Cover image for A spoonful of ginger : irresistible, health-giving recipes from Asian kitchens
A spoonful of ginger : irresistible, health-giving recipes from Asian kitchens
Simonds, Nina.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [publisher not identified], [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 320 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX724.5.A1 S56 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From Nina Simonds, the best-selling authority on Chinese cooking, here is a groundbreaking cookbook based on the Asian philosophy of food as health-giving. The 200 delectable recipes she offers not only taste superb but also have specific healing properties according to the accumulated wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine. The emphasis is on what's good for you, not bad for you. It's primarily a question of balance: eating in harmony with the seasons; countering yin, or cooling, foods (spinach, tomatoes, asparagus, lettuce, seafood) with yang, or hot, foods (ginger, garlic, hot peppers, beef) and neutralizers like rice and noodles. Feeling tired? Ms. Simonds offers a spoonful of ginger in her hearty chicken soup. A cold coming on? Try Cantonese-Style Tofu (to sweat out the cold) in Black Bean Sauce (healing to the lungs and digestion). Your immune system needs building up? Wild mushrooms (a cancer deterrent) are tossed with soba noodles (a stress reliever). Concerned about cholesterol and clogged arteries? Instead of giving up all the foods you love, indulge in Yin-Yang Shrimp with Hawthorn Dipping Sauce. Whatever your health concerns may be, you will find the right restorative and satisfying recipes. Babies and toddlers have special needs, as do adolescents, pregnant and menopausal women, the aging--and all of these are addressed with specific recommendations. The wealth of information Nina Simonds offers here derives from her extensive research into the evidence amassed over three thousand years by practitioners of Chinese medicine, and from her interviews with leading experts today in food as medicine, who offer their firsthand testimony. It is all here in this remarkable book. But, above all, it is the range of dishes, from the exotic to the earthy, that will convince you that you can enjoy marvelous food every day--relishing its good taste and knowing it is good for you.

Author Notes

Nina Simonds has lived, studied, and traveled throughout Southeast Asia. For the past twenty-five years she has taught cooking classes across the United States and in mainland China. A regular contributor to Gourmet, Cooking Light, and Self magazines, she lives in Salem, Massachusetts.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Diverging from what she believes is the Western tendency to regard food as the "enemy," Asian food authority Simonds (Classic Chinese Cuisine; Asian Noodles) has compiled a cookbook espousing the Asian holistic philosophy of food as a "nurturing, benevolent friend that maintains and restores health." Simonds describes the Chinese holistic approach to food and eating as one that is in sync with the seasons, matched to individual body type and specific developmental periods (infancy through mature adulthood). She also explains how the key concepts of yin and yang are applied to achieve dietary balance and harmony. Divided into soups, seafoods, poultry, meats, vegetables and "neutralizers" (rice, breads and noodles), each of the 200 recipes contains purported therapeutic properties based on traditional Chinese medicine: Spicy Garlic Lobster is recommended for impotence and improving appetite, and Red-Cooked Lamb with Sweet Potatoes will help with general weakness and anemia. Engaging anecdotes and sidebars spoon-feed nuggets of Chinese holistic wisdom (for example, ginger is believed to rid the body of toxins, and duck dishes are prescribed to alleviate dizziness from hypertension). The last three chapters are devoted specifically to "food as medicine," including immune system-fortifiers tofu and soybeans, therapeutic sweet soups (Steamed Asian Pears with Honey and Almonds, for sore throats) and constitutional tonics (Lotus Root Cooler, for detoxifying the liver). Prescribing recipes for wellness in easily palatable prose, Simonds offers a well-researched and practical guide to holistic cooking (and eating) with sensuous, Eastern flair. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Simonds has been in love with Asian food since her first visit to China more than 25 years ago. Shes the author of numerous books on the topic, including China Express (LJ 11/15/93), but this is her most ambitious work to date. Simonds describes the Chinese holistic approach to health, with its emphasis on balance, and points out that we Westerners tend to be obsessed with what foods are not good for us rather than taking a holistic approach and focusing on what is good for us. Food should be in harmony with the seasons, argues Simonds, and it should taste good. To this end, she includes 200 delicious, healthful recipes inspired by a variety of Asian cuisines, from Roasted Malaysian Cornish Hens to Grilled Scallops in a Fresh Cilantro Dressing. Sidebar notes describe the health-giving benefits attributed to various dishes and ingredients; readable chapter introductions provide more background information. Interest in Asian medicine and therapiesincluding food as medicinehas been growing in recent years, but Simondss new book should appeal to anyone who likes Asian, and especially Chinese, food. Highly recommended. