THE continuous rain and high humidity from mid-June to early or mid-July in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River is also the season when local plums mature and turn yellow. Therefore, it is called huangmei tian, literally meaning yellow plum season in Chinese.
High temperatures, frequent rain and high humidity epitomize this season.
Apart from generating mold and bacteria, the weather makes people vulnerable to illnesses and makes them irritable since it is difficult for the human body to eliminate the inner heat and moisture.
During the rainy days, temperature in Hangzhou usually stays around 29 degrees Celsius with relative humidity ranging from 80 to 90 percent, far beyond the comfortable environment people are used too — about 22 degrees Celsius and 60 percent relative humidity.
Traditional Chinese medicine says pathogenic heat and dampness invade the human body and cause energy disorders, which in turn lead to discomfort, poor appetite, indigestion and rashes on the face. In this case, drinking flower teas like chrysanthemum, jasmine or osmanthus can help relieve the inner dampness.
Also, the smell of chamomile, mint, lavender and hyssop can help sooth nerves, and relieve the discomfort.
Plain diets with damp-expelling foods like yams, pearl barley, white gourd, white radishes, tomatoes, water shield, waxberry and kelp are recommended.
Below are some of the local recipes that are popular with Hangzhou natives during plum rainy season.
Fried sponge gourd
Being a seasonal vegetable with high water content, ample mineral and vitamins, sponge gourds can prevent sunstrokes and help detoxify inner hazardous substances. They are also popular because they are low in fat and sugar.
It is a natural medicine for coughs. TCM believes coughs are caused by excessive inner dampness in body.
Sponge gourds are ideal ingredients to help remove inner moisture.
Simple fried sponge gourd is easy for people who just started to learn how to cook — just stir fry them with green soybeans and add some seasonings.
Where to eat:
• Luji Restaurant
Address: 252 Nanshan Rd
Tel: (0571) 8716-3929
• Huangting Baochi Restaurant
Address: 221 Tiyuchang Rd
Tel: (0571) 8577-0091
West Lake water shield soup
Aquatic herbs are known for nourishing organs, removing inner heat and improving digestion. They pervade Yangtze River Delta across fields, riverbanks, ponds and lakes. They can be simmered, stewed, fried and steamed with other ingredients.
Water chestnut, lotus root, water celery, Manchurian wild rice, water shield and water caltrop are common in dishes south of the Yangtze River. However, most of them only mature during autumn, while water shield hit the market in April and is available until October.
It is highly valued in TCM because it boosts appetite, soothes headaches and coughs, as well as reduces blood pressure. This plant has bright green leaves and small purple flowers that blossom from June through September. The leaves are edible.
West Lake water shield soup is one of Hangzhou’s signature dishes.
The variety growing in the lake boasts tender leaves and refreshing taste. It is considered one of the best quality types along with those produced from Lichuan County of Hubei Province and Shizhu County of Chongqing Municipality.
It is said that Hangzhou locals savor a bowl of this soup after returning home from travels. In ancient China, water shield was used in poems as a metaphor for nostalgia.
Where to eat:
• Xin Bai Lu Restaurant
Address: 179 Yan’an Rd
Tel: (0571) 8724-5777
• Zhi Wei Guan Restaurant
Address: 10-12 Yanggong Causeway
Tel: (0571) 8797-1913
The best time for picking waxberries has arrived. The crimson to dark purple waxberry fruit is popular with locals.
Usually, people prefer sampling freshly picked fruit rather than preserved plum candy or waxberry wine. However, housewives choose to make summer soups for their families.
Waxberries helps to stimulate appetite, relieve body discomfort and increase saliva, which in turn relieve fatigue during the plum rainy season.
The succulent berries also gets rid of excessive internal heat while not overburdening the body.
A simplified version of the soup can be cooked quickly with sugar, while a more traditional recipe including olive helps relieve indigestion and add fragrance to the soup.
Preserve the waxberries with sugar for minutes, and then simmer them until the juice comes out. Seal the soup and chill it in refrigerator for hours.
• Green Tea Restaurant
Address: 83 Longjing Rd
Tel: (0571) 8788-8022
• Long Tang Li Restaurant
Address: 277 Wulin Rd
Tel: (0571) 8808-6609
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