immune system

Bitter Melon juice with Ginger, Honey and Lemon

The basic recipe for bitter melon or bitter gourd juice:

  • 2-3 small spiky bitter melon cleaned, halved remove sponge with seeds and pith or 1 medium-large smooth bitter melon
  • honey and lemon juice to taste
  • water

In some cooking and juicing recipes you can use the whole vegetable only removing the ends and chopped, the seeds are edible but work on your digestive system, a known side effect is a gastrointestinal discomfort.

Drinking bitter Melon juice plain mixed with a little bit of water is common, but it gets more palatable by adding ginger, lemon/lime juice and honey. For more recipes click here.

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Bitter Melon Juice with Ginger, honey and lemon

 

Bitter gourd stir fry egg mix preserved & salted

Bitter gourd is very popular vegetable throughout South-East Asian cuisines, you will find this Asian vegetable in soups, stews, stir-fry dishes and healthy juice drinks. Bitter gourd aka Bitter Melon (or Bitter squash) is now widely available in Asian supermarkets and shops.

This uneven textured green vegetable is good for one’s health. Drinking bitter gourd juice is a great way to detox your body, while regularly eating bitter gourd as a part of your daily diet is known to prevent skin ailments and aids a glowing skin. It contains a lots of vitamins ad nutrients and is especially highly beneficial for diabetics for lowering down their blood sugar levels. The bitter taste boosts the immune system and while there is no accounting for taste, you are definitely into Asian food if you serve, cook and eat Bitter gourd often.

Cut in halve, remove seed & pith

Cut in halve, remove seed & pith

Cleaning Bitter Gourd

The secret of appreciating bitter gourd is to make sure you clean the bitter gourd well;

  1. Slice the gourd in half and scrape out all the seeds with membranes and pith (white sponge), leaving only a thin layer of white 2-3mm to the green skin of the bitter gourd and cut in thin slices.
  2. Or cut cylindrical and carefully clean by hollowing and removing the insides out for stuffing and further preparation.
  3. Parboil the remaining flesh (especially with larger cuts) to mellow its strong flavor for a few minutes only, then prepare for casseroles, stir-fries, stews or soups.

With young and smaller bitter gourds I skip parboiling but make sure I clean them well and season during stir-frying, to ensure that bitterness turns into a pleasant flavor adding to the final dish.

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From left to right: Salted Duck eggs, Chicken eggs, Preserved eggs

Various eggs

  • Century eggs 皮蛋 pídàn is a Chinese delicacy, preserved duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime and rice hulls. The traditional method of processing time depends on the method and may take several week up to several months. At present a simplified approach of soaking the eggs in a chemical bath for 10 days speeds up the aging process while wrapped in plastic. We buy both interchanging century eggs wrapped in rice hulls or in plastic packs for convenience, it can be cooked and often used in cold dishes as salads too.
  • Salted duck eggs 咸鸭蛋 xián yā dàn or 咸蛋 xián dàn (salted eggs) is another typical Chinese food preserve made by soaking the duck eggs in brine or in damp salted charcoal. You do not see them often anymore, eggs covered in a thick layer of salted charcoal paste, mostly they are wrapped in plastic containers or vacuum packed. We often eat them as a side dish with congee (rice porridge) or as an ingredient in baking, rice dumplings or stir-fry dishes. You need to cook salted duck eggs before further preparation in cooking or baking.
  • Eggs are a common staple food and one of the most versatile ingredients used in cooking. The most commonly used bird eggs are chicken, duck, goose. In more refined gourmet dishes the two opposites in egg sizes, quail eggs or ostrich eggs may be used.

Bitter gourd stir fry egg mix preserved & salted

While stir fried bitter gourd with eggs is a common dish found in many local South-East Asian cuisines, the origin of this dish is infused by leftover rather than a particular native dish  since we have eaten many bitter gourd egg stir fry versions. The ingredients are more or less the same the used seasonings may differ by locality and cook. A simpler version will be linked here soon.

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Sliced bitter gourd, three eggs mix and chopped garlic

Scroll down for this recipe as shown in the image.

 

Note: a word of caution while bitter gourd is highly nutritious, the vegetable should not be eaten or given to allergy sufferers, pregnant women and young children:

  • If you happen to be allergic for melons such as honeydew and cantaloupe (cucurbitaceae plants aka gourd family) you better avoid preparing or eating bitter melon.
  • For pregnant women the vegetable contains laxative component which may cause premature contraction and lead to miscarriages. Contact your doctor first.
  • For very young children, since the plant insulin is very effective in keeping blood sugar levels down it might cause the child sugar levels to drop.
  • For diabetes, you can add bitter melon to your diet but MUST check you blood sugar level and consult your doctor if in treatment with sugar medication, because bitter melon can cause your blood sugar levels fall dramatically if consumed too excessively.

