Food as Medicine, Medicine as Food

Regain Your Body's Balance with Healthful Chinese Dishes
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"Medicinal foods" and "nutritious foods" have a long history in Chinese culture, and are an important part of Taiwan's approach to food. Through choosing of suitable ingredients and cooking methods according to the season, food and drink consumption is not just a matter of satisfying the appetite for good food and drink, it is also a healthy way of living.

Traditional Culture Medicine and Food from the Same Source

People in Taiwan generally believe that foods have certain properties that can help to improve a person's wellbeing and play a role in maintaining or regaining balance. People who easily feel hot should eat some "cooling down" foods to feel better. People who easily feel cold or who are weak can make themselves stronger if they take the right combination of food and drink. Consuming nutritious foods after operations or childbirth is also an important local tradition. Adding Chinese medicinal herbs to dishes is part of traditional home cooking. Even without having any special requirements, a visit to the Chinese-medicine shop for a bag of medicinal herbs suited for all the family, stewed in a pot with meat, makes for a warming family evening meal.

If you want to try some nutritious and medicinal foods you can head to a night-market and order, for example, herbal sparerib soup, ginger duck, or longan red-date tea, all of which are nutrition-packed and have medicinal properties.

Fine Vegetarian Food

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There are now many people in Taiwan who are vegetarians not for religious reasons or to save money, but purely for health reasons. At numerous restaurants around the island highly skilled chefs are cleverly creating myriad vegetarian dishes complete in terms of color, aroma, and taste. These are continually being improved on, and Taiwan's vegetarian dishes are always full of surprises. Only small amounts of oil and salt ?X and no MSG ?X are used in the process, and the dishes are high in fiber and low in cholesterol. If you care about healthy eating, Taiwan is the right place to indulge in healthful but nevertheless delicious cuisine.

One recommended place to experience this kind of culinary exploration is Yangming Spring Vegetarian Creative Cuisine, situated in the scenic mountain area of Yangmingshan , on Taipei City's north side. This restaurant promotes healthy, natural, "green" eating ideas, stressing the natural flavors of the ingredients. Its Zen-style garden, with luxuriant flowers and trees, is tranquil and relaxing, allowing diners to enjoy both physical and spiritual refreshment. The wait staff will also explain the nutritional makeup, medicinal effect, and taste sequence of the ingredients when dishes are brought to the table.

Yangming Spring Vegetarian Creative Cuisine

Address: 119-1 Jingshan Rd., Yangmingshan, Taipei City

Tel: (02) 2862-0178 (reservations necessary)

Website: www.ymspring.com.tw

Hours: Lunch 12 ~ 3 p.m.; dinner 6 ~ 10 p.m.

Another recommended restaurant, located in the city center of Taipei, is Lotus Fragrant Vegetarian Restaurant . This buffet-style vegetarian restaurant serves up exquisite food and drink and puts the essence of good foods from around the world in its vegetarian dishes. The restaurant attracts many repeat customers, who come to experience the latest in modern and healthful vegetarian cuisine.

Lotus Fragrant Vegetarian Restaurant

Address: 353 Changchun Rd., Taipei City (B1 of Howard Garden Suites Taipei)

Tel: (02) 2547-4788

Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. ~ 2 p.m.; dinner 5:30 ~ 9 p.m.

For those who want to try cooking a traditional Taiwanese nutritious/medicinal dish at home, here are two simple recipes.

Red Date and Tremella (White Fungus) Soup

Ingredients: 200 grams of tremella, six red dates, some rock sugar.

Method: Wash the tremella and tear into small pieces. Soak for about two hours in water, then boil together with the dates and the rock sugar; the dish is then ready to serve.

Explanation: Red dates contain protein, fat, saccharides, organic acid, vitamins A and C, a small amount of calcium, and various amino acids. These protect the liver and boost energy. Tremella is rich in gelatin and has various vitamins and amino acids. Since ancient times it has been regarded as a precious food that extends life.

Stewed Chicken with Four Medicinal Materials

Ingredients: Two chicken legs, 10 grams each of processed rehmanniae root and Chinese angelica root, 6 grams of white peony root, 3 grams of chuanxiong rhizome, and 100cc of rice wine.

Method: Clean the chicken and wash away the bloody water with boiling water. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, add a suitable amount of water, then bring to a boil. Ladle off the froth and then change to a low heat, stew for about an hour, and the dish is ready to serve.

Explanation: The "four medicinal materials" in this dish are said to ease anemia and promote blood flow. They are beneficial for both men and women. However, people who suffer from indigestion or diarrhea should limit the quantity taken.