December 25, 2018

Food therapy

 

 

You are what you eat.

Too absolute a claim, perhaps. After all, both giant pandas and humans eat bamboo, yet one is a chubby, fluffy ball of cuteness, and the other is . . . Well, you get the idea.

Yet the concept of food therapy has been so deep-rooted in China that even when traditional Chinese medicine clinics are gradually going the way of dinosaurs, you can still eavesdrop on street conversations that talk about “heaty” food (nosebleed after wolfing down 5kg of durian) and “cooling” food (“cool as a cucumber”).

Wanglaoji, a type of herbal tea, raked in twenty billion yuan of sales revenue last year.

Let’s look at some of the food therapies mentioned in the documentary.

Disclaimer: All information has been obtained from the documentary A Bite of China Season 3 episode 4. While I trust the producers have done their research and most of the claims made in the documentary have some validity, still, please don’t try to reproduce the dishes on your own.

For example, can you tell these two plants apart?

金银花

断肠草

The first one is lonicera japonica, also known as golden-and-silver honeysuckle. Its dried leaves and flowers have been widely used in flowering tea to treat sore throat.

The second one is called gelsemium elegans. Its Chinese name, 断肠草, is more telling. It literally translates into “the grass that will rot your gut”. It has led to the deaths of a billionaire and six villagers.

So, you know, let’s not rush into the mountains with a scythe and try your own luck at harvesting herbs.

 

草药炖猪脚

Pig’s trotter stewed with herbs

If done right, it’s a delicious tonic.

草药炖猪脚

乌米饭

Rice cooked with the leaves of sea bilberry

Health claims:

-has beneficial effects for the spleen and kidney

-calms the nerves

-helps to restore black hair (not helpful if you’re a blonde or redhead)

乌米饭

草药炖鸭

Duck stewed with herbs

Claims:

-reduces heat

草药炖鸭

菊花茶

Chrysanthemum tea

Claims:

-improves the functions of the lungs and eyes

-cleanses the liver

(I can’t speak to the medicinal properties of the chrysanthemum tea, but during summertime, a cup of chrysanthemum tea, with a couple of dried red dates and rock sugar thrown in, is a thousand times more refreshing than a cup of bubble tea that’s all the rage nowadays.)

菊花茶

 

黄酒

Yellow wine

Claims:

-promotes blood circulation

-dispels cold

(As for promoting blood circulation, isn’t that like the job description of all alcohols? They’re vasodilators, after all.)

黄酒

五汁膏

Five juices honey syrup

Made with the juices of ginger, milk, honey, white radish, and snow pear

Claims:

-eases cough

五汁膏

枣泥山药糕

Jujube and yam cake

Claims:

-beneficial for the spleen and kidneys

-stimulates the production of white blood cells

(This feels more like a dessert than a medicinal dish.)

Slide1

百合莲子

Soup with lotus seeds and bulbous roots of lily

Claims:

-beneficial for the spleen

-calms the nerves

Slide2

枸杞羊肉

Stewed mutton with wolfberries

Claims:

-beneficial for the spleen and kidneys

-dispels cold qi

Slide3

猪肚鸡

Pig stomach and chicken soup

Claims:

-beneficial for the stomach

-strengths qi

猪肚鸡

艾叶豆腐

Tofu cooked with Chinese mugwort

Claims:

-reduces heat

Slide4

 

老酒炖鸡子

Eggs simmered in old wine, with rock sugar and brown sugar

Claims:

-reduces coughing

Slide5

响螺片椰肉猪骨汤

Pork bone soup with dried meat of sea snails, dried meat of coconut, ginger, and tangerine peels,

Claims:

-reduces heat

-promotes yin energy

Slide6

花胶炖鸡汤

Stewed chicken soup with fish maw

Claims:

-stimulates yin energy

-promotes healthy skin

花胶炖鸡汤

八宝茶

Eight treasures tea

The recipe varies. Common “treasures” include: rose buds or chrysanthemum, wolfberries, red dates, walnuts, dried longan, sesame, raisins, and apple slices.

Claims:

-beneficial for the lungs

-soothes sore throat

八宝茶

三草炖鹅

Stewed goose with three herbs

Claims:

– beneficial for the liver

Slide7

酒糟芋头面

Noodles with taro and sweet fermented rice

Claims:

-beneficial for the spleen

-promotes blood circulations

Slide8

牡蒿蒸嫩鸭

Steamed duck with artemisia japonica

Claims:

-promotes yin energy

-beneficial for the lungs

-reduces heat

-relieves coughs

Slide9

 

Caution: the next image may cause some slight discomfort.

 

 

败酱草小肠汤

Chitterlings soup with field pennycress

Claims:

-reduces heat

(Um, the white, worm-like stuff is NOT worms. Chitterlings are pig’s small intestines chopped into tubes.)

Slide10

Slide11

当归生姜羊肉汤

Mutton soup with ginger and female ginseng

Claims:

-promotes blood circulation

-relieves pain

(I believe the first health claim. During wintertime my dad would often drag us to a restaurant that specialises in mutton: mutton soup, noodles with mutton, mutton hotpot, and a stir-fried dish with various organs of the poor lamb . . . After eating just one or two pieces of the meat I would feel like I’m having a fever. It’s a common sight that you’d go see someone going in wearing a down jacket, and come out of the restaurant in a thin sweater or in some cases, in a long john shirt.)

当归生姜羊肉汤

 

In the end, these dishes are supposed to help you to prevent illnesses, not cure them. So if you’re having a fever with a body temperature of above 38 degrees Celsius, instead of drinking a gallon of chrysanthemum tea, go to the clinic,

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About fmiswriting

One out of 1.4 billion voices.

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