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Yin and Yang in Chinese Cooking

When people talk about a balanced diet in the West, the food pyramid will pop up in their minds but to the Chinese, eating a balanced meal means using an even combination of yin and yang ingredients and cooking methods. The concept of yin and yang has been an important part of Chinese culture since ancient time and is applied to everyday life from home decorations to cooking. The Chinese believe a harmonious and healthy life is achieved by complementing and contrasting the yin and the yang elements, failing to do so will bring about conflict and illnesses.

The imbalance of yin and yang can be corrected by supplementing the deficient element. For example, those dominated by yang should try to avoid ‘yang food’ and consume more food with the opposite property i.e. yin and vice versa. Therefore, it is important to know the “properties” of oneself and of food in order to create a balance. Environment and diet influence one’s property while ingredients and cooking methods used dictate the balance of a Chinese meal.

Yin represents dark, feminine, damp, mild, and cool elements. Symptoms of someone in excess of yin include dizziness, paleness, tiredness, weakness, diarrhea, fear of cold weather and stomach upset. In summer, when weather is warm, more yin foods should be added to meal to get rid of the “heatiness” and “dryness” in the body. It is no surprise that people in South China lean more toward yin food. Ingredients that belong to yin or ‘cooling’ element are bean sprouts, cucumber, bok choy, watercress, winter melon, watermelon, bitter melon, coconut, tofu, celery, oranges, pears, rock sugar, oyster, bamboo shoots, lotus, soybean, mung beans, and etc. Steaming, poaching and boiling are yin cooking methods.

Yang, on the other hand, represents bright, masculine, dry, strong and heaty elements. Predominance of yang causes indigestion, pimples, feeling hot, sore throat, constipation, high blood pressure, nose bleed and fever. More hot and spicy food (yang) are eaten when weather is cold especially in northern China, to offset the yin element (weather) because as mentioned before, the environment changes one’s property. Ginger, chocolates, onion, garlic, chili pepper, red meats, chicken, turkey, crab, shrimps, peanuts, mango, longan, brown sugar, pineapple and etc are ingredients that are classified as having yang or “heaty” property. Yang cooking methods include deep-frying, stir frying, grilling and roasting.




 
   

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Last Modified: 11/28/11.