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Briefly outlining some basic principles of Chinese medicine, a tradition that has long used foods for therapeutic purposes, Simonds introduces readers to the ways in which foods and their own bodies relate to such concepts as yin and yang, seasons, and life passages. Some 200 tempting recipes for a variety of dishes (and, in the last chapter, tonics) are reasonably simple and clearly explained, and use ingredients that are, for the most part, readily available. Each one is accompanied by notes on its healthful properties; readers can also refer to a brief list of common ailments and a thorough index to find individual recipes for health purposes. While most dishes appear to be derived from Chinese cuisine, a few come from other Asian traditions. The book is attractively designed and generously illustrated with photos; scattered throughout are sidebars that describe different sorts of chiles or soybeans and their by-products, and offer anecdotes about Asian cooks and healers with whom Simonds has worked. This is a very positive and useful approach for teens interested in health, alternative medicine, or just good cooking. It presents a highly attractive alternative to dieting.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



I was seated in front of Mr. Li Lian Xing, a Chinese herbalist who was trying to diagnose my malady. I complained that I had no appetite and that I was constantly cold. He checked the pulse of my right hand; it was weak and slow. He inspected my tongue and noticed that it was pale and slightly white. He made his diagnosis. "You are too yin," he solemnly pronounced, and prescribed an order of baked lamb with Chinese wolfberries and a pot of "double-boiled" chicken soup (two yang dishes). This was no ordinary herbalist's office, although I was surrounded by Chinese herbs. We were seated at the front of the Imperial Herbal restaurant in Singapore, where Mr. Li is the resident herbalist. From the day it first opened five years ago, the Imperial Herbal has drawn praise from its local and international clientele for its masterful marriage of herbs and Chinese haute cuisine. And Mr. Li has acquired a devoted following of customers who come to the restaurant for treatment. I had come to be treated for a minor ailment and to sample the legendary food. The idea of treating illness and disease with food and herbs is not new to Asians: Different foods have long been prescribed and eaten as a form of preventative therapy. Ginger is believed to stimulate the stomach and intestines. It is also reputed to have warming properties. Bean curd, or tofu, is eaten to increase body energy, produce fluids, and lubricate the system. It is said to have yin, or cooling properties. Disease occurs, Chinese doctors believe, when there is an imbalance in the system. All foods are classified as yin, yang, or neutral, depending on their effect on the body. Yin foods have a calming effect, while too much yang can trigger hyperactivity. Generally, yang foods--which include eggs, fatty meats, and pungent spices--are strong, rich, and spicy, while yin foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, and many types of seafood, are bitter, salty, and light. Neutral foods, such as rice, peanuts, and bread, provide balance. At first glance, the menu of the Imperial Herbal looks like that of any other Chinese restaurant. The offerings include braised cod with spicy sauce, sautéed chili prawns with walnuts, and orange-peel beef. Then you notice the little notes on the menu next to the dishes' names. The cod--so the menu informs you--is cooked with dang shen and huang qi, two Chinese herbs that increase body energy and aid digestion. The walnuts, which garnish the chile prawns, are believed to strengthen the kidneys and nourish the brain. The orange peel with the beef inhibits coughing and the orange pith is beneficial to the lungs. For many years, Chinese herbal cuisine has been confined to the home kitchen, and the dishes have tended to be hearty, unrefined, and bitter-tasting. Some Cantonese restaurants, however, have offered delicacies that are relished for their flavor and pharmacological benefits. For instance, shark's fin is believed to maintain youth, while abalone soothes the lungs and improves eyesight. The Imperial Herbal restaurant offers dishes that are both delicious and beneficial. It is the brainchild of Mrs. Wang-Lee Tee Eng, a forty-one-year old Singaporean businesswoman, who visited an herbal restaurant in China in the mid-1980s and became fascinated with the concept. She was determined to refine herbal dishes and elevate them to haute cuisine, broadening their appeal. She brought in from northern China two gold- medal master chefs and an herbalist. Mrs. Wang felt that with today's pressing concerns about health and the widespread appreciation for fine food, a marriage between a Chinese doctor and a master chef was a natural. The menu has broadened and diversified greatly since the restaurant first opened. The chefs not only create their own specialties but also adapt classic dishes to make them even healthier: Beggar's Chicken--an eastern specialty where a whole chicken is first stuffed and wrapped in a lotus leaf, then surrounded by clay and baked for several hours before the clay is cracked open at the table--is embellished further with the addition of four yin herbs and four yang herbs to reinforce blood and energy. Laquered Peking Duck is served with paper- thin homemade Mandarin pancakes enriched with a flavorless herb that reduces cholesterol. The list of soups is especially impressive: Double-boiled Soft-Shell River Turtle Soup is a yin energy tonic that, according to the menu, strengthens the body's immune system and helps to prevent cancer. Chicken Soup with Wolfberry promotes blood circulation, and