FLAVOIIB OF THE FOBTIIGHT
Bean Cords with htuslrrooms and Cashew lluts
A dish that is very simple to prepare and highly nutritious from Chan’s ' unusually wide selection of vegetarian dishes. Lllre so many others, their chef worlrs instinctively, so measurements are approximate. Variations In proportion don’t spoil the dish, they lust make for unique interpretations: serves tour
6 standard size blocks oi fresh beancurd
a good handful of fresh mushrooms (straw are also good but these need longer to coolr)
a smaller handful of cashewnuts clove of garlic, crushed
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
dash each of wine, water, sesame seed oil and dark soy sauce
pinch of potato starch
out the beancurd into bite-sized cubes, blot off excess liquid then deep fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. if cashews are raw, deep try these also. lleat a little vegetable oil in a wok before adding garlic, mushrooms then beancurd. Cook for a minute. Add all the remaining ingredients except the potato starch and cashews. Stir ad coolr for a further minute.
Finally, stir in the potato
starch and cashew nuts. Serve immediately with rice and greens. Chan’s, 1 Forth Street, Edinburgh, 031 556 1118
’ Le Sept
7 Old F ishmarket Close Edinburgh
lunch and dinner Monda to Thursday all day Friday and aturday Sundays dinner only
telephone 031 225 5428
East is best?
Was your breakfast damp or dry, hot or cold? Catherine Fellows investigates the Chinese concept of food’s relation to health.
When I saw a formerly strict vegetarian friend of mine tucking in to a piece of chicken breast recently I was surprised — even more so when she told me it was because chicken was a warm food and she had been diagnosed as cold and damp by her Chinese doctor. Charming! Cold and damp! l was intrigued to discover more.
In the Tang Dynasty. in 7th century China, a famous doctor, Sun Si-miao, said that when a person is ill, a doctor should look to the patient's diet and lifestyle, before resorting to internal medicine or acupuncture. Rationally enough. Chinese traditional medicine holds that the food one puts into one‘s body has a major impact upon one’s well-being. ,
The Chinese conception of the workings of the body comes from the same Near Eastern root as the Hippocratic idea of a system of humours, amalgamated with the rather more civilised Taoist perception of a cosmos whose equilibrium rests on endless carefully balanced yin and yang dichotomies. The healthy body is seen as a balance of hot and cold, and, to a lesser extent, damp and dry, humours — a balance which can be disrupted or maintained by consumption of different foods.
All foods are said to possess an inherent temperature. based mostly upon an item’s effect upon the body. Hot foods tend to be rich. high calorie or spicy, such things as lamb and beef, peppers and garlic. These are believed to increase body energy, temperature, blood circulation and pulse rate. In excess, they can lead to fevers. constipation, rashes, sores and other
‘hot, tight or red symptoms’. Cold foods. such as raw fruit. mung beans, tofu, and some green vegetables can have positive cooling effects, or in extremis lead to weakness. pallor and shivering by impeding the body’s warm transformation processes.
This is the sparest outline of a highly developed and complex dietary theory,
‘Much Chinese dietary wisdom is founded on intuition and common sense, and much of it rings true to everyday experience.’
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much of which is common knowledge in China. In the West there is good reason to be sceptical about a lot of these remedies. Very little evidence that could be called ‘scientiﬁc’ exists to validate claims about their properties, and much of the account of how the body digests and makes use of its food intake has little or nothing to do with physiological reality. On the other hand there are counter-indications that suggest we should not be too dismissive. Much Chinese dietary
'wisdom is founded on intuition and
common sense, and much of it rings true to everyday experience. How much more sensible, for example to take hot tea with a meal than icy drinks. The tea helps digestion, particularly of fatty things, whilst the cold drinks cause horrible coagulation and leave you feeling grotty. The Chinese claim that lightly cooked foods are generally better for you than raw ones goes
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against our belief in salads, but if you think about it, if the ﬁbres of a carrot. say. are broken down in cooking. the food value may be less, but the amount the body is able to absorb. more. And Chinese suspicions about coffee — that it gives bursts of energy but ultimately saps the body — ring true to any junkie who has experienced the flushes, the shakes. the rushes to the loo . . .
The idea that cheese. milk, butter and wheat gluten are ‘damp‘, weighing the body down and causing lots of phlegm to be produced, is similarly palpable. Like so much of this, it concurs with the ﬁndings of those who have begun to pay more attention to the relationship between food and health in our society. Dairy products and wheat gluten are often found to be the provocation in cases of food intolerance, and they are amongst the ﬁrst subjects for elimination in the treatment of the gut flora and yeast imbalances commonly grouped together as Candida — one of the symptoms of which, incidently, is heavy catarrh.
Recently, an article in the Lancet followed up reports that a certain practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine had been getting spectacular results with eczema. On asking what her secret was. she revealed that almost every patient had been prescribed a different combination of herbs and foodstuffs. Like other ‘altemative' practitioners. the Chinese doctor or dietotherapist looks at each patient as a uniquely complex organism which needs help to restore and revitalise itself. This is one reason why Westem- style systematic trials of Chinese methods are difﬁcult to conduct.
However, one systematic and rather signiﬁcant survey was conducted last year - by Oxford and Cornell Universities in conjunction with the Chinese Academy for Preventive Medicine. It found that there is a direct correlation between the Chinese diet of vegetables, grains and fruit with proportionally little meat and dairy products, and health. Rates of cardiovascular diseases are much lower in China than in the UK or US. and the blood cholesterol level of the average Chinese is less than two thirds that of the average American. The Chinese government is now taking steps to protect its traditional diet from the inﬂuence of the high-fat West - the ice- cream and burgers, whose arrival in his country must have had Sun Si-miao turning in his grave.
78 The List 26 March—8 April 1993