The Autumn chill has arrived in The Valley of The Rogue with heavy rains tempered by some days of honey-warm sunshine. The trees are shining Autumn jewels of red, orange, yellow, green and brown. Early today, I practiced Morning Medical Qigong with my Ashland Mogadao community. A few of us were barefoot in wet, cold grass. It turns out that a community of worms was invited by our warm feet and squeezed up for some morning toe Qi-cuddling. The worms were exceptionally long and fat. I know by now you may be very concerned and wondering, "What do worms have to do with a curry recipe?" It is about the connection of energy, heat and digestion. The worms rushed to the heat of our feet and to our moving bodies, as we created heat and moved energy through our Qigong forms. When our 60 minute practice was complete, I was energized, grounded (like a worm) and deeply connected to our beautiful circle. I arrived home and gave my feet a lovely, hot soak and felt a burning desire to make a large pot of warming red curry.
Now is the time to be eating deeply warming foods, especially for those of us living in cooler climates. Our body's need heat. Alex Tan , a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner and educator, states it very well in this description taken from his piece about cooked vs. raw food-"The Chinese believe the catalyst for digestive transformation is heat and warmth. We are indeed warm-blooded creatures and optimal digestion occurs at a slightly higher temperature than body temperature 36.7°C. For this reason, most of the people, most of the time should eat mostly cooked and warming foods. This is also partly due to ‘civilized life’ where we do far less physical activity and more mental processing than our body was designed for – the energy is in our head rather than our digestive organs – the fire rises upwards, rather than staying down below where it should be fueling the furnace under the pot, down in the kidneys. If excessive amounts of cold or raw foods are eaten, the body has to waste valuable energy raising the temperature of the food to allow the digestive processes to work. Prolonged or excessive use of chilled or raw food weakens the ‘digestive fire’. In the West, nutritional information (about protein, fat, minerals, vitamins etc) is obtained in a laboratory by analyzing foods, separating them into their basic ingredients in a test tube, before they enter the body. In the East, food is described as acting on the body in a certain way (warming, cooling, salty, sour etc), by observing the energetic action inside the human body and the behavior of the body after a food has been consumed. The Chinese way of seeing the process of digestion is seen not so much in terms of gross revenue (raw nutrients) but much more about net profit (Qi and Blood)."
Feeling the chill of the morning, I was reminded of the solid nutritional advice from my acupuncturist, to eat warming foods as much as possible in cold weather. I needed to answer the call to make a big, steaming pot of warming curry and stoke my digestive fire. This curry is absolutely delightful and leaves one with a warm after-glow.
Warming Coconut Shitake, Red Chicken Curry
2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large Yukon gold potato, sliced into small chunks
1 large carrot, sliced
1 # fresh green beans- cut into pieces
1 large red pepper- small pieces
2 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves (Use any fresh basil if you don't have Thai basil)
2 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (more curry paste as desired)
2 Cans Coconut Milk (full fat)
2 Organic boneless chicken breasts- halved length-wise and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons Coconut Sugar - or to taste
Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Cooked Rice or Rice Stick Noodles- optional
In a large pot add shitake slices and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes while prepping the remaining veggies.
Next, add potato chunks to the pot as soon as they are cut, in order to cook well.
Add the coconut milk, ginger, basil and curry paste about 20 minutes from when water first came to a boil. Blend in the curry paste well with a fork or a small whisk. Continue simmering on low heat. When potatoes and shiitakes are nice and tender, add the carrots green beans, red pepper pieces and coconut sugar. When all veggies are tender and still colorful (do not overcook), add the sliced chicken and stir while simmering. The chicken will cook very fast. Once chicken is fully cooked, but still tender, salt to taste.
Serve either as a soup or with hot rice or rice stick noodles.
Serve steamy and hot in a bowls- slurp it up with a soup spoon in one hand and chop sticks in the other.
Makes 6 servings