Yunnan Medicinal Food

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is viewed as medicine and is used to nourish and harmonize the body, mind, and spirit. All foods have a distinct energy and characteristic properties that either help to balance our bodies and make us healthy, or that create imbalances which ultimately result in sickness. Here let’s see the Yunnan Medicinal Food.

History of Chinese Medicinal Cuisine

In ancient China, when people were looking for food sources, they found many things that could be eaten or not, but had medical effects through practice. Medicine and diet had been linked for a long time. Before the Xia dynasty, wine making began and was used in medicine. The condiment after this, also be medicaments like the genus of ginger, cassia.

Originating from ‘Medicine and food being of the same origin’, Chinese medical cuisine formed after the Qin (221 BC-206 BC) and Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties and flourished in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. 

The earliest extant Chinese dietary text is a chapter of Sun Simiao’s Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold (千金方), which was completed in the 650s during the Tang dynasty. Sun’s work contains the earliest known use of the term “food (or dietary) therapy” (shiliao). Sun stated that he wanted to present current knowledge about food so that people would first turn to food rather than drugs when suffering from an ailment. 

His chapter contains 154 entries divided into four sections – on fruits, vegetables, cereals, and meat – in which Sun explains the properties of individual foodstuffs with concepts borrowed from the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon: qi, the viscera, and vital essence, as well as correspondences between the Five Phases, the “five flavors” (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, and salty), and the five grains. He also set a large number of “dietary interdictions”, some based on calendrical notions (no water chestnuts in the 7th month), others on purported interactions between foods (no clear wine with horse meat) or between different flavors.

Chinese understandings of the therapeutic effects of food were influential in East Asia. 

Functions of Chinese Medicinal Cuisine

According to its respective functions, medicinal cuisine is classified under four categories: health-protection cuisine, prevention cuisine, healing cuisine and therapeutic cuisine.

  • Health-protection Cuisine: Health-protection refers to the corresponding enhancement of the required nutritious food to maintain organic health. Pumpkin and almond soup can help you lose weight; angelica and carp soup can add beauty; porridge and ginseng can provide more power.
  • Prevention Cuisine: Preventive dishes can ward off potential diseases. Mung bean soup is thought to help prevent heat stroke in summer. Lotus seed, lily, yam, chestnut and pear can help prevent autumn drying and  add a strengthening of resistance to cold in winter.
  • Healing Cuisine: Healing Cuisine is the officinal food that recovers after serious disease. Grilled lamb hearts with rose or braised lamb with angelica will help rebuild a healthy body.
  • Therapeutic Cuisine: Therapeutic Cuisine is tailored to specific pathology. Fried potatoes with vinegar can regulate organs, inhibit hypertension and poria cocos soup can increse the strength of blood plasma albumen to help reduce swelling.

Seasonal Recipes of Chinese Medicinal Cuisine

Chinese believe it’s best to eat seasonal food. In Spring, eat some food that can supply the necessary yang and help to nourish the liver; in Summer, have some food that can cool down the heat a bit such as Tomato and cucumber; in Autumn, take some vegetables and fruits to help your body to transition and stay healthy such as butternut squash soup; in Winter, drink more hot meat soup to with high yang vegetables and herbs to balance the dish. 

Famous Yunnan Medicinal Food

Tianma (Gastrodia Elata) Steamed Chicken

Steam pot chicken is a famous and a typical dishes of Yunnan. Cut the chicken into small pieces after it is cleaned, put chicken, ginger, salt, green onion, amomum tsaoko and tianma (gastrodia elata) into the steam pot. Tianma has a powerful antispasmodic effect on the nervous system, contributes to the recovery of high blood pressure, seizures, spasms, convulsions, dizziness and vertigo.

As the cooking liquor is condensed from steam, very little delicate flavor of chicken is lost in the steaming process, so its natural flavor is basically maintained, the chicken is tender, and the soup is clear and delicious.

Notoginseng Flower Dish

In addition to being used for drinking water as tea, Zhuang people in Wenshan also cook notoginseng flowers into dishes and cook them into “fried frog with notoginseng flower”. The dish looks green and white, the flavor is fresh and fragrant, and the frog meat is tender and fresh. See more about Flower Dishes in Yunnan.

Sanqi (Panax pseudoginseng) Steamed Chicken

Sanqi has long been used by Chinese doctors of ancient and modern times as the primary herb for use in supporting the health of the blood and blood circulation. In recent years, further clinical research by Chinese scientists have demonstrated that, besides the various phytochemical constituents that are similar to those in asian ginseng, Sanqi contains “saponin a” which supports the health of the heart, and “flavonoids” which aid in blood circulation. 

Cold Zheergen

Zheergen is the edible rhizome of Houttuynia cordata with a fresh, spicy, peppery flavour that is used in southwestern Chinese cuisine. Raw consumption as part of cold-tossed salads, when it is most frequently combined with coriander, vinegar, fresh chilli, and soy sauce. It is commonly grown as a leaf vegetable, and is used as a fresh herbal garnish, which has the functions of antibacterial, antiviral, improving immunity and diuretic.

Yunnan Food Culture Travel

For people who are interested in Yunnan food, it is a good choice to take a Yunnan food culture tour, which can help the tourists better understand Yunnan cuisine. Yunnan cuisinealso named as Dian cuisine, is an compound of the cuisines of the Han people and other ethnic groups in Yunnan Province, southwest China. With the largest number of ethnic minority groups, Yunnan cuisine is vastly varied. Many Yunnan dishes are quite spicy, and mushrooms are featured prominently. The ingredient is diverse and rare, like flowers, ferns, algae and some insects. Curious about Yunnan food? Why not start a Yunnan food tour?

Recommended Yunnan Food Culture Tours

Read more about Yunnan Food Tours