Soup, The Sea Of Life
Since learning all about macrobiotics at school, I’ve felt a pull to explore more. I enjoy the cleanliness and simplicity of macrobiotic food – brown rice, vegetables, sea vegetables and tofu, to name a few, almost always form the basis of a meal – all foods I incorporate into my diet in a regular basis. If nothing else, the laundry list of health benefits that may come from eating this way are enough to have you hankering for a side of seaweed with your next meal.
I’ll soon be graduating from school, and will be undertaking an internship here in New York which will allow me to learn, prepare and cook for others. I cannot wait to get ‘out there’ and share my skills and learnings, sure, but I am also so exited to learn more about the healing properties of food. I know so much already, but am hungry for more! I want to take all this knowledge I’ve learnt and put it into simple, affordable dishes you can make at home to heal and nourish your body like I’m healing and nourishing mine.
Today, I’m sharing a very simple, yet delicious soup-y stew. It incorporates a very health-supportive ingredient called ‘kuzu’. If you’ve never heard of this before, then I am VERY excited for you to introduce it to your diet, your body. Kuzu – also known as ‘kudzu root’ – is prized for its medicinal properties in China and Japan for thousands of years. It was first introduced in the US in 1870’s as a plant by the Japanese Government who were taking part in a ‘Centennial Exposition’ garden display in Philadelphia. It’s now more widely used for cooking and medicinal purposes.
Kuzu root is a member of the legume family, producing a starch-like powder that acts as natural thickening agent in place of cornstarch or arrowroot. Clinical studies done in China, have shown that food prepared with kuzu root can reduce high blood pressure, relieve chronic migraines, quell stomach and bowel discomfort and ease pain in the shoulders and neck. It’s flavonoids have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of blood clots, protect against heart disease and heal organs damaged by alcohol and substance abuse. Magical stuff right?
If you’ve recently walked the aisles of your local health food store, you may have come across it already… Usually housed in a small packet with a see-through window, kuzu looks like little pieces of broken chalk. Before I moved to New York, I remember picking up a packet of kuzu in Australia, seeing the price (about $7USD/8AUD for 7oz/200g) and thinking ‘errr, no thanks’ but now, having cooked with it almost daily at school, I understand and feel the benefits.
I always bang on about how healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive – it’s true, you really don’t need all those ‘superfood’ products to become and stay healthy. Fresh veggies, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbs are also superfoods – it’s just that they’re not as sexy or exotic-sounding as ‘acai, cacao or maca’. Sure, these things are delicious, and fun to experiment with, but they’re not the answer to your health issues. Despite what the media (and some well known bloggers tell you) *insert-latest-superfood-products-here* will NOT heal your ailments. Coconut oil/butter/flour/water will NOT make you thinner.
Question everything and experiment little by little with food you can afford to make your own mind up. Your body is nobody else’s business. What you do, how you nourish yourself, and more importantly, how you feel after eating and drinking is your guide to whether something is working for you or not. So it’s with that I encourage you to try kuzu in this recipe below, only if it’s not going to mess with your weekly expenses. A little of this goes a long way, so buy a small packet and stay tuned because this is just the beginning of the kuzu recipes I will share. If kuzu is unobtainable for you right now, then this recipe will still work well without it – it just adds a huge boost of immune and gut-supportive properties, something you might like to try in future if you are struggling with those types of discomforts.
The macrobiotic diet promotes soups and stews as the foundation of a meal. At the table we sit with soup which is thought to be a “…replica of the ancient sea in which life begun…”. How lovely. In celebration and promotion of longevity of our lives, I share the following healing recipe with you. I hope you enjoy!
Vegetable Kuzu Sea Soup
- 3 small broccoli florets
- 2 small cauliflower florets
- ½ cup shredded cabbage (of your choice)
- ½- 1 cup greens of your choice (spinach/kale/collards)
- 1 small carrot, chopped into ½ inch pieces
- 5 snow peas
- 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup diced sweet onion
- ¼ cup dried hijiki
- 1 small piece fresh ginger (about the size of your pinkie fingernail, minced)
- ½ tsp soy sauce (or tamari if you are allergic/intolerant to gluten)
- 2 Tbs Kuzu + 2 Tbs filtered water (mix to create a chalky, milky paste)
- Boil vegetables in enough water to cover. Cook until soft before draining and retaining vegetable stock. Set drained vegetables aside.
- Measure 2 cups of your vegetable stock (is you don't have enough, just add more water) and pour into medium pot on medium heat.
- Mix 2 heaping tablespoons of kudzu with 2 tablespoons filtered water and mix to dissolve into a white, chalky liquid. Pour straight into broth and bring to a boil to activate the thickening power ok kudzu. Stir and lower to simmer (medium flame, small bubbling).
- Add vegetables to thickened soup along with ginger, soy and hijiki. Simmer on low until hijiki expands and softens (about 5-8 mins)
- Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with a little gomasio for an added boost of vitamins, minerals plus some healthy fats.