Chamomile GouQi Zi Tea – MY CUP 茶馆

As a child we grew up with all kinds of herbal infused stew concoctions as food, drinking medicinal herbal tea’s made of leaves, root and spices to invigorate and/or recuperate bodily functions and boost immune system. Lighter infusions such as tisane for alleviation or purification for cold, headache, stomach upset, bowel stimulation and other minor or chronic ailments. The later better known as Chinese detox teas are a popular medicinal category tisanes.

Chamomile GouQi Zi Tea 

I just prepared Chamomile (Camomile) GouQi Tea, an infusion (of dried herbs, fruit blends) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects also known as Tisane. Today I am drinking it as to rejuvenate myself and enjoying its fragrance and beauty of flowers and berries in my cup.

Camomile with GouQi

Camomile with GouQi

Tisanes are infusions that don’t contain true tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis). They are made from flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of other plants. In the World of Tea all “true tea’s” leaves stem from the plant Camellia Sinensis. 

We do call many herbal and fruit brews “tea’s”,  a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking tea leaves or herbs in liquid known as infusions or Tisane. The process of extracting certain active properties as with Tisanes are characterized or indicated by ingredients of plants parts, either the flower, leaves, flower, root, bark, seed and spices.

Very well known are Chamomile, Mint, Lavender and ginger infusions. These are single used plant parts, but often tisanes are made from multiple parts of the same plant or blends of several plant types and can be classified as medicinal.

While some tisanes have long histories of medicinal use, the well known infusions (e.g. Mint as refreshing and Lavender as a natural sleep aid) are popular consumed for enjoyment and relaxation. In Asia especially China, Chinese Traditional Medicine Tea’s are daily consumed as a part of lifestyle and for their medicinal effects and benefits since many recipes and/or blends are high in antioxidants and nutrients.

Camomile GouQi Zi Wellness Tea

Camomile GouQi Zi Wellness Tea

Chamomile flower

There are two types of chamomile commonly used for teas, the “true” chamomile, or German chamomile, Matricaria recutita, which is most widely used and Roman chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile.

Chamomile medicinal benefits; boost the immune system, to help relaxing sleep aid, treatment for fevers, colds, stomach ailments, and as anti-septic an anti-inflammatory. As a child suffering bronchitis I was prescribed to use as a vapor it alleviates cold symptoms and asthma. Because of its medicinal properties and best known for its calming and soothing qualities, it is wonderful to sip just to ease away stress and discomfort.

In Chinese Chamomile tea 洋甘菊茶 Yánggānjú chá, to make a cup of Chamomile tea it’s important to use water that is very hot but not boiling because boiling water can destroy the therapeutic properties of the Chamomile herb. For more info on organic Chinese Chamomile Tea read full text here.

Known side effects of chamomile: “Like any supplement or herbal product, talk to your doctor before adding chamomile supplements to your diet. Potential interactions include: aspirin, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, sedatives and any blood thinning medication (Coumadin, Plavix, Pradaxa, aspirin, Lovenox). Chamomile has the potential to interact with other supplements”.

Chinese GouQi Zi 枸杞子

GouQi Zi 枸杞子 also called GoJi or wolfberries, is hugely important and popular herb used throughout Chinese cuisine, yields a number of health benefits used in Chinese traditional medicine. The Chinese Wolfberry is one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits around and has anti-aging properties, for greater benefit it is often used in combination with other herbs. GouQi Zi – GoJi berries have an orange-reddish color, the dried berries have a similar shape and chewy texture as raisins with a slight sweet -sour note giving a mild tangy aftertaste.

Modern research confirms Gou Qi Zi’s jack-of-all-trades status by demonstrating positive effects on the immune and cardiovascular systems, including an anti-neoplastic effect against cancer cells.  So every time they trot out a new ancient “superfood” from the jungles of some exotic land to squash into some overpriced mega-ultra-power-bomb-health-drink, inform yourself thoroughly before splashing out the cash. For home made remedies just add few berries to your infusion, soups or stews cheap and cheerful, as for inspiration search for Chinese herbal medicine recipes.

As for the benefits of medicinal health tonics, for Westerners who are not familiar with Chinese medicines in general I would strongly suggest to visit a TCM doctor first before starting to experiment on yourself as a guinea pig. Herbal medicines have health benefits and side effects, if not properly used or wrong administration of herbal medicine causing danger to health.

Especially marketeers popularizing GoJi drinks and teas have not your health but high turnover as their objective, caution is needed as in consuming large quantities and possible drug interactions. “Too much of a good thing, can make you sick, it is Balance that matters most”.

For first time buyers in Europe I would recommend to visit qualified TCM practice, Chinese herbal medicine shops or Chinese Supermarkets rather than local Health Food stores. Health food stores purchases the product based on promising marketing information without proper knowledge yet of medicinal properties and uses. You can read more about GouQi Zi medicinal qualities and other Chinese herbs in English here for information.