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Chinese Healing Foods

by: Rosa Lo San and Suzanne LeVert

New York NY: Pocket Books 1998, $14.00, Paperback
ISBN: 0-671-529-799-I

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 1999 Issue: 6(1) page(s): 9 and 10

This is another volume planned to keep body and soul in balance. It touts specific ailments and provides delicious recipes to combat them. However, like recipes in some other healing volumes, many but not all are Chinese in nature, and some are not traditional Chinese healing foods.

In three parts, the book provides a food is medicine approach to eating. It begins in an excellent manner in the first section titled Healthy Eating: An East/West Perspective with fifty-five pages where the author discusses how the Chinese diagnose illness, the yin and yang view of health, healing properties of foods, and preparing your kitchen to heal you. It also provides a short glossary of equipment, and it includes many ingredients and a few culinary techniques. This is a well-written section that should be required reading for every lay person interested in Asian medical practices.

The second part is a guide to thirty-one common ailments alphabetically from anemia to urinary infections. Each offers generalized, then western perspectives about the ailment discussed along with treatment and nutritional prescriptions. They are followed with Eastern perspectives under the same headings. In this section, herbs and other considerations about healing should not be undertaken without consulting a doctor. Neither author qualifies in this regard.

The sixty recipes that follow in Part Three begin with a paragraph about some of the main food items and their Chinese considerations followed by what ailment the recipe is good for, and a short discussion of its healing properties with an Asian point of view. Preparation and cooking times follow as does the ingredient list and method of preparation, in standard style.

Though most recipes show considerable Chinese influence, the Basil Coconut Soup with Peppermint Sprigs may be common in Macao and some small regions in Southern China, but coconut milk and peppermint leaves are not in widespread use in China for coughs, indigestion, or flu. Likewise, they are not all common fresh foods for healthy folk, no matter where they live.

The Braised Duck with Cinnamon, Garlic and Bamboo is also recommended for people with weaknesses from flu. Five Spice Roast Duck for those with indigestion seems to me and the five Chinese folk I asked, including a Chinese medical doctor trained in China, to cause indigestion, not to be its cure.

Some beefs, if you pardon the pun. Many Chinese people make Buddha's Delight, most from a recipe in their family for generations. Bet they serve it for New Year and other days and not for anemia or insomnia, as touted. This use is not mentioned. Mussels are not common to the cuisine as peering through one hundred Chinese cookbooks told me; yet Ross and LeVert tout this terrific dish for edema and hemorrhoids.

It is interesting to note some similarities of recipe titles between this book and others reviewed in this issue. The similarities are in preparation and in some ingredients. Do cookbook writers talk to each other as do food editors? If they do, they share ideas for inclusion, if not for specific recipes.

This book has Cold Tomato and Ginger Soup and correctly calls it an Asian version of the Mediterranean soup known as Gazpacho. With but sixty recipes, though the recipe is truly great, why include it as one of these five dozen Chinese healing food recipes?

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