Probiotic food is all the rage at the moment. In food and health magazines, blogs and newspapers, everywhere you turn there are articles singing the praises of tempeh, or extolling the benefit of kombucha in keeping our digestive systems healthy. Television commercials advertise the miraculous power of yogurt whose live cultures keep us all regular. Even sauerkraut and kimchi have been enlisted to manage the balance of bio functions in our gastrointestinal tracts. So are there probiotic foods in Chinese cooking?
As it turns out there are plenty of them and the Chinese have known about these beneficial effect for millenniums. Probiotic foods are products of natural processes that result from beneficial yeast and bacteria breaking down our foods. These organisms are believed to be valuable in human digestive systems. I recently chatted with my friend Peter D’Aquino, an acupuncturist and Asian herbal medicine specialist, about the Chinese philosophy of food therapy. Something Peter said piqued my interest. He said, “The Chinese rarely if ever consume foods that have not been cooked or naturally processed.” It was something I never paid much attention to but it’s true, I did not grow up eating lots of salad or raw foods. Peter went on to illustrate how soy fermentation, meat curing and vegetable pickling really are just a few ways of naturally preprocessing foods before consuming them. He likened the pickling jar to our stomachs and the pickling process to the beginning of the digestive process. What a revelation that was.
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