Do you ever think about how much beverage we buy and lug home to drink? Water, juices, sodas, etc. Heavy to lug home, liquid in bottles is heavy, amiright? We buy beverages too, but it's been humming in the back of my mind for a while that there must be a better option. What, for example, did people used do for everyday for cool and refreshing drinks in the days before the invention of modern packaging? They made their own drinks, of course! So recently when my little girl's eczema flared up again due to the already humid weather descending over Hong Kong, I decided to cook up a big ol' pot of Green Bean Licorice Prickly Heat Herbal Tea, or 生地綠豆甘草茶. A cool, inexpensive, refreshing sweet Chinese beverage that makes a great everyday drink and soothes itchy skin and prickly heat.
The essential ingredient for this herbal tea is the humble little green bean, or 綠豆, also known as mung bean. The green bean cools body heat, detoxifies, and is packed with nutritional punch. We have used it before for our Green Bean Dessert Soup 綠豆沙, a classic Chinese after dinner sweet dessert. The green bean cooks down to a sweet nutty melting tenderness which is great either hot or cold. My favorite is when it is chilled, green bean is so super delicious cold!
These green beans are very common and can always be found at your local asian supermarket.
The other four ingredients for this prickly heat herbal tea can be found at your local Chinese medicine herb shop. The first one is dried Job's Tears, or 薏仁 , also known as Chinese Pearl Barley or Coixseed, a slighty sweet, nutty cereal. Job's Tears is used in Chinese traditional medicine to remove dampness and dispel heat.
This is Di Huang, or 生地, also known as Sheng Di Huang, the dried root of the Chinese Foxglove. Though it looks like a dark mess, it is actually smells okay and the taste is slightly sweet and slightly bitter. The Di Huang clears heat and cools the blood, again a boost to keeping the body from itching.
Now for one of my favorites, the licorice root! This lovely root of the licorice plant, or 甘草, we have used before in our Chinese Hua Gua Pickles 花瓜 recipe to a lovely, distinct flavor effect. Actually, my 老公 tells me that his grandfather used to chew on these dried root slices to freshen his mouth. I've tried this myself and it's very pleasant, sweet and just delightfully slightly bitter, or甘甘地 ! I believe that folks used to chew on these roots to clean their teeth. (Before the invention of the toothbrush, that is!) But don't chew too many pieces, one or two a day is about right. The licorice root is a detoxifier and helps to clear heat from the body.
The last ingredient is the dried honey date, or 金黄蜜枣, which is commonly used in Chinese tonics, teas and soups to add sweetness and flavor. I always like to toss these dates into herbal teas to add a touch of natural sweetness but this is optional. You can also use the dried red dates, or 紅棗, if you can't find the honey dates.
Green Bean Licorice Prickly Heat Herbal Tea 生地綠豆甘草茶
(makes approx. 7 cups tea or 1.5liters)
1 oz Di Huang 生地, 24g
1/4 cup dried green beans 綠豆, 40g
1/4 cup dried Job's Tears 薏仁, 40g
3-4 slices dried licorice root 甘草, 6g
4 dried honey dates 金黄蜜枣 (optional)
10 cups water
1/3-1/2 cup raw sugar, to taste
Rinse all ingredients under running water. Put everything into a big pot and add 10 cups water. Cover and boil over high heat for 15 minutes. Mash the dates a bit if using. then lower heat to medium low and simmer for another 30 mins. Turn off heat, add in sugar to taste and stir until melted. Strain tea into clean bowl, pressing lightly on beans to extract all the tea. Let the herbal tea cool down to room temperature. Pour into a glass pitcher with a lid and chill in the fridge before drinking. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Tip: You can eat the cooked down beans as a snack, it's real yummy! Just toss out the Di Huang and licorice roots, grab a spoon and enjoy. The honey dates are especially tasty, just remember there are seeds inside.
Lychee Popsicle 荔枝冰棒
Hong Kong Style Iced Lemon Tea 香港凍檸茶