Yin & Yang in Chinese Cooking

How does the concept of yin and yang relate to food? 

A basic adherence to this philosophy can be found in any Chinese dish, from stir-fried beef with broccoli to sweet and sour pork. There is always a balance in color, flavors, and textures. However, belief in the importance of following the principles of yin and yang in the diet extends further. Certain foods are thought to have yin or cooling properties, while others have warm, yang properties.  The challenge is to consume a diet that contains a healthy balance between the two.  When treating illnesses, an Oriental physician will frequently advise dietary changes in order to restore a healthy balance between the yin and yang in the body.

For example, let's say you're suffering from heartburn, caused by consuming too many spicy (yang) foods.  Instead of antacids, you're likely to take home a prescription for herbal teas to restore the yin forces.   Similarly, coughs or flu are more likely to be treated with dietary changes than antibiotics or cough medicines.

Almost no foodstuff is purely yin or yang ‒ it's more that one characteristic tends to dominate.  This is why there is not complete agreement among experts as to which foods exhibit yin or yang forces.  It also reinforces that it is not so much the individual ingredients, as the the balance and contrast between ingredients in each dish, that is important. Interestingly, cooking methods also have more of a yin or yang property.

 

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