Pho – Fertility Nutrition – Food to build up the body.
Pho – Fertility Food. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish of rice noodles, marrowbone stock, beef and vegetables. So why have I called it Fertility Food? According to Chinese Medical theory when a woman has fertility issues it is best to tonify the body at a deep level. Bone marrow, which is in the centre of long leg bones, contains a lot of essential nutrients which will tonify the body and make it stronger.
It is also fast and easy to prepare and cook. Well, once the broth is made it is certainly fast. If you have a supply of broth, it only takes 10 minutes to prepare and cook this dish!
Pho tonifies the three treasures: Jing, Qi, and Shen. The marrowbones in the stock nourish the Jing, which in Chinese Medicine terms is the constitutional strength, or essence, stored in the kidneys and bones. Also in the stock is cinnamon, which in Chinese Medicine is a Yang tonic and has a similar action to that of ginseng. Ginger appears in this dish at two stages, cooked in different ways for each stage. The ginger in the stock has been roasted and then simmered slowly in the stock for a long time, which has the effect of concentrating its essence. The very fact of roasting it effects a transformation, which is consolidated by the simmering. On the other hand, the ginger used in the later stage is freshly grated and only cooked very briefly but at a high temperature. Yin and Yang. Ginger should be ranked among the so-called miracle foods or super foods as it is good for your digestion. In Ayurvedic medicine toasted sesame oil has a similar status. Energy, in oriental philosophy, is called Qi. The long cooking time of the stock translates into a slow release of food energy, whereas the rice noodles, which are pure rice starch, provide a quick release of energy. Also, the character for Qi is the same as the character for steam rising from rice. You will see lots of steam in the photos below. Garlic is a blood cleansing tonic and helps to boost the immune system. Red peppers are full of vitamins and antioxidants, which are responsible for cleaning up free radicals, associated with the symptoms of aging. Green vegetables are also packed with vitamins and as we all know, are good for us. Shen, in Taoist philosophy, refers to the mind or consciousness. This is a hot dish: not as hot as a vindaloo curry, but hot enough that you know you are eating it … it concentrates the mind. You can find out more about Chinese medicine at http://www.acupuncturecork.com
The key to this dish is a good stock. Ask your butcher for marrow bones – they’re very good for you, and they cost very little.
As Pho contains many of the ingredients needed, it is very good for people who do lots of activity or are trying to build up their strength. According to the principles of Chinese Medicine, it is very good for people who are trying to conceive, as it builds up the constitutional strength.
Ingredients: (to serve 2 people)
Broth: (this makes more than you need – the remainder can be frozen)
• 3 kg marrow bones/knuckle bones
• 4 l water
• 2 onions
• 1 piece of root ginger about 3 inches long
• 5 heads of star anise
• 1 piece of cinnamon stick, 3 inches long
• 5 dried chillies
• 6 cloves
• 4 tablespoons fish sauce
• 200 g sirloin or round steak
• chilli sauce (to taste)
• 1 generous thumb of ginger, grated
• 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1 tblsp. toasted sesame oil
• 1 red pepper (bell pepper)
• 2 heads pak choi or 10 leaves of Chinese cabbage
• 200 g rice noodles
Roast the bones, the two onions (in their skins) and the ginger in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes. While they are roasting, cover the bones with water in a large stock pot and bring the water to the boil. As soon as the water starts boiling, drain the bones and rinse them. Cover them with fresh water, bring the pot back to the boil, and skim off any scum or impurities. Reduce to a simmer. Remove any burnt skin from the onions, and peel the ginger. Add the onions and ginger to the stock, together with the star anise, cinnamon, chillies, and cloves. Cover the pot and leave it to simmer for three to four hours. At the end of the simmering time, strain the stock and leave it to cool. After chilling, the stock should have a jelly like consistency and there will be a hard layer of fat on the surface. Don’t be tempted to throw out the fat: a lot of flavour is locked up in there. It also gives a lovely golden sheen to the finished soup.
This should make about 3 litres of broth. This can be frozen in individual tubs for use later. For two people you will need 400 ml broth. I freeze it in lots of 400 ml in old ice-cream tubs.
Cut the beef on the diagonal into slices about 2 mm thick. Cutting it on the diagonal increases the surface to volume ratio. A very sharp knife should be used for slicing the beef so that there is a clean cut that seals the fibres. Make a quick marinade with the other ingredients and rub it in to the sliced beef. If you can get hold of it, I highly recommend Mic’s Chilli sauce, either 3 chilli Inferno or 4 chilli Inferno Extreme, for the marinade. Set the beef aside.
