Friday, May 24, 2013

Survival Soups

Soup-ing and Tea-ing with Jonjon V. (Pinoy)
at Island Peak highcamp.
I was sick but smiling.
 Couple of weeks ago, I had this sudden bad cough and felt an impending flu (we get sick many times, we should know). Arriving home, I cook my usual medicine-soup meal: Tinola (ginger-based chicken soup). While it may sound cultural (i.e. Pinoy style), I find the simple concoction effective – and as expected my cough soon went away.

In the mountains, I’ve experimented on a few types of medicine soups, sometimes prepared as if in ‘survival’ mode – i.e. not much ideal ingredients and aesthetics. There’s that heavy-garlic based soup that the Sherpas recommend to fight high-altitude sickness (which somehow didn’t work for me), and the simpler black pepper-spiced protein-rich egg-drop soup which I thought tasted better.

Here are some of these ‘survival soups’ that are easy to prepare, yes – even if one is heavily coughing, or feeling nauseatic or having a bad migraine. In 5-10mins, you’ll be ready to sip your hot soup and hopefully nurse your health back to normal.

1. Egg drop soup. The most basic survival recipe version involves the use of egg(s), salt and pepper. (IDEAL version is to include onions and garlic). How to: Boil water, drop the raw egg and stir (to make it look like bird’s nest soup), add pepper and salt to taste. Benefit – ‘easy protein’. Black pepper is also loaded with anti-disease substance. In the mountains, sick people find it hard to eat, especially moderately AMS’d individuals (i.e. have bad altitude sickness). Egg is a good source of energy (mostly from protein and some fats). You don’t like dietary cholesterol and the little saturated fats? Skip the egg yolk. You prefer ‘healthy eggs’ – bring the organic version. You’re allergic to eggs? Well – this one’s not for you! ;p The better version should include onions and/or garlic. Again these 2 ancient ingredients are packed with anti-sickness nutrients. Onions (red version) contains chemicals that helps lower BP (at altitudes, BP goes up). ANECDOTE: I just remember a somewhat funny egg drop soup experience. I think this was in Lobuche (Khumbu Nepal). I asked the tea house owner for an egg drop soup. Apparently, they don’t have that in the menu so I explained that It’s just a simple soup w/ egg in it (I was sick to eat and needed the energy). A few minutes after, the owner served my soup. In the bowl – an almost clear soup with an intact shell-less egg. A literal – DROPPED egg soup! Haha!

2. GINGER-based Tinola. Or just plain ginger ‘soup’. With real chicken, this will take more time to cook, the less the chicken (for taste) – the faster. Worse, use meat stock cubes. Alternatively, use pre-cooked chicken (i.e. boiled w/ vinegar/salt and frozen). My simple style – slice lots of ginger (pound the sliced part a bit w/ the back of the knife for better ‘juice extraction’), saute in olive oil then add red ONIONS (low-med heat to prevent olive oil from reaching ‘smoking temperature’ lest olive oil may become unhealthy) – put chicken, sprinkle with ground black pepper add little water (if needed) to cook. While most cooks and chefs will advise us to retain meat skin for better flavour – you may want to remove ALL skin to reduce bad (saturated) fats that contributes to high bad (LDL) cholesterol. When chicken is cooked, add more water, veggies (if you want) normally Filipino-style dictates Papaya (primary choice) or Sayote (in the absence of papaya). At home, I normally add Baguio beans and power-packed malunggay (instead of chile leaves). Add 1-2tbspns of olive oil – good fats, i.e. if you want a little oily version typical of native chicken tinola. Add salt to taste. If your body can tolerate instant flavouring like moi – add stock cubes (ex. Knorr). NOTE: at high altitudes, if your blood pressure tends to shoot up, shy away from salty flavouring (or pick low-sodium cube version). Acclimatization means producing more red blood cells (ergo blood thickens), and sodium contributes to more blood thickening – hence higher BP. Again, onions/garlic can help regulate high BP.

3. LOADED, ‘tom yang’ style. Minus the Thai flavouring and mushrooms. When I’m about to get really sick or already feeling the onset – this is what I prepare. As the name suggests – I load this with common sautéing ingredients. Lots of: Ginger, onions, garlic – with tomatoes and black pepper. Saute in light olive oil, add water, maybe little veggies (like pechay or even baguio beans or malunggay if you like), little vinegar to make it a bit more sour if preferred. Add stock cube or just salt or fish sauce. Presto! Cold rainy weather? Bring it on!

4. Instant Soups PLUS the above-mentioned ingredients. Again, if you’re tolerant w/ ‘instant’ flavouring (ex. presence of MSG, high sodium). Nido soup, corn-based soup, mushroom, others are packs that I keep in my arsenal easy to prepare and added with real flavouring.

5. One more ‘instant item’- although I eat a lot of instant noodles in the mountains (for its ‘easy carbs’), given the ‘unhealthy’ suspicion of many – I will not specifically recommend this. Unless you’re familiar w/ the ‘issues’ and whatever remedies other people recommend (like re-boiling to remove ‘wax’ coating, etc.). For survival purposes – instant noodles are still better than nothing, best if the noodle soup is enhanced by ginger/onion/garlic flavourings! At extreme altitudes (above 18,000ft), due to lack of O2, only carbs are digested by the body (well, at least until before ~26000ft). And eating freeze dried meal, potato or other solid food is difficult especially when one is sick or very exhausted. Eating soupy carb-noodles is a lot easier.

Soup Benefits

- Water! The mother of all cures… Our body needs sufficient water to process things. Soup will force, or add to one’s water intake. Further, when climbing at altitudes - dehydration is faster, mere talking or opening of mouth contributes to water lost. 3li daily intake is therefore recommended, and drinking water, juice, coffee or tea are sometimes not enough.

- Like heavy atom’s nucleus when split produces tremendous energy (-using physics for analogy? Haha!), most spices/ sautéing ingredients are also packed with nutrients that simply cutting, or pounding, or slicing them will bring out significant sick/disease fighting substance!

- Easy energy source, sometimes. Adding calorie-rich egg or instant noodles for example will provide energy for the weakening body. A badly AMS’d person may find it hard to chew and swallow even just boiled potato or chapatti.

Related Article(s):
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Food and Eating Tips
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