Friday, October 26, 2007

Cool Me Down

During the first 10 days of each chemotherapy session, I can feel my body 'heat up' with the drugs inside my system. With the looming threats of mouth ulcers, sore throat, heat pimples on my back and shoulders (all of which I unfortunately and painfully experienced at one go during my first chemo-session), drinking lots of liquid, up to 2 litres (or approximately 8 cups) or more a day is one of the ways to keep those threats abay whilst flushing out all the toxins.

Apart from drinking water and fresh fruit juices, I also love cooking a huge pot of barley water or green bean soup which can be drunk throughout the day. Both barley and green bean (mung bean) are considered to have 'cooling' properties under the Chinese concept of yin (cold) and yang (heat) in food and cooking.

For variety, there are days when I look forward to a bowl of sweet papaya double-boiled with white fungus, candied dates ('mi zao' in Mandarin and 'mut cho' in Cantonese) and a bit of rock sugar, very refreshing - and on top of it, papaya is supposedly good for the complexion (as you can see... vanity is still high in priority!) and has plenty of carotenoids and lycopene! White fungus supposedly also improves skin complexion, relieves ulcers and constipation and dispels body heat. Dates are said to be effective in countering fatigue, anaemia and low energy levels - and that sounds right up my alley!
something cooling
  • Peel one papaya (not too over-ripe) and cut into pieces.
  • Soak one round piece of white fungus (the ones that I bought were about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and one is enough since they expand to more than double their size when soaked and cooked later on) - cut into quarter pieces when softened
  • Boil 8 cups of water in a pot. Add the cut papaya pieces, the soaked white fungus and about 3 candied dates (which is optional) and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes over high heat.
  • Cover and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, and then add some rock sugar (according to taste - usually, I reduce this amount if I'm adding the candied dates). Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Can be served hot or cold.
Another firm favourite is barley cooked with gingko nuts ('bai guo' in Mandarin and 'bak gor' in Cantonese) and dried soya beancurd sticks ('fu zhu' in Mandarin and 'fu chok' in Cantonese, which softens during cooking creating this lovely milky color in the soup) . My preference is to use china barley, which has quite a nice nutty flavor. As mentioned earlier, barley is great for cooling heated constitutions and for those suffering from sore throats. Gingko nuts is reputed to be good for bladder and urinary problems, and should therefore help to cleanse my bladder and kidneys of the toxins that I need to discharge!
barley wonder
  • Wash and rinse a handful of barley (ok, if you really need to be exact - approximately 50g in weight).
  • Clean about 25 to 30 (or more, up to you) shelled gingko nuts (i.e. remove the bitter centre core, a task I find very annoying as I tend to break my nice whole gingko nuts during this process - normally I try to push the core out with a stainless steel cake tester)
  • Cut about 50g beancurd sticks into 2- or 3-inch lengths and soak in water for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Boil 8 cups of water in a pot. Add the rinsed barley, gingko nuts and the soaked beancurd sticks, and bring to a boil for about 15 minutes over high heat.
  • Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, and then add some rock sugar (according to taste). Continue to simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour, by the end of which, the beancurd strips should have softened and broken into tiny soft floating pieces. I prefer to serve this dessert warm.
Hope you enjoy these two simple and common desserts, which from my reading of various cookbooks on traditional Chinese medicine/cuisine seem to suggest good health benefits.

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