This is a large format paperback book of the sort you can easily lay out on the kitchen counter as you are working on a recipe. The authors are a former physician-in-charge at Chengdu Traditional Chinese medicine hospital (Yuan Wang), a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist (Warren Sheir) and an award-winning writer and editor (Mika Ono). They have combined their talents
in a pleasant informative book that will guide you through the secrets of ancient Chinese cooking using modern gadgets, whether you know black wood ear from astragalus root. And you should by the time you are finished thumbing through the book.
Each recipe contains five components: Ingredients, Directions, Themes and Variations, Especially Good For, and For Those Who Familiar with Chinese Medicine. Thus, something as simple as a green tea mixture like “Restful Honeysuckle and Mint Green Tea” can become an educational experience. It is, we learn, Especially Good For “anyone with a high fever, irritability, thirst from the flu, sore throat with a burning sensation, thirst, indigestion, anyone with throat or lung problems, anyone who tends to run warm.” In the lore of Chinese medicine, Restful Honeysuckle and Mint Green tea “clears Heat, replenishes body fluids, and relieves toxicity.”
By the way, did you know you can make tea from kudzu root? This may be the first positive use of kudzu I have ever encountered, and here I find it is especially good for “anyone with a headache and dizziness from high blood pressure, or who wants to cool down.”
Other features sprinkled among the recipes include blurbs such as “A Taste of History” describing, for example, the journey of spinach to China along the Silk Road around 618 to 907 CE
- “It was originally called the ‘Persian vegetable’.” Other transplanted veggies that flourished in their new Chinese home included eggplant, cilantro, green onions, cucumbers and carrots.
In the center of the book are photographs of the primary exotic ingredients you might encounter or want to purchase to try out the intriguing recipes. These include umeboshi plums, white peony root, and ophiopogon tuber. Because of the unfamiliar names, it helps to know what they look like then you purchase them. Less foreign items, but still probably requiring a trip to the health food store, include mung beans, licorice root, hawthorne berry, triticum and cellophane noodles.
The book's introduction, subtitled "recipes from the East for Health, Healing and Long Life," provides an extensive explanation of the properties each ingredient is known for and how to make best use of the recipes and the medicinal traditions they support. Go slowly, substitute as you need to, and be cautious. Traditional Chinese cooking, like the medicinal system, focuses on balance. Some of its basic components, such as ginger, gingko, and green tea, are now finding acceptance in mainstream healing. Perhaps it’s time for you to make some changes in your diet. This book could open the door to health as well as healing.