Fresh-Water Fish with American Ginseng promotes the energy to offset fatigue and "shortness of breath." Soups, according to Mrs. Wang, are a vital and important way of dispensing herbs and tonics, second only to teas. "Traditionally, Asians adore soups, and when we are making herbal tonics one of the most popular cooking methods is "double-boiling," where the soup is steamed inside a container so that the broth is very clear and intense. It's the most effective way of extracting the pure essence of the herb into the soup," she tells me. One of the most spectacular soups, which has become a house specialty, is "Buddha Jumping over the Wall." It is a clear soup with many types of seafood, fresh and dried, poached in a "superior" stock, a rich broth made with chicken and pork bones and seasoned with scallions and ginger. Customers are equally enthusiastic about the Turtle Soup. It is believed to be especially good for the immune system and it's excellent for strengthening qi, or energy. The restaurant also makes a special crocodile meat soup that's excellent for asthma. Exotic or mundane, humble or pretentious, soups are guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding palate. The following chapter offers a varied selection of refined, homespun, and tonic soups. Clear-Steamed Chicken Soup with Ginger Clear-steaming, otherwise known as double-boiling, is a simple technique used by Chinese cooks where a food is cooked slowly within a closed container. The result is a very clear, intense broth. 1 whole chicken, about 3 to 31/2 pounds Soup Broth 6 cups boiling water 13/4 cups rice wine, preferably Shaoxing wine (available at Asian markets) 10 whole scallions, ends trimmed and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife 10 slices fresh ginger, the size of a quarter, smashed with the flat side of a knife 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1.     Remove any fat from the cavity opening and around the neck of the chicken. Rinse lightly and drain. Using a heavy knife or a cleaver, cut the chicken, through the bones, into 10 to 12 pieces. Heat 2 quarts water until boiling and blanch the chicken pieces for 1 minute after the water reaches a boil to clean them. Drain the chicken, discarding the water, then rinse in cold water and drain again. 2.     Place the chicken pieces and the Soup Broth ingredients in a heatproof pot or 2-quart soufflé dish. Cover tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and place on a steamer tray or small rack. Fill a wok with enough water to just reach the bottom of the steamer tray or rack and heat until boiling. Place the food on the steamer tray or rack over the boiling water, cover, and steam 2 hours over high heat, replacing the boiling water in the wok as necessary. Alternatively, you may steam the soup in the oven: Preheat the oven to 425 degreesF. Place the ingredients in a Dutch oven or casserole with a lid and, before putting on the cover, wrap the top tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil; then cover. Place the pot in a lasagna pan or a casserole and fill with 11/2 inches boiling water. Bake for 2 hours, replenishing the boiling water as necessary. 3.     Skim the top of the broth to remove any impurities and fat. Add the salt. Remove the ginger and scallions, ladle the soup and pieces of the chicken into serving bowls, and serve. To reheat and retain a clear broth, steam or bake in a closed pot for 10 to 15 minutes, or until piping hot. Miso Chicken Soup with Snow Peas and Tofu Miso soup has always been one of my favorites; it is so soothing and satisfying. Here I offer a variation of the most traditional recipe, using a chicken broth as the base rather than the classic dashi (bonito tuna stock). Shredded chicken, tofu, and snow peas round out the flavor, making it a meal in itself. 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, trimmed of fat 12 cups water 8 slices fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife 1/2 to 2/3 cup medium-colored miso (chu miso or shinsu ichi miso), or to taste 1 pound firm tofu, cut into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick and 11/2 inches long 3/4 pound snow or snap peas, ends snapped and veiny strings removed 3 tablespoons minced scallion greens 1.     Cut the chicken through the bones into 10 to 12 pieces. Put the chicken pieces, water, and ginger in a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer and cook about 11/2 hours, skimming the broth to remove any impurities. Remove the chicken pieces and let them cool. Remove the ginger slices and discard. Skim the broth to remove any fat. Scoop out 1/2 cup broth and reserve it. 2.     Using your hands or a knife, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut or shred the meat into thin, julienne shreds. Add the chicken shreds to the skimmed broth. In a small bowl mix the reserved chicken broth with the miso paste and stir until smooth. 3.     Add the tofu slices and snow peas to the soup and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the miso mixture, and stir to blend. Heat the soup until near boiling; then ladle it into serving bowls. Sprinkle the top of each bowl with some minced scallion greens and serve. Excerpted from A Spoonful of Ginger: Irresistible, Health-Giving Recipes from Asian Kitchens by Nina Simonds, Han-Zhu Simonds All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 3
Nourishing Soupsp. 23
Seafoodp. 55
Poultry: Chicken and Duckp. 95
Pork, Beef, and Lambp. 131
Vegetables: Stir-Fries, Pickles, and Saladsp. 155
Soybeans and Tofup. 193
The Neutralizers: Rice, Breads, and Noodlesp. 217
Sweet Flavorsp. 253
The Kitchen Clinic and Herbal Tonicsp. 283
Bibliographyp. 301
Indexp. 305