Chinese medicinal ingredients

January 26, 2010 9:39:55 AM PST
In Chinese philosophy, yin (darker, cooling forces) and yang (lighter, hot forces) are complimentary opposites within a greater whole. The Chinese believe an illness is a sign of the two forces being off-kilter. An herbalist might prescribe a soup designed to restore the two forces to a harmonious balance, yang foods for a cold, and a yin foods for a fever. Over time, medical experts and herbalists have developed a classification system to categorize foods as having yin or yang properties, in order to decide the proper treatment.

To ease a sore throat, slight fever, or everyday cold, Ben Pao,, is offering a number of different ingredients in the Chinese Medicinal Soups. They begin their version of the Chinese healing process with homemade chicken broth, which includes all natural chicken, tofu, spinach, shanghai bok choy, and ginger. Additional medicinal healing ingredients are added tableside to make a delectable and comforting bowl of soup that will help rejuvenate the harmony of their yin and yang.

A sampling of these medicinal ingredients include:

  • Ginseng - Highly regarded for its health giving properties, red ginseng is thought to have a warming effect on the body.
  • Chrysanthemum - A cooling food, as it is said to be good for ridding the body of fevers.
  • Chinese Angelica Root - Has a very important place in woman's health. It is highly valued for the treatment for a host of women's illnesses.
  • Chinese Yam - A wide range of health benefits it has the ability to enhance vigor, promote muscle growth and repair worn out tissue, also alleviate body weakness after a long term illness.
  • Astragalus - Is a type of root. It is yellowish in color, with a mild licorice like taste. Its effectiveness in promoting blood circulation is legendary in Chinese medicine. It is reputed to reduce blood pressure.
  • Dried Lily Bulbs - The scales of the bulbs of the tiger lily flower. It is good for the lungs and it appears in many anti-flu recipes.
  • Chinese Yam - A wide range of health benefits, Chinese yams have the ability to enhance vigor, promote muscle growth and repair worn out tissue, also alleviate body weakness after a long-term illness.

    Available for lunch and dinner, Ben Pao's Chinese Medicinal Soups are priced at $11.95 and served in a large clay pot enough to serve six people. For reservations, call Ben Pao at 312-222-1888. Ben Pao is located at 52 W. Illinois St., Chicago.

    You can also try making this soup at home; Chef Jim has shared his recipe: WHERE TO PURCHASE CHINESE HERBS

    Chef Jim Hoveke says medicinal ingredients can be found in certain stores throughout Chinatown. Many sell these ingredients, but one store, Yin Wall City, in Chinatown Square specializes in these types of items, and sells them in bulk in big glass jars and containers.

    Yin Wall City
    2347 South Wentworth Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60616-2013
    (312) 808-1122



    Jim Hoveke, is executive chef at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.'s (LEYE) Ben Pao Chinese Restaurant, located at 52 W. Illinois Street in Chicago.

    Hoveke brings 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry to Ben Pao, LEYE's first Chinese restaurant. He has played an instrumental role in helping Ben Pao become one of the River North neighborhood's most popular restaurants.

    Since joining the team at Ben Pao, Hoveke has helped to create trendsetting elements of the restaurant, including annual Chinese New Year celebrations, the Summer Passport Series, Autumn Moon Festival, Hot Pot Café and a line of dim sum appetizers. Additionally, Hoveke has worked alongside renowned Chef Martin Yan during several special events celebrating Asian culture at Ben Pao.

    Hoveke has been with Lettuce Entertain You, Enterprises, Inc. for more than 11 years, starting as chef at Tucchetti in Aurora in 1993, prior to joining Ben Pao as executive chef in 1997.

    Hoveke's dedication and creativity is evident in his many responsibilities at Ben Pao, which include overseeing all functions of the kitchen, such as monitoring preparation and food costs. Among the most rewarding aspects of Hoveke's job is developing new, seasonal menu specials. In addition, encouraging staff skills and creativity are among Hoveke's top priorities.

    Previously, Hoveke owned and managed Sgt. Peppers restaurant in DeKalb for 10 years. A native of Cary, Hoveke enjoys billiards and baseball. He resides in Elmwood Park with his wife, Susan.

    GO GET 'EM TIGER: Ben Pao Celebrates Chinese New Year

    Be a tiger this Valentine's Day. It's the Year of the Tiger, and Ben Pao is celebrating the Chinese New Year over Valentine's Day weekend, Thursday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 14 with traditional Chinese New Year menu items, a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Aphrodisiac" Champagne and sparkling wine tasting, and the amazing and colorful Lion Dance which draws crowds yearly.

