Chinese cuisine and herbology

When i think of Chinese food the local takeaway comes to mind, i usually order egg fried rice, hot and sour crispy beef or sweet and sour chicken, not very adventurous at all. i went on a little trip to the local Chinese supermarket and had a nosey around, i was a bit disappointed with the range of food and ingredients but decided to play safe and just purchase crispy seaweed(which was in fact just green cabbage, which apparently they sell in most takeaways) and some spicy pork dumplings which i found disgustingly chewy, i plan to try and make my own at some point and will hopefully enjoy them a lot more.

In the Chinese supermarket i did find a bag of chicken feet which made me feel slightly ill, but it did make me curious about how to cook and eat them, not that i was ever going to try it, after doing some research and watching to many youtube videos on it i found out that they are called Ji zhao or Ji jiao and are deep fried and steamed before being stewed in a sauce or just simmered in a sauce containing Chinese herbs, a dish like that certainly doesn’t appeal to me. While researching Chinese cuisine the most shocking thing i came across was that serving dogs as food was only made illegal in the early part of the 21st century but before then they were one of the nine varieties of animals that could be eaten, they were raised to be eaten just like chickens and pigs are. A rescue mission was carried out by the Animal Asia Foundation to rescue these animals but it wasn’t completely successful, a lot of dog meat was sold on a lamb which had a higher value.

Chinese food can be categorized into ‘eight culinary traditions of China’, its all to do with the different parts of China and the variation of cooking styles because of the resources available, climate and lifestyles. All the food varies in flavor and texture, China is known for using every resource available, they use a lot of preservation techniques such as drying, salting, pickling and fermentation so no food was wasted. The style of cooking most known to us in the UK is cantonese cuisine which comes from Guangdong Province in southern China, this is apparently because of a huge number of early emigrants.

I found the idea of Chinese herbology very interesting, i used to walk past one of the shops on the way to school in the morning and found some of the images of skin infections slightly disturbing but after researching it i really wanted to know if what they said was true, can eating a dried lilly bulb really be good for your lungs and help against flu? Most people i asked had never tried it or ever been to China but they couldn’t see how it could possibly work, they argue that if it really does work why are they not widely renowned throughout the world. I completely agree and think that because China is a very traditional place and they believe in the same things their ancestors did, so stick to using herbal medicine.

Chinese herbs have been used for centuries, the manuscript “Recipes for 52 Ailments” which was found in the Mawangdui tombs that were sealed in 168 BC has lists of prescriptions for specific minor illnesses. Shénnóng (Devine Farmer), who was a god like figure in China, he was said to have lived around 2800 BC, Shénnóng apparently tasted hundreds of herbs and past on his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to farmers. He is said to have written the oldest book on Chinese herbal medicine, his recipes have little to no side effects and help maintain and restore the bodies natural balance. In China there are roughly 13.000 medicinals used and over 100,000 recipes recorded in ancient liturature, the most common ingredients are plants and extracts, animal parts are also commonly used. A few strange things i found out were that the penis of animals is therapeutic, snake oil is traditionally used for joint pains and Chinese wolfberries are used to improve sight. Human bones, fingernails, hairs, earwax, urine, sweat and organs were all previously used in ancient recipes but are used very little nowadays.

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