Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hutong Kitchen: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Last week Thursday I learned how to cook using the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (in het Nederlands: Traditionele Chinese Geneeskunde). Well, OK, maybe I didn't become a TCM professional like our instructor Alex Tan, but at least I learned three recipes and some basic ideas behind the approach.
I was a little bit worried about the cooking lesson. I like Chinese food, and I am also interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine, but somehow the combination didn't seem particularly exciting.

Lucky for me, I was wrong. We made some great dishes, including a shitake mushroom with chicken dish, and a dish using some weird "asparagus lettuce" plant, which did look like an overgrown asparagus and kind of tasted like broccoli, but better.
Asparagus lettuce. Also known by its friendly Chinese name wosun. Definitely "made in China." 
The key idea behind TCM cooking seems to be to base your three meals a day on a good portion of boiled wheats. Yes, that's right: forget the fruit with yoghurt (lovely snack in between) and base your meals on good wheats, balanced with some vegetables that are just right for the season. TCM also says some foods are "warming" and others "cooling," by which they don't mean the temperature of the dish, but the way it works in your body. For example, hot jasmine tea is cooling, but beer is warming (as any 16 year old with a beer in his hand can tell you).

Don't take my word for it though, and read some of Alex' interesting articles on the Straight Bamboo Clinic's Website. The Clinic, as was the cooking class itself, was actually located at The Hutong, a neat cultural exchange center in the heart of Beijing.

View from The Hutong terrace patio. (What you see is a "hutong," a low-rise Chinese neighborhood with lots of small courtyards. "The Hutong" didn't have to look far for a name.)

View of the kitchen. Look at the big cleaver on the chopping board on the left. Just like the one the Swedish chef in the Muppet Show used!


Our ingredients, carefully chopped. Half a plate of ginger, spring onions, carrots, garlic, shitake mushrooms, red onions...

Super mushroom dish.
Asparagus lettuce with shrimp.

Yum! If this is healthy food, I'll take it!

In het Nederlands: Vorige week ben ik even gaan koken in een mooie Chinese hutong. (Het centrum waar de kookles wsa heet dan ook de Hutong.) We kookten volgens de principes van de Traditionele Chinese Geneeskunde, wat onder andere betekent dat je nadenkt over het type voedsel (verwarmend? afkoelend?) dat je eet, en wat je eet in welk jaargetijde. Maar ik denk eigenlijk wel dat ik deze lekkere gerechten gewoon het hele jaar door ga maken...