Live Well and Be Happy

Herbalicious - Cooking With Chinese Herbs

by Siew Ping

Talk by Joanna Wong on 10 Dec 2016 at Candour Coffee

Her voice brimming with vitality, Joanna Wong declared, "I'm the same, whether in the morning, afternoon or night!"

She attributed her vitality to her regular use of Chinese herbs. We could well believe it.  Her energy and enthusiasm had lit up the café right from the start of our second AutumnLife event. The author of "Herbalicious - Contemporary Cooking with Chinese Herbs" spoke and took questions on her subject of passion for an hour and a half. The book was published this year.

Joanna's knowledge of herbal cooking was the culmination of her fifteen years of experience at Eu Yan Sang, and her own love of cooking. The chefs whose recipes are featured in the book are those she had got to know in the course of her work.

The talk drew more participants than expected. Thankfully all fitted, albeit snugly, within the intimate setting of Candour Coffee café along Beach Road.

We learned about the traditional Chinese way of looking at food and herbs, which goes beyond simply considering their nutritional properties. Different herbs can have different effects, for example, on our body's yin and yang balance, and qi. The uninitiated may find it mind-boggling that herbs can be classified as cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot, as well as sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent. Just as fascinating is the concept that herbs can be considered in terms of their "movement", that is their lifting or lowering effects within our body.

Some of our AutumnLife members are far from clueless about Chinese herbs. They peppered Joanna with questions and opinions that showed their knowledge of the subject. The exchanges were lively and insightful.

Barista and café operator Shi Chun too listened intently to the talk. His remarks, in between preparing our coffee orders, showed he knew quite a bit about Chinese herbs. 

Joanna cautioned us to be mindful that Chinese herbs can have strong effects, and should be taken in moderation. Some herbs however are balanced in their effects when used singly (e.g. ginseng), while others can be paired, or used in multiple-herb combinations. Herbs like huai shan and yu zhu are good for use at most times.

Joanna touched on different methods of cooking with Chinese herbs. The traditional way is to stew Chinese herbal dishes. This makes sense given that the herbs typically come in a dried form. Soaking the herbs would widen the choice of cooking methods - such as stir-frying. Joanna even deep-fries some herbs - e.g. deep-fried barley that gives texture to a dish.

The copies of "Herbalicious" which Joanna brought with her were snapped up even before the talk ended. (And it's not because our speaker generously offered us a very special price for the book.)

Interesting subject, riveting speaker, relaxed atmosphere, fabulous coffee and lots of laughter - in other words, our time was well spent. AutumnLife is grateful to Joanna Wong, our members who came for the talk and venue partner Candour Coffee café for their support of this event.


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