The chopped vegetables. In this case I have used Chinese leaves (Chinese cabbage).
Cut the red pepper into squares about 1.5 cm wide, and cut the pak choi leaves width-ways into sections about 2 cm wide.
Put the rice noodles into boiling water and simmer for about 6-8 minutes or until soft. Drain.
The hot stock. You can see the golden fat floating on the surface.
Warm 400 ml stock in a sauce pan. In a very hot wok, fry the beef in sunflower oil. As soon the beef starts turning brown, add the sliced red peppers and then the pak choi, making sure it doesn’t burn. To cook the greens add a splash of stock or water to create steam, which will cook the greens. The wok needs to be hot enough that the liquid turns to steam instantly, so that the beef and vegetables are not boiling in water.
Stir frying the beef in a hot wok. It should be sizzling hot – you can see the steam rising.
After a minute the vegetables are added to the beef.
Start assembling the dish by putting the cooked noodles in the bottom of a bowl.
After topping the noodles with the fried beef and vegetables, pour the hot stock into the bowl.
Place the noodles in individual bowls, then top with the fried beef and vegetables and cover with broth. When we had this recently at a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, it was served with chopped fresh chillies and a wedge of lemon on the side.
Chinese Medicine and the Treatment of Colds and Flu
With the autumn and winter seasons on the way what can an individual do when using Chinese medicine to help improve the immune system? What can be done to treat symptoms of Colds and Flu?
Chinese medicine is very effective in the treatment of Colds and Flu as well as playing a role in their prevention. Prevention is centered around strengthening the immune system. Acupuncture, exercise diet and getting proper amounts of sleep and rest can help do this. Strengthening the immune system can take a few years, give it time.
A healthy immune system is half the battle, you need to have a strategy to deal with a Cold when you come across one. According to the principles of Chinese Medicine, it’s best not to get the Cold in the first place as the immune system would be strong enough to deal with it. Second best would be to get rid of it before it takes hold. To do this, it’s best to eliminate the Cold when you encounter a person with a Cold or have the first sniffle or shivers. Colds and Flu are best dealt with using herbal medicine as these can be used by yourself anywhere and anytime. Two very common and effective herbal formulae are Yin Qiao San/Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder, and Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan/Clear the Qi and Resolve Phlegm Pill.
Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder/Yin Qiao San is very effective in the prevention of Colds/upper respiratory tract infections as well as in treating them in the early stages; that is, the first few days. Depending on the severity of the Cold and the state of the immune system at the time, taking this formula may completely deal with the Cold/upper respiratory tract infection at that stage. Because this formula is so effective and needs to be taken when you are first aware of a symptom of a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection, or if you are in contact with someone with a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection, it makes sense to have a supply in advance of the situation, as time is of the essence in treating this condition. Symptoms of a Cold/upper respiratory tract infection may include fever or chills, headache, thirst, cough, etc.
Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan/Clear the Qi and Resolve Phlegm Pill is used when the upper respiratory tract infection develops to a deeper level such as Flu or Bronchitis. Tests have shown that this formula will lower the temperature of the patient, which is significant when treating conditions like the Flu.
Both of these formulae are available from David Hankey Acupuncture and should be included in the medicine cupboards of anyone interested in using herbal medicine to help maintain health, and as a first step in treating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. These are only two examples, there are others depending on the circumstances. Of course, anyone with more complicated or serious symptoms would need to see a herbalist to have a specific formula recommended for them. If symptoms persist or secondary symptoms develop a doctor’s advice may be recommended.
Another product is the Cough Bottles/Fritillary Bulb and Loquat Leaf Liquid, which is effective for symptoms of coughs, and Watermelon Frost, which is effective for symptoms of sore throats.
Acupuncture is also good for treatment. Cupping is very good if done when the first symptoms appear.
Of course prevention is always best, so it’s good to conserve energy which will help boost the immune system. In other words get enough sleep, eat healthily and get enough exercise without overdoing it. Stay warm as chills will also temporarily lower the immune system.
Be healthy, stay healthy. Treat the Cold or Flu in the early stages to prevent it’s getting worse. Treatment of Colds and Flu with TCM is possible and effective.
David Hankey Acupuncture