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Mediterranean & Asian Foods & Recipes

Categories: Asian, Cooking tips, Mediterranean

Saffron-4,000+ Years of Medicinal & Culinary Wonder

Categories: Articles


Writings of saffron spices being used as a medicine span over 4000 years and cover over 90 conditions that saffron had been used to treat. Saffron is used as a herb in both eastern and western medicine.

Saffron has been used for a long time in eastern medicine. Saffron is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat conditions such as asthma, coughs, alcoholism, acne, and skin diseases.

Saffron in Unani medicine has been used in the treatment of liver, kidney and urinary infections. Saffron has been used to help cure menstrual disorders in women, to strengthen the heart and also as a coolant for the brain.

Saffron has been used in western medicine. Around 1500 BC saffron is found as having been used for the treatment of kidney disorders. Saffron spice helps to lower the level of blood cholesterol. Compounds within saffron are said to promote anti-viral and anti-bacterial ability of the body. Finally, records dating back to medieval times show saffron was used in anti cancer activities.

These days most people buy saffron for its use as a cooking spice, however it is interesting to see just how many diverse uses this spice has beyond just that of using saffron cooking techniques. It is also of great interest to read about saffron history traversing some 4000 years, many continents and cultures.



Saffron is used extensively in European, North African, and Asian cuisines. Its aroma is described by experts as resembling that of honey, with grassy, hay-like, and metallic notes. Saffron’s taste is like that of hay, but with hints of bitter. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange coloring to items it is soaked with. For these traits saffron is used in baked goods, cheeses, confectioneries, curries, liquors, meat dishes, and soups. Saffron is used in India, Iran, Spain, and other countries as a condiment for rice.

Experienced saffron users often crumble and pre-soak threads for several minutes prior to adding them to their dishes. For example, they may toss threads into water or sherry and leave them to soak for approximately ten minutes. This process extracts the threads’ color and flavor into the liquid phase; powdered saffron does not require this step. Afterward, the soaking solution is added to the hot and cooking dish. This allows even distribution of saffron’s color and flavor throughout a dish, and is important when preparing baked goods or thick sauces.

Saffron is awesome!!! 😀

Medicinal Soups just up the street

Categories: Articles, Soup

Sun Wah BBQ is known in the Chinese and foodie communities for it’s roasted duck and pork delicacies. With their move up the street coinciding with the winter they’ve added some medicinal soups to keep the daring healthy.

Below is their website:

And here’s the article that alerted me of the change:

Asian Pickles

Categories: Articles, Asian

asian pickles

I was on a search for new flavors to add to my diet (and new snacks to have on hand while I study), when I discovered a wealth of information about Asian pickling techniques online. You can find recipes for pickles that are ready in an hour, ready in a couple of days, or that aren’t ready for months. You could salt some thinly sliced daikons and drain off the resulting water, or you could bury some vegetables in the rice bran you fermented on your own kitchen counter. I’m excited to try out some of these techniques, and I thought you might be, too. Here are some websites to get you started. Enjoy!

Chinese pickles:

Japanese pickles made with salt, miso, or rice bran:

pickled radishes:
(check out the other great recipes on this site devoted to making bento box meals)

overnight daikon pickles:

pickled mustard greens:

Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

Categories: Asian, Cookbooks

Here is a review of a book by Fuchsia Dunlop’s latest bok. She details her experiences and has some comments about folk nutritional medicine in the book. What I have read is highly entertaining and insightful into Chinese cooking culture. – Enjoy –

Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoir about a bid to master Chinese cooking, Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper, is also an example of travel writing at its finest, says Paul Levy

Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China

Fuchsia Dunlop

Ebury Press 16.99, pp312

With superlative cookery books on the spicy cuisines of Sichuan and Hunan to her credit, Fuchsia Dunlop has earned the right to pronounce definitively on Chinese food. But her authority was hard won, as we learn from this robustly wrought memoir, destined, I think, to become a classic of travel writing and enough of a guide to the attitudes of ordinary Chinese that it ought to be read by anyone attending the Olympics this year.

Though born into a cosmopolitan Oxford family and educated at the ‘academic hothouse’ of Oxford High and Cambridge, it still seemed odd that Dunlop – whose career started in the BBC, subediting news reports from the Asia-Pacific region – should veer off into the specialised world of Chinese food. Her first real exposure to what is one of the world’s greatest food cultures didn’t occur until 1992, when she went to Hong Kong and Guangzhou. In the latter’s Qingping market she encountered the cages of ‘badgers, cats and tapirs’ that are testimony to the willingness of the southern Chinese to regard most forms of life as potential food.

