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Chinese Herbal Book, The

by: Penelope; Ody
Lyon, Alice; and Vilinac, Dragana

Trumbull CT: Weatherhill 2001, $24.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 0-84380480

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2001 Issue: 8(4) page(s): 8

Subtitled Healing Foods for Inner Balance, this book written with Alice Lyon and Dragana Vilinac, adapts both Western and Chinese dietary recommendations and mixes them with herbal suggestions. The book also provides one hundred twenty recipes and recommendations for seasonal eating.

Included are chapters written with women in mind. There is information about digestion, cleansing, and comfort foods, building the immune system, clearing dampness and phlegm, controlling qi with therapeutic drinks, and my favorite of them all, called: Rejuvenating Dishes for All Ages. There are valuable basic recipes for stocks, aromatic vinegars and oils, and a small section of useful addresses, less American than those in the United ingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. What is very useful are the recipes, the fourteen-item therapeutic index, and the cross-referenced index.

All three authors bring considerable traditional training to the text. Ms. Ody's chemistry background preceeds her herbal medical training at the School of Phytothereapy in Sussex, England and the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Guangzhou, China, as do the dozen books she previously authored on herbal topics. Ms. Lyon studied at the same two institutions, set up an herbal shop, and is the UK's major importer and distributor of Chinese medicines. Ms. Vilinac attended the same schools, and has for several years served as Phytopharmaceutical Processing Consultant to the Royal Government of Buhtan and the Commission of European Communities.

Prior to the recipes, read the seven pages about Chinese medicine and food, yin and yang, five element associations, tastes of some common foods, organs and energy, the western diet according to Hippocrates, and other culinary considerations. Browse the three others with their sixty-two item herb guide of common items such as oregano, mint, and parsley mixed with lesser known ones such as caterpillar fungus, Reishi mushrooms, and orchid stems.

Most, but not all of the recipes are Chinese, and most but not all are simple. The Longevity Noodles one requires eleven ingredients while Preserving Youth Jelly needs but five. Both need four steps in the preparation while a few need eight or nine. The Tonic Duck Soup is the tastiest recipe ever that uses dong chong xia cao or caterpillar fungus. Serve it and Pork Chops with Shi Hu which are orchid stems. The Love-in-a-Mist Potatoes and Beetroot Salad with Onion and Horseradish can complete a meal to please self and guests, provide a tonic for blood and qi, be restorative, relieve lower back or knee pain, combat the effects of aging, and cut a small dent in your wallet should you use the wild and not the cultivated fungus.

Never mind. The education gained is invaluable because these and many of the recipes provide great ways to learn about unfamiliar Chinese herbs. In the Steamed Ge Gen Dumplings filled with sweetened pumpkin and shan yao, learn lots of tastes and that the ge gen is kudzu and shan yao is wild Chinese yam. Both are purchasable as powder in almost every Chinese herbal emporium. Folk with celiac disease can learn to make a dough they can consume because these very dumplings are made with gluten-free flour.

There are nineteen recipes listed for the elderly, three for those with high blood pressure, six for urinary issues, seven for circulatory problems, twenty for women's needs, a couple of dozen for digestive concerns, a dozen for low libido, and still others for other needs. All of these herbal delights are not intended nor do they guarantee a cure to what the Chinese refer to as a 'condition.' However, every one of them offers good culinary and herbal education along with many good tastes.
Bean Curd Rolls
1/2 pound shrimp, shells removed and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 round bean curd sheets
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 ounces shiitake mushrooms, soaked for twenty minutes, remove stems and cut them in very thin slices
2 ounces bamboo shoots, cut into very thin strips
2 scallions, shredded
8 ounces bean sprouts
2 Tablespoons corn oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1. Cut shrimp lengthwise into two pieces, then mix with salt and soak them in two cups of water for five minutes. Then rinse and dry them.
2. Mix shrimp with sesame oil and set aside.
3. Cut each bean curd sheet in half then half again and wipe both sides of each of them with a wet towel. Ten make a paste of the flour and half cup of water which will be used to seal the rolls.
4. Mix shrimp and all the vegetables including the bean sprouts and divide this mixture into sixteen batches.
5. Put one batch of filling in the center of a bean curd wedge moving some to about an inch of all of the edges, and brush some flour-water mixture down the long sides. Roll from the outside of the circle towards the point folding in the sides to make an enclosed four-inch cigar-shaped roll. Before you get to the point, brush it with the flour-water mixture. Repeat until all sixteen rolls are made.
6. Heat a fry pan, add the oil and reduce the heat slightly, then half of the rolls and pan fry them, two minutes to a side. Drain on paper towels and do the second batch. Serve.

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