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Chinese Herbs and Nutritional Foods

by Irving Beilin Chang

Food as Herbs, Health, and Medicine

Winter Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(4) page(s): 11

Recently, I have been reviewing a Chinese cookbook whose title translates to Flavorful, Nutritious, and Healthy Herbal Cookbook. It was written by Yu Tsang Fang and was published by the Chinese National Light Industry in December of 1987.

A selected portion of its preface translates as follows, "The study of herbal foods is China's precious heritage. This study serves two purposes, it takes the medicinal properties of the herbs and adds the nutritional value and taste of the selected foods to create these recipes. Through a nutritious and healthy diet, we can achieve the objectives of health maintenance and sickness prevention. This study is China's special treasure trove of food and sickness prevention."

It goes on to say, "This collection of herbal recipes comes from old historical and many newly related studies and volumes such as: Diet Curing, Herbal Food Preparation, Healthy Living, Manchu Palace Medical Notes, Herbal Doctor's Notes, and People's Herbal Records. In order to make herbal food more popular and more acceptable to everyone, this book refutes the old Chinese traditional belief that 'good and effective medicine must be bitter to the taste.' We have taken traditional knowledge of herbs and combine it with gourmet cooking methods of popular foods to obtain the best of both worlds."

I have taken two recipes and translated them into English. In upcoming issues, I will share others. The recipes have been modified in the style of others in Flavor and Fortune. Try them and learn how good and how healthful Chinese herbal cooking is. Enjoy them, too. Here's to your health!
Steamed Almonds with Pork
1 pound pork chops, boned
2 ounces shelled almonds
2 Tablespoons rock sugar (or granulated sugar)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
4 slices fresh ginger
2 scallions
3 Tablespoons corn oil
salt, to taste
1. Rinse and dry the pork chops. Bone them and dice the meat into one-inch cubes.
2. Blanch the almonds in hot water for twenty minutes then remove the skins. If the almonds have already been blanched, soak them in hot water for fifteen minutes. Put them into a small cheesecloth pouch for later use.
3. Heat the wok and add the oil, then add the sugar and stir. Do not allow the sugar to burn.
4. Add the pork and stir-fry until it loses its color and turns a light brown, then add the scallions, ginger, soy sauce, wine, almonds, and half a cup of water. Simmer for ten minutes and remove from the heat.
5. Remove the almonds from the pouch and spread them out on a heat-proof deep plate or bowl. Pour the pork and sauce over them and steam for twenty minutes over boiling water. Serve hot.
Pork Loin with Lycium Berries
2 ounces Lycium chinensis berries (See note below)
12 ounces boneless pork loin, diced into one to one and one-half inch cubes
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
6 Tablespoons corn oil
12 cloud ears, cut in half if large
1 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots
3 scallions, cut into one inch pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 slices fresh ginger, left whole or cut into thin strips
1 Tablespoon rice wine or cooking sherry
1 cup beef broth
2 ounces snow peas
1. Put half of the lycium berries in a small pot with three Tablespoons of water and simmer for ten minutes or until the liquid is brown and slightly reduced. Discard the berries and set the liquid aside.
2. Rinse the other half of the berries and put them into a small bowl with the reserved lycium water, Steam this over boiling water for half an hour, remove from the steamer, and reserve the liquid.
3. Mix pork with the soy sauce, egg white and cornstarch. If need be, add a Tablespoon of water or stock to coat well. Let rest for fifteen minutes.
4. Heat the wok, then heat half of the oil. Add the garlic and when it starts to brown, add the cloud ears, bamboo shoots, scallions, garlic, and ginger and mix well. Then add the sherry and the lycium water and berries and cook for one minute.
5. Heat the remaining oil and saute the pork cubes constantly stirring them until no longer pink outside and in (about five minutes; do not overcook them as they will get tough). Then add the vegetable mixture to the pork and cook it another minute. Serve piping hot.
Note: If these berries, also known as goji berries are unavailable, use dried cranberries.

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