In Chinese and Asian culture, food is also considered medicine. All foods have therapeutic qualities, even sugar. They are placed in the same categories that Chinese herbs are, with a “flavor” and a “temperature”. These flavors and temperatures dictate which organs and body functions the food will affect…and voila, food becomes medicine. This practice of using food as medicine can be called Chinese food therapy. Many of the herbs I use as in my practice, in granule form, are also common foods throughout Asia. For example: ginger, jujube dates, lotus seed, and goji berries.
Winter is a great time to utilize Chinese food therapy in our diets, when it’s important build and protect yang. Yang is our physiological fire. During the winter, we protect and nourish it so it will provide energy for the whole year. (You can read more about winter yang protection here.)
This recipe strongly tonifies yang through just a few simple ingredients. Lamb is the main player, one of the warmest meats that also has a sweet flavor from a medicinal perspective. And it uses three food-herbs from the Chinese medical apothecary:
- fresh ginger (sheng jiang) -warm and spicy
- green onion (cong bai) -warm and spicy
- longan fruit (long yan rou) -warm and sweet
In Chinese herbal medicine, formulas are always prescribed. A single herb is almost never used. This is because flavors and temperatures of herbs combine synergistically in the body. In the case of this recipe, the flavors of spicy and sweet together create yang. So sweet lamb and longan, plus spicy ginger and green onion are a powerful combination to build yang. This recipe is from Henry McCann’s wonderful blog you can find here. The soup also nourishes the heart and calms the spirit, and builds qi and blood.
Chinese Medicinal Food – Lamb, Ginger and Longan Soup Recipe
- 1 lb. Lamb (deboned and cut into chunks)
- 1/4 C Dried longan fruit
- 1/3 C Fresh ginger (peeled and sliced)
- 3 Green onions (chopped)
- 1/4 C Cooking wine
- Put lamb in a pot with 3 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for just about 2 minutes; strain out lamb and discard water to remove the fat
- Place lamb back into pot with enough water to complete cover the meat (6-8 cups), the sliced ginger and scallions, dried longan, and a small amount of cooking wine
- Bring to a rapid boil on high flame, then reduce flame to a low simmer and cook for about 2 hours; remove from heat and add salt to taste