Cooling menu

A long time ago, I decided to study Chinese opera.

I performed of the martial roles–which combines singing and a lot of physical movement. The first time I tried it, I passed out.

Besides that one role, I also learned a lot about the sort of traditions that get carried on in a craft family. One day when my performance just wasn’t up to par, my teacher told me the reason was that I had “excess heat,” a term that I recognized from the two years I had spent translating in the Chinese medicine hospital in Jinan.

Before I knew it, I was sitting shirtless in a chair, covered in bright red oil, and ready for my “scraping.” This consists of taking a dull bone knife, like the back of a comb, and repeatedly scraping the skin. It’s not hard pressure, but go back and forth over the same spot enough times, and you do feel it–kind of like getting a tattoo.

But as oily and painful as my scraping was, it worked–my voice was fixed, and so was my headache and sore throat.

Such is the power of dissipating heat.

With Beijing’s crazy weather, I have felt pretty “heaty” lately, and decided to go all in on a “cooling” dinner. This consisted of some leftover roasted pork tossed in sesame oil and perilla leaves, sweet and sour pickled cabbage, very sour pickled long beans, and a sweetened soup of barley and meng beans cooked with red dates and orange peel, and topped with cocunut milk.

All are typical cooling ingredients. I could also have used fruit like pears or watermelon, or a strong tasting vegetable like bitter melon. But I went with these three, and I have to say–I can’t think of a better summer meal.

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