*This post is dedicated to AL.ME’s #1 fan – Thank you Saba!
A few years back I visited a little island off of the coast of Zhuhai (China) and found an elderly couple collecting seaweed. They were bending over and reaching around rocks that were covered in barnacles and salty sea grass. When I asked why they were collecting this brownish, bumpy seaweed and putting it into big plastic bags they said, “We’re going to make soup with it.” And I just thought… Chinese people have horrible taste buds… Slimy seaweed in homemade soup must taste awful!
But then a couple months ago I was on the phone with my mom who was walking along a beach near her winter home in Florida. She was looking for sharks teeth, as she does most mornings, when she bumped into a fellow snow bird gathering seaweed into a shopping bag. When she asked what he was doing he said that he was a doctor and that the seaweed has great medicinal properties. By the end of their chat, she had realized she was talking with a doctor who gives speeches around the country on cancer prevention. And this man in particular was sending all of the seaweed he collected to his brother’s clinic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Whenever I cook for friends and family I’m always asked about the ingredients I use and where to get them. And since visiting an Asian market alone can be a little overwhelming for some, I decided to put a short introduction together for buying my most common ingredients online. If you’d like to see some recipes first, here are a few on Asianliving.me.
Let’s start with a few well-known online shops in North America:
Amazon.com’s grocery section is loaded with Asian food options. If you have Amazon prime you obviously won’t have to worry about the cost of shipping. It’s probably worth visiting Amazon first to see if you can find what you are looking for. For those in select areas, you can try Amazon Fresh which is just like Peapod or FreshDirect.
Asian Food Grocer is a trustworthy shop that provides much of what you expect to find in a standard Asian market. Here are a few products that I commonly use in my cooking:
Lee Kum Kee’s Hoisin Sauce is something I use for a sweet, seafood flavor.
Actually, just about everything in the Asian Food Grocer’s “Quick and Easy Asian Cooking” section is delicious and, as the title implies, very easy to use.
Marukai’s eStore is a Japanese food shop online which serves North America. Some of my recipes have ingredients that you can find at their shop. Check out their amazing variety of fish options for at-home sushi making!
Welcome to the fourth article based on the Xiangsheng Xiangke food chart that I posted in the “Foods that React to Each other“. Today we continue to cover combinations of food that are naturally healthy on their own, but Chinese traditions (and TCM) suggest they react to each other in various ways. Let’s start with a meat and vegetable combination.
+ “Cauliflower has vitamins and minerals, and when eaten with chicken it can make stronger bones. Combined they also improve the detoxing power of your liver and give your immune system a boost. With that you will fight colds much more easily.” Perhaps a little cauliflower in the traditional Chicken Noodle soup recipe would help.
Welcome to the third article based on the Xiangsheng Xiangke food chart that I posted in the “Foods that React to Each other“. Today we continue to cover combinations of food that are naturally healthy on their own, but Chinese traditions (and TCM) suggest they react to each other in various ways. Let’s start with a positive combination.
+ When you eat both mushrooms and toufu together, they help “reduce excess eat and clear toxins”, along with assisting in the “increasing air intake and excreting saliva”. From a Chinese prospective, these reactions are beneficial to your body. A mushroom/toufu dish is also a good combination because they “reduce phlegm/mucus, are anti-cancerous, reduce blood fat and blood pressure.”
Welcome to the second article based on the Xiangsheng Xiangke food chart that I posted in the “Foods that React to Each other“. Today we continue to cover combinations of food that are naturally healthy on their own, but Chinese traditions (and TCM) suggest they react to each other in various ways. Let’s start with a positive combination.
+ Shrimp contains “high levels of protein and calcium”, while Chinese cabbage is “somewhat high in nutritional value”. If you eat both of them together you’ll “prevent constipation, gum bleeding, and scurvy”. The best way to cook them is to “lightly fry them in a pan.”
I’m finally getting around to a dissection of the Xiangsheng Xiangke food chart that I posted in the “Foods that React to Each other“. Thank you to family and friends who have asked about them and are looking for more information. Let’s start with this first set of food combinations.
+ Here, green and red peppers and water spinach are “both composed of vitamins and minerals.” By consuming both of these together “blood pressure declines while headaches and toxicity are reduced.” This combination also helps “prevent diabetes.” Continue reading Food Reactivity through a Chinese Lens #1
“NanRu” is a red fermented bean curd which is often used as a thickener in Chinese food. It also gives the food a distinctive, somewhat spicy aroma. I use it in my Beer Duck recipe, but it can be used as part of a sauce for many other recipes.
Get ready to drool over this extremely fragrant and commonly used ingredient in Chinese food. I call it by its directly translated name, “bean sauce” (豆瓣酱), but it is also referred to as “Chile Bean Sauce” which you’ll notice in the first photo. The regular flavor is not spicy at all, rather it puts a fermented, savory soy bean flavor in your dish. There are a variety of bean sauces available at your local Asian market. If you see one with writing on it that looks completely Greek (or Chinese) to you, make sure to take clues from the photo on the label. The red hot chiles (peppers) are a sign you’ve found the spicy version!
Another popular root that is common in the Chinese diet, and many other Asian diets, is Ginseng. In fact, American Ginseng is one of the most popular in the world. I even see it in small local markets here in Zhuhai. I see it popularly used out here in soups, often with other Chinese herbs, chicken bones, Gou Ji berries, and Zao Zi. This kind of soup can be purchased warm and ready to eat at any Fujian style dumpling shop. (I’ll post a simple recipe for making this at home soon.)
Ginseng is also consumed by steeping some dried slices of it in hot water, like tea. I sometimes do this before going to bed in order to reduce “Qi” in the body. I also suggest this drink as a replacement for evening teas or coffee.
Here is some health-related information from Wikipedia, and sourced therein:
“Both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) roots are taken orally as adaptogens [a product that increases the body’s resistance to stress], aphrodisiacs [you can guess…], nourishing stimulants,and in the treatment of type II diabetes, as well as sexual dysfunction in men.
Other information: The English word ginseng derives from the Chinese term rénshēn (simplified: 人参; traditional: 人蔘), literally “man root” (referring to the root’s characteristic forked shape, resembling the legs of a man).”
For vinegar, I don’t taste much of a difference between brands, although color is important. Dark vinegar, or “Chen Cu” 陈醋, is the standard in China and the famous ones always come from Shanxi province 山西. While cooking with a very experienced coworker, I learned that a particular brand is famous here: Dong Hu, literally East Lake brand. You could search for it, but I’m not sure if it is available outside of China.
Medicinal benefits: A study has shown that putting vinegar in the food you eat can increase satiety, which leads to less food intake.[*2000] This is a great natural benefit for people fighting obesity. Other potential benefits include fighting infections, but there are other things out there which are more effective.
Apple (cider) Vinegar is a common drink I see in supermarkets here. Some studies have hinted that it could help with conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Maybe you should get a bottle and try sometime. Shake things up a little!