*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.
One week ago I moved into a house with roommates in Somerville, Massachusetts. In that first week of transition I had a lot on my plate, so I did what most temporarily scattered people would do – eat shitty food. I ate plain ramen, peanut butter bread, cheese on toast, dunkin donuts sandwiches, rotisserie chicken from Shaws… barely any vegetables or fruit. I also exercised very little… maybe a few push-ups and sit-ups. I wasn’t depressed but I felt like I was just… existing.
But today, I feel like a million bucks. Here’s what happened…
Yesterday morning I was having my peanut butter on toast with banana slices when one of my roommates explained why he makes fruit smoothies every morning. “I eat fruit onlyin the morning.” he said. “It’s actually really good for you and the body breaks it down quickly, which in turn gives you a lot more energy to burn.” Continue reading Does your Body Reward you?
For years I’ve been attempting to explain (and cook) the differences between real Chinese food and American Chinese food. At first, it surprised American friends to discover that the Chinese have never heard of dishes like Crab Rangoon, General Tso’s Chicken, Egg Rolls, Egg Foo Young, and Chop Suey. All were created in America for American taste buds.
Crab Rangoon was actually an American creation that has been served in San Francisco since the 1950s.
Egg Foo Young was an adaptation on a real Chinese dish and made its American debut in the 1930s.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a detailed study earlier this year about the Attribution of Foodborne Illness in the United States between 1998-2008. As mentioned by Modern Farmer in a recent article, a majority of the cases reported were due to uncooked greens and under-cooked meat products. Although beef and poultry can be cooked longer for a piece of mind, the consumption of raw vegetables is a greater challenge.
It’s common knowledge in the US that eating raw vegetables is “healthier” than eating them cooked- it’s also much more convenient this way… The downside is that we are more susceptible to pathogens carried on leafy greens. This is probably why my Asian friends prefer to ordering dishes that contain veges that have been skinned just prior to cooking, like potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc. Anything that looks the same straight off the farm (like lettuce, spinach, bok choy, etc) are less likely to be cleaned properly in the restaurant kitchen.
Different countries have their own traditional ways of prepping salad. In countries like China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand the hygiene of its preparation is often questioned. In most cases copious amounts of garlic, peppers, lemon, ginger or other ingredients might be used in order to help naturally kill whatever is catching a ride on the leaves. Here are some samples of “salad” according to Asian tastes.
Last Tuesday was the second time in my life I’ve eaten “Double Boiled Milk” and it was just as good as I had remembered. Shunde is not only well-known for its dragon boat races in June, but also for their specialty milky, custardy dish- Shuang Pi Nai. The first time I tried it I was a bit nervous. (Although, I had eaten pig-brain hot pot before, so I wasn’t too worried) I remember moving it around with my spoon just to make sure there were no surprises hidden underneath… but the moment I put the first spoonful of goop in my mouth I was hooked. It was awesome!
This visit we ordered coconut and red bean flavored, one hot and one cold. Aside from the mild sweetness you’ll taste a hit of egg too. The local shops also sell a powdery take-home version of this dish, but I don’t think it would taste nearly as good as visiting Shunde and eating the authentic stuff. Take a look at some of the various flavors of Shuang Pi Nai below. Continue reading Shuang Pi Nai: The Best “Double Boiled Milk” you’ll ever try!
An American friend recently introduced a book to me that is gaining popularity in the US called, The Plan. It describes in detail that certain healthy foods we eat regularly do, in fact, cause us to gain weight. The author uses concepts that are regularly used in Chinese discussions of health and makes them accessible to a Western audience. “Inflammatory foods” cause “inflammation”, which produce negative effects on your body and can effect weight gain and loss.
All of this talk of inflammation reminded me of a poster I saw in a Chinese medical hospital room years ago. It basically outlines both appropriate and inappropriate combinations of food. This Chinese-medicine concept seems to be the foundation of the theories in The Plan book. It seems this ancient concept, which can help us better understand how our bodies work, has worked its way to the discussion table of American households. Continue reading Xiangsheng and Xiangke: Foods that React to Each other
Drinking Tea has always been an important part in the daily routines of most Chinese people, but Morning Tea specifically has been enjoyed by Cantonese Chinese for hundreds of years. Nowadays Morning Tea, Yum Cha, or Zao Cha are all ways to describe the activity Westerners might call “Brunch”, and Dim Sum refers to the dishes that are served at this leisurely mealtime. As with much international Chinese culture, this tradition has it’s roots in Guangdong province, but is practiced regularly throughout Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Chinatowns worldwide. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for first-time morning tea patrons!
Kung fu Tea
Don’t miss the chance to Pao Cha with your hosts while you sip on piping hot kung fu tea in small tea cups. All Morning Tea establishments provide the option of small tea sets with boiling hot water that you can use to make tea at your table. Sometimes the tea alone costs as much as the food, but worth it for first-time visitors. A common favorite among Cantonese is Pu-er tea, which is a darker tea that reminds me of coffee. It’s known for aiding disgestion and doubles as a dieting tea.
When watching a TV show or movie, it’s fine to munch, but its important to choose the right munchie. Traditionally, Asian cultures have developed the habit of unshelling nuts for mindless munching because it fills you slower. Eating sunflower seeds, for example, will give you the taste of food without making a meal out of the snack.
And remember, like my mother always says, everything in moderation. (Moms are really smart!)
Head ringing after ringing in the new year? Drink your meals today. Eat soup, porridge, or noodles.
A traditional Korean hangover cure called “Haejangguk” and has been eaten since the late 1300s contains cabbage and ox blood in beef soup. Chinese often eat Congee(porridge) to fight a hangover or illness. A savory congee for lunch is a great choice.
Whatever you do, make sure you get extra liquids and vegetables in your diet today. Feel better!