It has been widely documented that, for the past five thousand years, Chinese people have been looking for the secrets of health and medical cure in food.
This is not an exaggeration. If we look back in Chinese history, we will see that in the royal kitchen of all Chinese emperors, there was a medical consultant assisting the chef.
The theory is quite similar to Chinese herbal medicine and, of course, this kind of “food-based treatment” is not suitable for medical emergencies. However, it goes a long way in providing long term benefits. For example, although some mild stomach problems can be cured through medication, they can also be effectively treated through appropriate eating habits and by avoiding certain kinds of food. So, if you can find an alternative, try to avoid taking medications.
Nowadays, it is trendy in China to recover the ‘healthy eating’ from the past. The meaning of ‘healthy eating’ here is different from the usual one in English. It is not about eating healthy food or having healthy eating habits, but it rather refers to ‘giving the body nutritious boost’, or to eat certain dishes to help easing health problems,. (It is so difficult to translate from one language to another.)
People started looking at all these valuable ‘healthy recipes’ from the past, trace back thousands years ago. Nowadays, there are in China restaurants that specialize in this kind of special dishes, and other more standard restaurants have started including some of them in their menus.
If you go to book stores or online, the word ‘Yang Sheng’ is everywhere. It is commonly understood as ‘maintain healthy life, enhance the strength of the body, prevent the illness in order to have a healthy long life. ‘Yang’ means ‘maintenance, nursing problems, and nourishing body’; ‘Sheng’ means ‘life, existence, and growth’.
This food trend is understandable, if go back to 50 years ago, (for example), people were living a much poorer life, having enough food everyday was the most important thing. Now, the situation is completely different, all types of food are so rich in the markets, and throughout all the seasons, also those ‘royal’ recipes of the emperors are no longer ‘unreachable’. The food culture has definitely been ‘renovated’.
These special recipes can be different to what we would prepare on daily basis. The way of combining ingredients is different, and so is the way of combining different dishes in one meal. Sometimes some of the ingredients can be very expensive, and not easy to find, others can be just those food at very reasonable price sold in the markets.
Even expensive ingredients, like some rare wild mushrooms, need to have a particular way of cooking and combination (with other ingredients), otherwise, they may not have the expected benefits. And the cheaper ingredients, if cooked in the right way with right combination, might have equal nutritious value to the more expensive ones. And if the combination is wrong, then you might not get the ideal result. For example, it is said that lamb or beef is good for nourishing the blood in the body, but if we have fresh reddish or watermelon afterwards, then the benefit from the lamb or beef can be lessened.
Again, I am not an expert, but since last year, I joined the ‘trendy group’, started reading these rediscovered thousand years old books, (they have been translated in modern language :). So in my forthcoming postings in this section, I will try to blog some of these ‘special recipes’, hope it can help you understand more about Chinese culture and food. :))