH don’t tell my husband because I have to dip into his stash of Scotch whisky and until we get our liquor license renewed – in Dubai, you can’t buy liquor w/o a liquor license – I might have to use his 10-year, single malt, good stuff unless I can rummage through some of my friends’ liquor cabinets.
I often cook with wine or beer to deglaze or to make dishes like beer-braised chicken or coq au vin but spirits I don’t use too often. However, my mom, who rarely drinks a drop of alcohol except maybe on special occasions – probably goes through a bottle of whiskey or brandy every month. She uses gallons of it in her cooking. Not at one time of course – we were only a family of 5.
There is almost always a bottle of Hennessey, Remy, Jack or Johnnie in her kitchen cupboard. When someone gifts her a bottle of spirits – it would most certainly go into our food. Once, when she ran out of Hennessey, she turned to a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin that my sister had behind. It think she she used it all up within a week.
She uses whisky primarily as a marinade for meat or seafood and also as a final finish to certain soups. Growing up, we never had shark-fin soup without spooning a bit of whisky into our bowls. These days, the whisky is still used but the shark-fin has been replaced by fish stomach (yep, you read that right – I said fish stomach) as sharks are sadly being hunted to extinction just for their fins.
And because my mom cooks Asian cuisine every night, she uses a lot of ginger as well. In fact, she could probably write up all the recipes for this week!
Today’s recipe is to honor my mom and her fabulous cooking plus all the special loving care that she bestows upon myself, Scotch, and wee Scotch (her first grandchild).
Whisky Chicken Soup is a very popular Chinese soup because it is a served to new moms during their first postpartum month. The practice in olden days was for the new mom to recuperate at home (so no leaving the house!) for one whole month as it was feared that her body was too fragile to brave the crazy germ- and disease-filled outside world.
Since childbirth is considered a “cold” event (ying), it is important to consume “hot” ingredients (yang) like ginger and whisky. In addition, the chicken provides an excellent source of protein, the red dates are believed to nourish the blood (they also act as a natural sweetener), and the wolfberries are an antioxidant and helps eliminate fatigue.
The soup is traditionally prepared by the mother or mother-in-law and is consumed not only by the new mom but also by family and friends.
My mom made this soup for me (plus other variations) a few times a week when I first had wee Scotch. She uses quite a bit of whisky in her recipe – the alcohol burns off since it is simmered for 1.5 hours – and although you can still smell a bit of whisky, it’s not overpowering and the chicken soup is very comforting.
You don’t have to have just given birth to make this soup. It’s great for when you have a cold, or for cold days, or if you are looking for an alternative to plain old chicken soup (or if you just like to spike your soup!).
Whisky Chicken Soup
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Rinse chicken and de-skin if desired.
Boil water in a large soup pot. Once the water comes to a boil, add all the ingredients except for the salt. Allow the soup to come back to a boil, skimming off any foam that floats to the surface. Cover and simmer for 1.5 hours.
Just before serving, skim off the surface fat and add salt to your liking.
Recipe Notes*Red dates and wolfberries (goji berries) can be found in most grocery stores these days but if you cannot find any, you can omit them and just make the soup with chicken, ginger, whisky, and salt.
-The ingredients can all be adjusted to your taste so use less ginger if you aren’t keen on the taste…same with the whisky. Personally, I tend to be heavy handed with the whisky.