The Wheel Of Nature Livens Up

Summer Cooling

The wheel of nature livens up:
In summer time, there is a proliferation of activities.
Our hearts take the lead in regulating Qi energy and nutrition in tune with a season of liveliness.
After what seems like the winter of eternity, summer is finally upon us. In this season of growth and proliferation, the Yang energy that lies in our hearts resonates with the yang energy of early summer where nature is in the full blossom.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that our hearts belong to the fire element (Five-element view of health) and governs the Yang energy in our bodies. The heart plays a governing function in the circulation of the blood and pulse. When there is abundance of Yang Qi in the heart, the flow of Yin within veins will be smooth. Such that a proper harmonized pulse gives rosy complexion and warm extremities.
The heart is also seen by TCM as governor of our spirits. A calm and healthy heart strengthens our other organs and cultivate a sense of peace. Indeed, the best relief on a hot summer day is a still mind.

In Early Summer

Depending on your body constitution, frequent consumption of cooling seasonal harvests like mung beans, winter melon, lychee and lotus leaves could help in clearing the effects of summer-heat, eradicate dampness in your body and reduce the burden of your heart.

In Midsummer

By mid summer, the growth spur has reached its peak. Nature enters the transformation stage by nourishing our body and Qi energy. This is where our spleen comes in; our spleens govern the transformation, absorption of essence and Qi from the nutrients we consume. Through the process of metabolism of nutrients we consumed and energy transformation, the spleen helps to ensure the vitality of the body.

While the heat from the early summer Yang energy gradually dissipates and we are still exposed to a hot and wet environment. In TCM, dampness is a Yin disposition and tends to accumulates in the lower part of our body and creates a blockage for the yang energy.
To relieve the uncomfortable dampness and heat, consume warm and cooked food items that helps with the raising of Yang energy. Bitter gourds, winter melon, cucumber and bean curds, mung bean helps to reduce summer heat. For clearing dampness, consume some water melon, azuki beans and barley while Chinese chives, eggplant, lychee, longan, mango and peach can help with raising of Yang energy. Recommended Infusion: San Hua Three Flower Tisane (Cooling Yin recipe).

Read more about the five-element theory in traditional Chinese medicine and achieving your Yin and Yang balance

The study of Traditional Chinese Medicines believes that it is good to eat foods that are lighter, simpler and if you can bear it, bitter. Ingredients such as duck and bitter gourd helps to lower the ‘fire’ in our body and allow us to enjoy summer better. Here are a couple of recipes for you to try in this season.
Traditionally around September 8, the solar calendar point termed ‘White Dew’, Chinese families start making rice wine. This slightly sweet beverage is used to warm the body and to add its delicious flavour in chicken dishes and soups. It is also commonly used to add to the sweet soup that accompanies mochi rice balls. I use the “Shanghai Brewer’s Balls”. They are inexpensive and can be found in Chinatown in London.
A speciality of Shaoxing and an ancient Huaiyang dish (recorded by the gastronome Yuan Mei in his “Dishes From Sui’s Residence” (Sui Yuan Shi Dan 随园食单) published in 1752, Qing Dynasty). The only liquid used in this dish is Chinese wine.
Historically, this dish is steamed for 9 hours till the meat falls off the bone as the preferred variety tend to be the tougher and more mature ducks. However, for the tenderer and younger ducks that we can get in the UK, I think 2-3 hours would be sufficient.
1 duck, lean, free-range
5 stalks spring onions
thumb size ginger, sliced
200-300 ml shaoxing wine
15 gram dry shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water
10 gram Chinese Jinhua ham or dry-cured bacon
1 tbsp salt

  • Cut the duck into 10 pieces including the wings. Thoroughly wash the pieces. Soak them in cold water for 5 mins. Change the water and soak for another 5 mins.
  • Do this two more times.
  • Add half the ginger, spring onions and shaoxing wine into the duck and massage to get the flavour in.
  • Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Very quickly blanch the duck pieces.
  • Quarter the shitake mushroom and slice the Jinhua ham.
  • In a deep heatproof dish, layer the remaining ginger and spring onion. Put the duck pieces on top. Then top with the ham and mushrooms.
  • Pour enough shaoxing wine to barely cover the duck. Steam for 2-3 hours till duck meat falls off the bone.

The umami-packed salted duck egg yolk and the bitterness of bitter gourds makes this dish particularly savoury and delicious! (what is umami?) You can also add prawns to the stir fry but do make a good prawn stock from the prawn heads and shells for this dish. Sometimes, my mother would use hen’s egg but would rely on a good prawn stock for the umami.
1 bitter gourd, plump, medium sized
2 salted duck eggs
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp shaoxing wine
1 tbsp cooking oil

  • Hard Boil the salted duck eggs as you would any egg. Shelled the eggs, separate the oily yolks and the whites. Chop into pieces.
  • Cut the bitter gourd lengthwise and remove the seeds like you would with a cucumber. Slice the bitter gourd into 0.5 cm slices.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the bitter gourd slices for 30 seconds to remove some of the bitterness.
  • In a frying pan or wok, heat the garlic and oil. Add the egg yolks and shaoxing wine, and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add the egg white, sugar and the blanched bitter gourd slices and fry for 3-4 mins till the bitter gourd is soft.
  • Add some water or prawn stock to make a light sauce. Serve hot.

Bitter Gourd with Salted Duck Egg
9-Hour Steamed Duck
Here are a few seasonal produce you can enjoy during summer.



There is a Chinese saying, Eat ginger in summer, chestnuts in autumn, mooli in winter and plums in spring. Ginger helps to stimulate our appetite especially in a hot and humid summer. As well as having anti-inflammatory properties, ginger helps to relieve heatiness and wetness in our bodies.

Bitter gourd

Bitter gourd (aka Bitter Melon or Momordica Charantia) is one of those unusual vegetables that once you get the hang of it, you will be addicted. It is Yin in nature and its coolness can go straight to the four of the five organs (heart, liver, spleen, lung). Hence it is highly recommended by TCM for the hot season. Bitter melon has a bitter taste but it will never pass its bitterness to the other ingredients in the same dish, that is why it is very elegantly called the “gentleman vegetable”. The bitter glycoside can stimulate our appetites and strengthen our spleens. It is also slightly diuretic, helps to improve blood circulation, is anti-inflammatory, clears the heart and brightens the eyes. Bitter melon contains a lot of vitamin C which can improve the body’s immune function. It can be used in a stir-fry, or in consommé. I also like to eat it raw with a touch of honey.


In the fiery heat of summer, it is important to nourish our lungs and spleen. Duck is Yin in nature and can help expel heat. It replenishes our Qi energy and relieves excess wetness and bloatedness in our body. TCM also believes that it alleviates coughing and phlegm.

Here are a few acupuncture points you can give some TLCs for a more comfortable summer.
The acupuncture point in the middle of your armpits is called ‘ji quan’. It is one of the many acupuncture points regulating the Qi and blood circulation in your liver. It’s used to calm the fiery Qi energy in your heart.

  • First raise your left hand, palm facing up, to just above shoulder level. Using your right fingers, tap the middle of your left armpit 20-30 times.
  • Then do the same for the right armpit with your left hand.
  • Repeat 3-5 sets.


  • Sit comfortably on a chair, feet placed lightly on the ground.
  • Cup your hands and with your palms lightly tap the back of both knees.
  • Cupping your hand during tapping creates a gentle ‘gush’ of air and vibration on to the acupuncture point on the insides of your knee.
  • Tap 100-200 times.