    Celebration Schedule:

    Thursday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, February 14: Year of the Tiger Menu Specials

    4 p.m.: Guests can enjoy The Year of the Tiger menu, which includes traditional Chinese dishes made from scratch in the Ben Pao kitchen. These dishes are powerful symbols for good luck, fortune, health, wealth, and happiness. Featured menu items include:

  • Whole Crispy Red Snapper is the entrée special for the New Year. Fish is not only a common staple in the Chinese diet, but it is a central dish during the New Year. The Chinese word for fish also means the same as surplus or abundance, and serving the fish with the head and tail intact is thought to bring in a good beginning and end to the year. (Market Price)
  • Jaoizi Dumplings filled with natural ground pork, Napa cabbage, fresh ginger, shiitake and Shaoxing Wine. It is served with a Chinkiang black vinegar dipping sauce and shaped like little purses to symbolize wealth. The half-moon shape is also said to represent golden ingots; another symbol of wealth. $5.95
  • Golden Coin Turnovers are crisp puff-pastries filled with tiger shrimp to celebrate the Year of the Tiger. The shrimp themselves represent overall happiness and well being. $6.95
  • Long Life Noodles are traditional at every Chinese New Year celebration. The lengthy noodles insure longevity for anyone who eats them, as long as they remain uncut. Ben Pao's Shanghai Wheat Noodles are tossed with star anise braised pork shoulder, shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms, and finished with soy and Shaoxing wine. $12.95

    Thursday, Feb. 11: Eye of the Tiger Cocktail Reception

    6:00 p.m.: Ben Pao hosts the Eye of the Tiger cocktail reception with Tsingtao Chinese Brewery. Priced appropriately at $20.10 per person (all inclusive), the menu includes a wide variety of Ben Pao's specially created "tiger-bites" including mini egg rolls, tiger shrimp, sticky rice dumplings, and won tons. Plenty of Tsingtao Lager and Pure Draft Beers will be available for guests to enjoy, and everyone receives a fortune cookie with a chance to win a variety of prizes ranging from Ben Pao gift certificates to t-shirts.

    Friday, Feb. 12 and Saturday, Feb. 13: Lions, Tigers and Beer, Oh My!

    6:30 p.m.: The annual traditional Chinese Lion Dance begins! This colorful and exciting ritual is an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebration. The Lion Dance is thought to ward off evil spirits and welcome the New Year with a bang. Ben Pao starts the Lion Dance with a mini celebratory fireworks show outside the restaurant before the Lion makes its way through Ben Pao interacting with guests, eating lettuce for good luck and blessing the kitchen. In addition to the Year of the Tiger a la carte menu, Tsingtao Lager and Pure Draft beers will be featured.

    Sunday, Feb. 14: Crouching Tiger. Hidden Aphrodisiacs

    6:00 p.m.: Priced at $30 (all inclusive), a Champagne and sparkling wine tasting and bite-sized aphrodisiac appetizers menu mark a rare occurrence: the Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day falling on the same day. The tasting will include sparkling wines and Champagnes from around the world including Cavas and Proseccos. The sparkling tasting will accompany a menu that includes appetizers infused with actual Chinese herbs and foods considered aphrodisiacs. Specialists from Heritage Wine Cellars and Southern Wine and Sprits will be on hand to educate guests on some of the world's tastiest sparkling wines and Champagnes. The sparkling wines will also be available for sale at a discount. The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Aphrodisiacs menu items include:

  • Thai Basil Beef and Cucumber: Sweet basil is said to stimulate the sex drive and boost fertility. It is also said to produce a general sense of well being for body and mind.
  • Ginger Shrimp Dumplings with Spicy Honey Soy: Ginger root raw, cooked or crystallized is a stimulant to the circulatory system.
  • Duck Pineapple Soong (Lettuce Cups): Rich in vitamin C, pineapple is used in the homeopathic to boost libido.
  • Spicy Sichuan Style Oysters: The Romans documented oysters as an aphrodisiac food in the second century A.D as mentioned in a satire by Juvenal. He described the wanton ways of women after ingesting wine and eating "giant oysters".
  • Shanghai-style dumplings with Pine Nuts: Zinc is a key mineral necessary to maintain male potency and pine nuts are rich in zinc. Pine nuts have been used to stimulate the libido as far back as Medieval times.
  • Chocolate and Banana Egg Rolls: The banana flower has a marvelous phallic shape and is partially responsible for popularity of the banana as an aphrodisiac food. The Aztecs referred to chocolate "nourishment of the Gods". Chocolate contains chemicals thought to effect neurotransmitters in the brain and a related substance to caffeine called Theo bromine.

    For more information or reservations on Ben Pao's Chinese New Year celebration, diners can contact Ben Pao at (312) 222-1888 or visit