A Spoonful of Ginger: Irresistible, Health-Giving Recipes From Asian Kitchens
Reviewed by Beth Vlasich Pav, Fri., June 30, 2000
A Spoonful of Ginger: Irresistible, Health-Giving Recipes From Asian Kitchensby Nina Simonds
Knopf, 320 pp., $30
Ever wondered why chicken soup is considered the cure-all for the under-the-weather blues? Or why fresh ginger settles the stomach? In A Spoonful of Ginger, authored by Nina Simonds, you'll find the answers. Simonds, through experience, interviews, and recipes, takes a bold step forward presenting the Asian philosophy of "food being health-giving."
The concept of health-giving foods is centuries old and stems from traditional Chinese medicine. Simonds does a great job of introducing us to this way of eating and living by describing it as an overall holistic approach that emphases listening to your body and feeding it what it needs.
This doesn't mean eating a whole chocolate bar or going to McDonald's. Nor does it mean fulfilling that desired craving instantly. What it means is eating foods that are right for you, make you feel good, and are tasty.
Is this easy to do? Simonds seems to think so. She presents her book in a way that is easy to read and follow. She begins by introducing the yin (cool) and yang (hot) foods, how they work seasonally, and how they apply to each person individually. She supplies you with a seasonal menu guide and foods for the different life passages (i.e., motherhood). There is also a special index for Common Conditions and Ailments like acne, PMS, or stress. But most importantly, Simonds offers 200 recipes that are based on the health-giving philosophy.
The recipes are broken into specific chapters like "Nourishing Soups, Pork, Beef and Lamb," and "The Neutralizers: Rice, Breads, and Noodles." Attached to each chapter are interviews with doctors and colleagues of Simonds who aided her in research for the book. Each recipe page contains side notes that describe a specific ingredient and its application to your health. I look at it as a bonus tidbit of knowledge. The bottom line: If you like Asian food then you'll enjoy the recipes in this book regardless of their health-based nature.
I tested a few different recipes. I was looking for simplicity and found it. Starting with rice porridge known as congee. I simply had to add water to glutinous rice and let it simmer. A few hours later with a few extra ingredients and seasonings, I had a full meal that was hearty, warm, and delicious. Congee is one of those one-pot wonder meals.
Next I cooked wilted greens with a spicy garlic dressing. In my mind, there is nothing more refreshing in the summer than greens. With a little cooking and a dash of spice, they're a perfect accompaniment to meat or fish. Like me, Simonds likes to have greens on their own and she even gives us permission to eat them at room temperature. Easy cooking for a hot Texas summer.
Overall, the recipes are well-organized, easy to read, and are quite simple. Most importantly, they are refreshing and tasty. The only negative is finding some of the unfamiliar Asian ingredients. However, Asian ingredients are more mainstream today. Also, as an Austinite you have several Asian markets from which to choose.
Regardless, A Spoonful of Ginger is a delightful book. Whether you purchase it to learn more about the age-old philosophy of food being health-giving or because you like Asian food, you won't be disappointed. Just by its nature it will make you feel good.
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com