Tian Men Dong Lemongrass and Tofu Soup
Here is a cooling and Yin nourishing soup to soothe the overheating effects of these long summer days with elevated temperatures in many parts of the country.
Featured prominently in the recipe are fresh lemongrass (Xiang mao 香茅) and asparagus root (Tian men dong 天門冬) which perfectly complement each other. Tian men dong is sweet, bitter and very cold, entering the Kidney and Lung meridians to nourish the Yin by clearing heat and moistening dryness. By contrast, Xiang mao is spicy and pungent, entering the Stomach, Lung and Heart meridians, gently warming the interior to expel cold. Lemongrass is said to have antifungal, diuretic and antimicrobial properties, and contains micronutrients such as copper, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Some sources say it calms the Shen.
Tofu is also considered to be a Yin food; high in protein and low in fat, and is cool and sweet. Tofu generates fluids, moistens dryness, harmonizes the middle Jiao and is rich in essential amino acids. Shiitake mushroom (Xiang gu 香菇) tonifies the Qi, is neutral, sweet and strengthens the Spleen to stimulate appetite, while also supporting the immune system. Cool, fresh bean sprouts provide crunch and texture, and fresh basil (Jiu cheng ta 九層塔) brings the flavors together with a spicy warmth to regulate the Middle Jiao Qi, open channels and collaterals and disperse Wind.
Grow Your Own Lemongrass
If you love lemongrass like we do, did you know it is relatively easy to grow? Lemongrass thrives in fertile, well-drained sandy soils as found in some tropical climates and can also be grown in pots. The easiest method is to propagate it from stalks that you can buy from your Asian or organic grocery. Choose stalks with the root base attached and then put them into a glass of water in a sunny window. Change the water daily, and you will begin to see roots in about 3 weeks. You can then transplant them to a container pot or to prepared soil in your garden.
- 2 oz. Tian men dong/ Asparagus cochinchinensis tuber in 1 cup water
- 1-2 stalks of Xiang mao / fresh lemongrass, soaked first, then chopped (1 tbs of dried lemongrass can also be used)
- 8 oz. silken style tofu
- 2 oz. fresh bean sprouts
- 3-4 oz. fresh Xiang gu / Lentinus edodes fungus / Shiitake mushrooms
- 4 cups miso soup or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil to garnish
- Tamari or soy sauce and/or dried seaweed, to taste
- Wash the Tian men dong and soak in a bowl with 1 cup of water for 20 minutes. Then pour into a small pot, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 30 minutes.
- If using whole lemongrass stalks, cut off the green leaves after soaking and use only the base of the stalk. Remove the tough outer layers and slice the stem into several pieces.
- Strain the tofu and cut into 2 inch cubes.
- Wash Shiitake mushrooms and slice thin or leave whole.
- Combine in a large pot miso soup/chicken broth, Tian men dong (including the water it was simmering in), lemongrass, and tofu. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Add the bean sprouts after turning off the heat.
- Garnish with basil and add tamari or soy sauce and/or dried seaweed to taste.