Safely in Hong Kong

Your faithful correspondent slaving away

Your faithful correspondent slaving away

As those who follow me on Twitter know, MD and I made it safely to Hong Kong.  We have in enormously busy schedule while we’re here, so I’ll put up smaller posts as we go along interspersed with some larger ones as I have time.  As you can see from the above photo, I’m hard at it, ensconced in our hotel room overlooking the harbor with the Hong Kong skyline in the background.  Below is another photo from our hotel room window.  Our hotel (for one night) is on Kowloon across from Hong Kong Island, which is the skyline you see.  Actually, it’s only a small part of the skyline.  Hong Kong is New York on steroids.  An amazing place.

hong-kong-skyline

We flew over on Cathay Pacific business class, which, if you’ve got to make a 15 hour flight, is the only way to go.  Great seats that make into beds, great service and spectacular food.  The only wierd thing about the whole experience is the realization of how seriously the Chinese and the Honk Kong-ese take the swine flu.  All the cabin attendants on the plane wore masks.  We had to fill out a health declaration to enter Hong Kong and another when we got to our hotel.  I would estimate that about a fifth of the people walking around are wearing masks.

But, masked or not, the folks at Cathay Pacific put out some good food.  Good low-carb food, at that.  Below is a photo of my breakfast on the plane.  Lightly scrambled eggs with salmon, terrific wobbly bacon, sausage, broiled tomato and some hash browns (that went uneaten).

Cathay Pacific breakfast

Cathay Pacific breakfast

Last night we ate in a restaurant not too far from our hotel.  We asked our guide (the guy we’re working with who is a Brit, but lives here about half the time) for a traditional restaurant, not a tourist restaurant.  The restaurant he chose was capacious; I would bet there were at least 200 people dining there.  And we were the only non-Asians.

We sat at a large round table with a lazy susan in the middle.  The waiters kept bringing food and putting on the lazy susan; we rotated the dishes and served ourselves from them with chopsticks.  Our host apologized because he said the restaurant wouldn’t be serving rice like we were used to in Chinese restaurants in the US.  He said the notion that people ate a lot of rice over here is not true – at least not in Hong Kong and the parts of China to which he travels often. (Our host doesn’t know what MD and I do – we are here on a totally different matter that has nothing directly to do with low-carbing.)

We had numerous dishes, all of which were some kind of meat.  The favorite of the table was crispy beef, which is shown below.  Absolutely delicious.

hong-kong-crispy-beef

We ate mountains of various kinds of meat and fish and ended up with a giant plate of Peking duck, which we were almost (but not quite) too full  to eat.  During this entire feast, the servers brought only one vegetable dish to the table.  It’s pictured at the right.  Sauteed, not steamed, broccoli. Delicious. Not a single grain of rice did we see.  A few noodles, but not even many of them.  And no bread. And, sadly, no napkins.  There was a box of what we would call facial tissues on the table that we used as napkins.  But that was it. Oh, in looking at the picture above of the crispy beef, I noticed one other vegetable dish that I had forgotten about because I hadn’t photographed it specifically.  It is the Chinese cole slaw to the upper right of the beef.  All cabbage that is tangy, crisp, spicy and delicious.  They must have brought us a dozen of these little dishes of it.

I looked around at as many of the other 200 patrons as I could see from our table and as we walked in and out.  All were eating the same things we were.  Meat, meat, meat. Of the 200 patrons and dozens of servers I saw, there wasn’t a single obese person.  My observation of Hong Kong as a whole is that there aren’t really any obese people here, at least by US standards.  There is some chubby, but not much obese.  At least not that I’ve seen.

We are heading via ferry and car to mainland China today to go to an industrial city with a population of 60 million.  You read that correctly.  60 million.  The factory we are working with is there, and I’m keen to see it.  We will stay there tonight, then be back to Hong Kong tomorrow.

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47 thoughts on “Safely in Hong Kong

  1. Awesome.

    I’ve been to Beijing twice over the past 5 years. My recollection of the diet is mostly the same. There was rice, but not nearly as much rice as people in the US seem to think the Chinese eat.

    There were a ton of meats of every kind imaginable… all the standard meats plus frog stomach, eels, etc. (which were yummy) with lots of vegetables. Most of the starch was in the form of dumping wrappers and bao-ze, honestly. The only place I had bread was in Xi’an. They serve a lot of steamed bread in Xi’an but I didn’t see much in Beijing.

