Cinnamon in Traditional Chinese Cuisine

Weijie Wu wrote . . . . . . . . .

This spice generally known as Cinnamomum cassia is used most from the bark of its trees. It is very high in essential oils and has a rich sweet and pungent flavor. Cinnamomum loureiri, another species, is known as Saigon cassia, Saigon Cinnamon, and as Baker”s cinnamon. These are much esteemed in China as are the unripe fruits which are dried and sold as cassia buds there, and throughout Southeast Asia. The yield of the harvest is impacted by the tree death rate which occurs if too much bark is removed.

In ancient China, this spice was considered a truly precious food, and was often selected by the emperor and given to foreign representatives. There is a record of Emperor Hanwu (141 – 87 BCE) doing so when the regions foreign representatives came to see him. He and they knew it was not only a spice, but a important medicine appreciated for its sweetness and its fragrant aroma, and for its ability as a powerful deodorizer, a sterilizer, and as a blood activator.

Cinnamon was designated ‘the number one medicine in China’ first dictionary known as the Shou Wen Jie Zi, the earliest Chinese medicine book, Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it said it was suitable for curing all kinds of diseases and that it should be taken before any other medicine in order to activate human Qi and blood. Only after taking it for that purpose should other medicines be channeled to a person’s sick parts. This extraordinary effect did result in detoxificationn. Lots of stories are in ancient books regarding mortals becoming fairies or gods after they took some cinnamon.

Cinnamon was one of the most essential and domestic spices in early China. The other two were ginger and prickly ash better known as Sichuan peppercorn. The excavation in Mawangdui, the Number One tomb in Changsha in Hunan, is where the earliest record and find of cinnamon occurred.

Zhu Yizum of the Qing Dynasty put cinnamon in first place when he described edible spices in his book, the Shi Xian Hong Mi. There it was written that is should not only be used as a spice, but also for deodorizing, increasing aroma in foods, making them more delicious, contributing to physical health, clearing human blood,, removing people’s cold and wetness, and making their viscera including their intestines and their stomach work well. It was known to aid digestion, increase absorption of nutrients, and increase immunity.

In ancient times, people would intentionally eat some cinnamon before they went to a southern forest. They did so to keep themselves from getting sick. In very hot summer days, they were inclined to drink more cinnamon beverages than usual to ensure their circulation of qi and blood to prevent heatstroke.

Cinnamon bark and ground cinnamon were used in cooking alone and mixed with other spices. In ancient books it was called daiao even though its recipes were different in different places, these differences were, for the most part, seen as regional. In the southwest of China, people tended to add more when mixed with Sichuan peppercorns, which themselves can be called, as already indicated, prickly ash.

In different times and in different places, particularly after the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the population in China did prefer to use imported spices such as nutmeg, pepper, dill, and so forth, nut use of cinnamon did remain high, though somewhat less than before. In almost every recipe in early times, particularly those with meat and fish, there is considerable use of dalio. Most of this bark was ground into powder and then rubbed or twisted into a ball, also made into a pie shape, or used as a paste. They did this often, and after they boiled these grinds.

In ancient times, people also loved to add some cinnamon when making salted foods or fermented ones including when they salted beef or preserved soybeans. Cinnamon wine was known to be fermented soaking cinnamon whole or ground. People in the Song Dynasty were more inclined to produce distiller’s yeast mixing cinnamon with other raw materials, then they fermented the wine after doing that. In the Song years, the book called Bei Shan Jiu Jing recorded thirteen different kinds of this yeast; and six of them did use cinnamon.

Cinnamon wine was fairly popular in the Tang Dynasty and there were many poems regarding it. These can be found in a book called Full Collection of Tang Poems, and there is another with a record of forty-eight thousand such poems written by Pens, Shen, and ten others published in 1705. Many mention or allude to cinnamon.

In the Song Dynasty, cinnamon beverages dominated and were usually brewed or boiled. Various mixtures such as those with smoked plums, cloves, or ginger might be added. At that time, a most popular one was cinnamon syrup. This was a slightly fermented beverage that needed at least three days of fermentation, sometimes even longer.

Meanwhile, other items such as barley, honey, and distiller’s yeast were also added. Such beverages could be found in the liquor stores of those times and consumers liked to add sugar, honey, or salt to them to make them taste better, and they were more popular if chilled. Later, in the Qing Dynasty, people also distilled cinnamon leaves, they gathered the essential oils from the bark, and they dropped a little of ti in other foods and beverages; the purpose to increase their flavor.

Nowadays, the use of cinnamon is not as prevalent as it once was in ancient China. In most cases, it is only used for braising pork in soy sauce. As people spend lots if time indoors, use air-conditioners, and do not have enough exercise, many say it would be very healthy to consume more cinnamon.

