Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Meet the Herbs: Shi Jue Ming

Chinese: 石决明
Pin Yin: Shi Jue Ming
Pharmaceutical: Haliotidis Concha
English: Abalone shell
Vietnamese: Bào Ngư

If you ever get a Chinese herbal prescription, it's likely that it will be mostly plant matter - roots, leaves, stems, seeds, flowers, fruit, bark and so on. However, it's possible that your herbalist will add some minerals or animal parts (if you are a strict vegetarian, be sure to let your herbal doctor know!). One such animal part is abalone shell.

Abalone shell is classified as salty (like most animal parts) in taste and cool in temperature. It affects the Kidney and Liver systems and is most often used for headache, dizziness and visual obstructions or "flowery vision."

And it's really pretty.

When I went to Viet Nam in 2006, I picked up the materia medica, a two-volume compilation put together by 12 of Viet Nam's herbalists and scholars. In Volume I, the authors describe using not just the abalone shell as a medicinal, but also the meat. And the best part is, they also give some recipes and cooking instructions:

Cook 20-25 grams of dried abalone meat with cabbage until done. Eat every day to treat diabetes. Pretty simple, eh?

Here's another one:

50 g fresh abalone meat
5g onion
5g garlic
7.5 g coagulated pork blood
400 ml chicken broth

Cook together like a soup until the meat is done. This soup benefits the blood, and lowers blood pressure. The recipe also says to add 7.5 g of sơn tra, but I don't know what that is in English so I can't translate it for you just yet; I'll get back to you on that one.

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