Tonifying Winter Soup

In winter, vital energy of yang weakens, and yin, cold qi, becomes dominant. Scallop soup with desert thumb is an excellent winter tonic to increase internal warmth. 



A club-like, flowering stalk also known as Cynomorium coccineum, desert thumb’s Chinese name, suo yang, means “locking up all the yang in one’s body.” With no root of its own, it parasitizes the roots of Nitraria sibirica and grows in an environment of around 20 degrees Celsius below zero. There is a Chinese legend about its fame.

Because the ruined, desert city of Suoyang, formerly Kuyu, in Gansu Province held a strategically important position, it was often a battleground for opposing military forces. Emperor Taizong (Tang Dynasty 598 – 649 AD) appointed the illustrious general Xue Rengui (614 – 683 AD) to lead an expedition. The Tang swept forward, victory after victory, until they were besieged at Kuyu in the dead of winter. Tang soldiers were starving. Legend has it that one, faint with hunger, saw a snowfree, unfrozen patch of ground and, digging in, was overjoyed to find a plump, sweet, puckery root — suo yang. The soldier reported his discovery to Xue Rengui, who ordered his troops to harvest the bounty. The spirits of the entire army were lifted, and they persevered in guarding their fortress until reinforcements arrived and the Tang overcame the siege. Emperor Taizong renamed the city Suoyang after the little plant.

According to historical records, when natural disasters befell, the residents of Suoyang would dig out desert thumbs, also known as “bulaocao” (“ageless herb”) in Chinese to survive. 

This soup is suitable for long-term winter consumption. It is helpful for people with chronic lumbago and leg pains, soreness and weakness of waist and knees, and cold intolerance. Contraindications: If a person has a red tongue, thin tongue coating, dry mouth and throat, dysphoria or night sweats, while experiencing soreness and weakness of waist and knees, this soup isn’t appropriate.*

Desert Thumb and Scallop Soup


50g raw scallops
15g desert thumb slices
100g cucumber slices
100g diced tomatoes
salt and sesame oil to taste


Wash and slice the desert thumbs and put them directly in a pot of water to cook. First put the pot on high heat. Once the water boils, simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Then add scallops, cucumber slices and tomato cubes into the pot and simmer on low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and sesame oil. This delicious, fortifying soup is ready to serve.