Visit any Chinese market or herb store and you will notice that jujubes, also known as Chinese dates, are abundant. Known for tonifying the qi and nourishing the blood, the jujube also moderates the harsh qualities of other herbs.
How to Buy & Prepare the Hong Zao
There are two kinds of dried red dates on the market. One is pitted already, the other one is still with a stone. It is better to buy the ones that are pitted, otherwise, you have to take out the stone from each one. In the third edition of Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, the authors suggest looking for dates with "full, thick, light red fruit of uniform size with a sweet taste and small seeds." Soak the dried red dates in warm water for 30 minutes before you wash & cook them. Dried dates are also delicious & healthy when eaten uncooked. Like other dried fruits, you can just wash them & enjoy. In that case, pre-soaking is not necessary.
Beef shank (cubed) 1 lb (replace with pork or chicken; if preferred)
Dried red dates ( sliced, halved or whole) soaked 1/2 cup
Ginger (optional) 3-4 thinly sliced pieces
Cold water 6 cups
Put all the ingredients into a medium size pot. Cook on high until boiling. Then turn the temperature to medium-low. Cook for one and a half hours until only 2 or 3 cups of soup left.
(serves 2-3 people)
Chicken breast or lean pork tenderloin (sliced) 1/2 lb
Chinese dried mushroom (presoaked & sliced) 1/3 cup
Dried red dates (sliced or halved) soaked 1/4 cup
Ginger 3 sliced pieces
Chinese oyster sauce 1 tsp
Cooking wine 1/2 tsp
Sugar 1/4 cup
Cornstarch 1/2 tsp
Marinate the meat with oyster sauce, wine, sugar & cornstarch for 5 minutes. Then mix the mushroom, ginger & the red dates in with the meat. Put everything into a shallow dish & steam for 15 minutes or until cooked.
Put ½ cup of pitted & roughly chopped dried red dates into 2 cups of water.
Cook with medium heat until 1 cup of tea left.
Serve hot or cold.
(Serves 3-4 people)
Dried red dates (pitted & halved) 1/2 cup
Lotus seed (presoaked for half hour) 1/4 cup
White mushroom (yin er) (optional) 2 pieces
Water 6 cups
Sugar 1/3 cup or to taste
Soak the white mushroom for half and hour until soft. It will expand a few times its size. Trim & clean the bottom of the mushrooms. Separate them into a few small pieces. Put all the ingredients into a medium-sized pot & bring to a boil on high heat. Then turn to medium heat & cook for 1 hour until the lotus seed is soft. Add the sugar into the soup. Serve cold or hot. It is especially delicious when serve chilled after refrigerated. This dessert is good without the white mushroom as well.