Source: Flavor and Fortune

Chinese-style Jellyfish and Chicken Salad


12 oz dried or prepackaged jellyfish
2-3/4 lb chicken
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces and finely shredded
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces and finely shredded
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
3/4 cup cilantro leaves
3 teaspoons sesame seeds


3/4 cup clear rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced


  1. To prepare dried jellyfish, remove from the package, cover with tepid water and soak overnight. Drain, then rinse to remove any sand and sediment. Drain well. Cut into strands using a pair of scissors, then cut any long strands into shorter pieces. If you are using vacuum-packed jellyfish, remove it from the package and rinse.
  2. Rinse the chicken, drain, and remove any fat from the cavity opening and around the neck. Cut off and discard the tail. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chicken and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Cook, covered, for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and plunge into cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and finely shred the meat.
  3. Place the chicken in a large bowl and add the jellyfish, celery, carrot, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and cilantro. Mix well to combine.
  4. To make the dressing, place the vinegar and sugar in a bowl and stir until dissolved. Stir in the ginger and scallions.
  5. Toast the sesame seeds by dry-frying in a pan until brown and popping. Sprinkle the salad with the sesame seeds and serve cold with the dressing on the side.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: The Food of China

In Pictures: Food Ying Jee Club (營致會館) in Hong Kong

Fine Dining Cantonese Cuisine

The 2020 Michelin 2-star Restaurant

Large Study Confirms Vitamin D Does Not Reduce Risk of Depression in Adults

Noah Brown wrote . . . . . . . . .

Vitamin D supplementation does not protect against depression in middle-age or older adulthood according results from one of the largest ever studies of its kind. This is a longstanding question that has likely encouraged some people to take the vitamin.

In this study, however, “There was no significant benefit from the supplement for this purpose. It did not prevent depression or improve mood,” says Olivia I. Okereke, MD, MS, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Psychiatry Department.

Okereke is the lead author of the report and principal investigator of this study, which will be published in JAMA. It included more than 18,000 men and women aged 50 years or older. Half the participants received vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplementation for an average of five years, and the other half received a matching placebo for the same duration.

Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because the skin can naturally create it when exposed to sunlight. Numerous prior studies showed that low blood levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxy vitamin D) were associated with higher risk for depression in later life, but there have been few large-scale randomized trials necessary to determine causation. Now Okereke and her colleagues have delivered what may be the definitive answer to this question.

“One scientific issue is that you actually need a very large number of study participants to tell whether or not a treatment is helping to prevent development of depression,” Okereke explains. “With nearly 20,000 people, our study was statistically powered to address this issue.”

This study, called VITAL-DEP (Depression Endpoint Prevention in the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial), was an ancillary study to VITAL, a randomized clinical trial of cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention among nearly 26,000 people in the US.

From that group, Okereke and her colleagues studied the 18,353 men and women who did not already have any indication of clinical depression to start with, and then tested whether vitamin D3 prevented them from becoming depressed.”

The results were clear. Among the 18,353 randomized participants, the researchers found the risk of depression or clinically relevant depressive symptoms was not significantly different between those receiving active vitamin D3 supplements and those on placebo, and there were no significant differences were seen between treatment groups in mood scores over time.

“It’s not time to throw out your vitamin D yet though, at least not without your doctor’s advice,” says Okereke. Some people take it for reasons other than to elevate mood. “Vitamin D is known to be essential for bone and metabolic health, but randomized trials have cast doubt on many of the other presumed benefits,” said the paper’s senior author, JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The other authors include researchers from the Psychiatry Department at UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and from the VA Boston Healthcare System.”

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Increased Global Mortality Linked to Arsenic Exposure in Rice-based Diets

Rice is the most widely consumed staple food source for a large part of the world’s population. It has now been confirmed that rice can contribute to prolonged low-level arsenic exposure leading to thousands of avoidable premature deaths per year.

Arsenic is well known acute poison, but it can also contribute to health problems, including cancers and cardiovascular diseases, if consumed at even relatively low concentrations over an extended period of time.

Compared to other staple foods, rice tends to concentrate inorganic arsenic. Across the globe, over three billion people consume rice as their major staple and the inorganic arsenic in that rice has been estimated by some to give rise to over 50,000 avoidable premature deaths per year.

A collaborating group of cross-Manchester researchers from The University of Manchester and The University of Salford have published new research exploring the relationship, in England and Wales, between the consumption of rice and cardiovascular diseases caused by arsenic exposure.

Their findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, shows that – once corrected for the major factors known to contribute to cardiovascular disease (for example obesity, smoking, age, lack of income, lack of education) there is a significant association between elevated cardiovascular mortality, recorded at a local authority level, and the consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice.

Professor David Polya from The University of Manchester said: “The type of study undertaken, an ecological study, has many limitations, but is a relatively inexpensive way of determining if there is plausible link between increased consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

“The study suggests that the highest 25% of rice consumers in England and Wales may plausibly be at greater risks of cardiovascular mortality due to inorganic arsenic exposure compared to the lowest 25% of rice consumers.

“The modelled increased risk is around 6% (with a confidence interval for this figure of 2% to 11%). The increased risk modelled might also reflect in part a combination of the susceptibility, behaviours and treatment of those communities in England and Wales with relatively high rice diets.”

While more robust types of study are required to confirm the result, given many of the beneficial effects otherwise of eating rice due to its high fibre content, the research team suggest that rather than avoid eating rice, people could consume rice varieties, such as basmati, and different types like polished rice (rather whole grain rice) which are known to typically have lower inorganic arsenic contents. Other positive behaviours would be to eat a balanced variety of staples, not just predominately rice.

Source: The University of Manchester

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