Summer Eats in Shanghai

When we think summer in Shanghai, we think sunlight and air conditioning, but we also think heat. In traditional Chinese medicine, this is the season of the fire element - the expansive yang heat, moving outward, growing, and characterized by brightness and activity.  All of this hot energy calls for cooling, and in summer cooling foods should be at the forefront of our meal plan. Salads (both vegetable and fruit) make perfect sense here, with vegetables like cucumber being perfectly suited to offset the summer heat. The cooling fruits like melons also bring with them an unusually large amount of water, helping us stay hydrated in the high temperatures. Cold soups and fruit smoothies also make good sense during summer. The addition of fish or tofu chunks to a cooling summer salad will help maintain protein supplies during the active summer months.

A few meals each week that keep our own fire element well tended to should also be considered. Fresh peppers (like cayenne pepper) are abundant during this season, as are fresh ginger and horseradish root. Dotting our menu with some of these spicier seasonings would be a way to preserve our own fire element in this season of fire.

The bright, light and heat of summer is pretty much the opposite of stagnation and sluggishness. Summer is not the time for heavy foods that bog us down. Heavy meat consumption, whole milk and dairy consumption, egg consumption, and fried foods do not make sense here. Lighter foods are the key - especially leafy greens, fruits, and grilled fish (if you need that meat protein). We should also remember the mint teas, like spearmint or peppermint. These fresh mint leaves can also make wonderful cooking additions to salads or soups.