The next year found her in Taipei, beginning her mastery of the language (she now speaks and understands several dialects). Stopping off on her journey home in Sichuan, Dunlop had her first taste of the local food, with its lip-numbing peppercorns, chilli bean paste, ‘pig’s kidneys cut into frilly, dainty morsels and stir-fried, fast, with celery and pickled chillies’ and ‘buttery, fried “fish-fragrant” aubergines’ – perhaps realising her twin gifts for remembering flavours and having the ability to describe them deftly, elegantly and accurately.

A few months later, she was back in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, because, being ‘on the fringes of Han Chinese China, near the borderlands inhabited by Tibetans, Yi, Qiang’ and other peoples, it was a suitable place to research Chinese policy on ethnic minorities. Here Dunlop had to put up with duplicated HIV tests and warnings about subversive activities, before finally admitting to herself that she wasn’t cut out for her ‘dry academic job’ and that maybe she ought to pursue her fantasy of becoming a professional cook. She became the first – and only – Westerner to be a full-time student at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine and, finding there was more hostility to her sex than to her foreign origins, began the slow business of learning to think like a Chinese.

This is the real burden of her memoir, not that its author would put it so crassly. But at cooking college, she had to overcome her own, very un-Chinese, distaste for using MSG in every dish, master the nuances of the mouth-feel of, for example, slippery and rubbery-textured foods (dried sea cucumbers that resemble ‘fossilised turds’) and learn how ‘to create dazzling fu hei wei [complex flavours]. A well-orchestrated Sichuanese meal ‘will awaken your tastebuds through the judicious use of chilli oil, stimulate your tongue and lips with tingly Sichuan pepper, caress your palate with a spicy sweetness, electrify you with dry fried chillies, soothe you with sweet and sour, calm your spirits with a tonic soup’.

Above all, she had to dispense with her own cultural taboos about eating. Chinese omnivorousness is the real deal – insects, vipers, bears’ paws, chickens’ feet. Her adventures with live caterpillars are not recorded to make her readers squirm, but to help us understand the radically different Chinese view of nutrition.

From Sichuan, Dunlop travels to Chairman Mao’s fiery-food province of Hunan, where she experiences the paranoia and panic induced by the arrival of the Sars virus, which combines scarily with the vestiges of Mao-worship. In the Silk Road town of Kashgar in Xinjiang province, she feels the perilous clash of competing Turkish and Eurasian Islamic influences with Buddhism, Confucianism and China’s version of capitalism. In Yangzhou she begins to feel jaded, until rescued by a splendid dinner, described in that distinctive voice that marks out the very best travel writing and makes many pages of Dunlop worthy of comparison with Norman Lewis and Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Proper Stir Fry Technique

Categories: Asian, Cooking tips

The Proper Stir Fry

June Chua
Apr 3, 2006
When my family moved to Canada from Malaysia, my mother brought on the flight her cast iron wok. The burnished, well-oiled wok has provided our family with hundreds of exquisite Asian dishes from lemongrass crab to simple, crisp fried snow peas. It’s crucial to know how to make a proper stir-fry. The key factors are: heat, cold oil and the right amount of food to stir-fry.

When my family emigrated from Malaysia 30 years ago, my mother brought with her on the flight: a large packet of curry, her blue vinyl recipe book and her cast-iron wok. These were seen as essentials she could not live without in Canada. That wok has given birth to hundreds of sumptuous meals – most memorable is the crab stir-fried with lemongrass, egg and cumin. My mouth waters at the thought of sucking on those crab legs, crisp and savoury from the wok. It’s a sublime pleasure.

As my mother is Cantonese, the wok is a priceless item. It must be well-seasoned enough to provide what her people call “wok hay” flavour. “Hay” meaning breath or energy.


Some important tips to achieve the perfection of heat and ingredients for wok hay. First, make sure the wok is ready to welcome the food:

* Heat the wok until you can feel the warmth radiating from its bottom.
* Toss in a few beads of water and if they evaporate within a beat or two, the wok is ready for oil.
* The best wok hay can be achieved by adding cold oil to a hot wok. The cold oil should do a little jig on the wok and that’s the key to preventing food from sticking to the surface (the real Ancient Chinese Secret!).

Now, that the wok is primed, it’s time for the meat and veg:

* Always stir fry with fresh ingredients, which are uniformly sliced.
* Don’t stir fry more than a large plate of items. An overloaded wok causes ingredients to steam rather than stir fry.
* Let meat sit in the wok at first for 30 seconds to a minute, then toss it around. Make sure the food is evenly distributed.
* If adding any liquids or sauce, drip them down the sides so the internal heat doesn’t drop or you’ll lose your wok hay.

By the way, my mother still has that wok. It’s a family heirloom as far as I’m concerned. That and the blue vinyl recipe book brimming with good eats that have sustained my family for decades.

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