TCM Recipe: Pork Ribs, Chestnut and Shiitake Mushroom Stew

Strengthen Spleen

This recipe is great for strengthening the spleen and tonify the kidney

According to TCM, winter is the season for promoting kidney health. Kidneys have astringent and active storage functions which help in preserving energy. In winter, our body is also designed to better absorb rich and nutritional foods to stay warm and healthy. For people who have cold constitution with cold hands and feet, weak kidney health with frequent urination, cold and stiff body and constant pain in their backs and ankles, winter is the best time to correct these health problems when the body is most responsive to nutritional treatment. Winter food should be eaten with less salt to reduce work on the kidneys. Elderly people in particular should take winter/kidney tonics which can greatly improve their body constitution and promote better resistance to illness.

Winter/kidney tonics include superior warming herbs, fatty and meaty foods. Warming herbs such as dangshen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn are most popular for promoting yang energy. Warming foods include chive, chicken, mutton, shrimp, ginger, garlic, walnut, mushroom, chestnut, mustard, vinegar, wine, gingko, red pepper and spring onion.

Chestnut is plentiful in winter and is best for making hearty soups and stews. Chestnut is warm in nature, sweet in taste and act on spleen, stomach and kidney. The following is a popular winter recipe with chestnut which is very delicious but need some work in preparing the chestnuts.


Chestnut – about 20
Pork ribs or chicken pieces – about 400gm
Dried shiitake mushroom – 6 to 8
Carrot – one
Minced ginger – 2 spoons
Minced garlic – 2 spoons
Spring Onion – 3 pieces
Dark soy sauce – 3 spoons
Light soy sauce – 3 spoons
Sugar – 2 spoons
Sesame oil – one spoon
Cooking oil – about 3 spoons
Cooking wine – 2 spoons
Potato starch – one spoon

Therapeutic Effect:

Strengthens spleen; tones kidney; strengthens tendons;
promotes blood circulation and arrests bleeding;
cures asthma, cough, back pain and diarrhea;
promotes weight loss;
protects heart; lowers blood pressure and cholesterol; and combats cancer.


55 mins


1. Chestnuts can be prepared ahead of time by cutting a few crosses on outer shell using a scissor. Next put chestnuts in a toaster oven (a few at a time) to bake on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Use a small knife to remove shell and membrane together while still hot (please wear gloves). The alternative method is to remove the hard shell first with a small knife, then put chestnuts with membrane in boiling water to cook for about 8 minutes. Strain and remove membrane while warm.

2. Soak mushroom for 30 minutes or until soft, rinse and slice into halves. Peel carrot and cut into pieces.

3. Wash ribs/chicken pieces. Put them in boiling water to cook for a few minutes to remove foam and fat. Retrieve, rinse and strain.

4. Warm one spoon of oil in a skillet. Put chestnut in, stir to brown for a few minutes (so chestnut will not be so easily disintegrated when cooked), remove and put aside.

5. Add one spoon of oil to the skillet, put in half of the ginger and garlic to stir briefly and put in mushroom. Stir, add one spoon of sugar to mix well and follow by one spoon of cooking wine and half cup of water. Cook for a couple of minutes and put aside.

6. Add one spoon of oil to the skillet, put in remaining ginger and garlic and ribs/chicken to stir for a couple of minutes. Add in remaining sugar, cooking wine and stir for a couple of minutes more and then add in mushroom, carrot and enough water just to cover everything. Add soy sauce, bring to a slow boil, cover with lid and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add chestnut and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes to just a little sauce is left. Add water if necessary.

7. When the meat and chestnuts are cooked to the desire softness, add salt to taste if necessary. Wash and cut spring onion into sections and add to the cooking. Mix potato starch with 2 spoons of water and sesame oil, add to the cooking and cook for another minute and serve.