  2. Hi Doc,
    Welcome to Swine Flu paranoia. Australia has it too. Our number of confirmed cases is now doubling every day. As of last night we were up to 50 cases. The NSW government got into trouble in the Court of Public Opinion for allowing a cruise ship to travel on from Sydney to Brisbane after half a dozen cases of Swine Flu were confirmed from passengers. Now there are hundreds of passengers from that voyage who are obliged to stay home in home quaranteen for a week or two, and whom authorities phone every day to make sure they are still chez eux.
    Naturally we are all waiting tonight for the return of the funniest show on TV, the Chaser’s War on Everything, tonight. They already have bilboards across town with this warning:
    http://www.chrisrawlinson.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/swineflu.jpg
    Yeah, at least we can laugh!
    And the tissue thing is common in Sydney Chinese Restaurants! Nice food porn on your blog! Thank you so much, though the pleasure was all yours!
    Michael Richards

  3. I’ll take coach anyday………one of the best flights of my life was coach – Guanzhou to Detroit – 15 hours – with 9.5 hours of it spent holding my sleeping Chinese baby girl! Didn’t so much as stand up once. Not even with the threat of DVT (a sleeping baby was more important at the time).
    travis t
    p.s. my wife and i have been to Guangzhou three times (2000,2003,2006 three chinese daughters). One thing i did notice was you could look for days and days and not see a fat person.

  4. *sigh*…. if only…

    Well, should we expect to see a South East Island Diet book here soon?

    Glad to hear that you guys made it safely.

    Wish you were here.

  5. The “cole slaw” looks like kimchee. Wonderful stuff, it’s traditionally served as a digestive with meat dishes, and it’s quite easy to make. There’s a good recipe in Nourishing Traditions.

    Tastes kind of like kimchee, too.

  6. Sorry I couldn’t get you the name of the restaurant I previously mentioned… I should have taken a picture of the sign, not just the pig 🙂

    Your Cathay Pacific breakfast was more low-carb than the one they served on my flight, but I did overall find that they had much better options than a typical domestic airplane meal.

    My experience in the Hong Kong restaurant was similar to yours; the only thing that makes me wonder if what we both saw is an accurate sampling is that we were told that the average Chinese person (perhaps more mainland than Hong Kong) can’t afford to eat out at restaurants often, if it all, and can’t afford as much meat to cook for their own meals as may be found in restaurant dishes. How true that is, I don’t know.

  7. Hi Dr Eades!

    I just discovered your blog 3 weeks ago but I visit 2-3 times a day! For the easily read, very enlightened content ^^ This is actually the first comment on I’ve posted on any blog.

    This piece of internet real estate is that good, IMHO.

    Just wanted to put in, in case you have to buy packed food, and don’t know mandarin/cantonese, might find these chars useful:
    碳水化合物 = carbohydrate (the longest one in the nutritional facts. Fat is “油脂” and protein is “蛋白質”)
    糖 = sugar (pronounced “tang”, pronounced similar to “tongue?”) <– you can ask if something has sugar by saying something like “yo tongue(?) ma”. “yo” means there is and “may yo” means none
    淀粉 = corn starch

    Hope your trip finds you well!

    -Rej

  8. I wonder about the population figures. You say it’s a city of 60 million, and I’m sure their literature/propaganda says that, but according to Wikipedia, the largest metro area is Shanghai, with only 18m. Even the supposed largest of the four major municipalities, Chongqing, only claims 30m. And further inquiry about that city indicates that population of the city proper is somewhere between 4 & 8m… I get the feeling that either the Chinese don’t have a good grasp on how many people are in any one area (lots of migration probably makes it difficult to get good data) or there is some deliberate obfuscation.

    Still, when you’re there, the sheer number of apartment towers is staggering, no matter what the actual figures are.

    The city is called Zhuhai and it is a conglomeration of the cities Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan.

  9. I blame you… When I read your post yesterday,I thought to myself that you guys sure travel a lot. Then for some strange reason the word travelin’ replaced the word ramblin’. And I’ve been paraprashing the Allman brothers ever since. I’m sure they would not be pleased.

    I can’t get it out of my head.

    Brian

  10. sounds like you avoided the white hazmat suit treatment… my wife has some pics of those guys from her trip, it was very bizarre.

    while you’re there, could you tell those folks to stop exporting their pollution to our shores? I remember a documentary on PBS talking about increased pollution levels detected on the US Northwest coast, that turned out to be coming all the way from China.

    If I were you, I’d say screw the low carb thing for a bit and enjoy some dumplings!

  11. interesting that The China Study by Campbell did not cover areas like Hong Kong. Another case of scientific bias?

  12. Paul Krugman had a great take on Hong Kong today, along the same lines as yours!

    “I’m in Hong Kong right now; as always, I’m just awed by the way the city looks. And this time I think I’ve figured out why it’s so appealing. Hong Kong, with its incredible cluster of tall buildings stacked up the slope of a mountain, is the way the future was supposed to look. The future — the way I learned it from science-fiction movies — was supposed to be Manhattan squared: vertical, modernistic, art decoish. What the future mainly ended up looking like instead was Atlanta — sprawl, sprawl, and even more sprawl, a landscape of boxy malls and McMansions. Bo-ring. So for a little while I get to visit the 1950s version of the 21st century. Yay! But where are the flying cars?”

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/the-future-is-not-what-it-used-to-be/

    Ah, Krugman. One of my favorites. Of him it should be said as Holmes said to Watson: “You see, but you don’t observe.”

    The free market, minimal regulation and low taxes are what have allowed Hong Kong to achieve its measure of grandeur that Krugman so appreciates. But these are the very things he fights so hard against in his own country.

  13. so true..i’ve been to china several times and also noticed that there is hardly any rice being served. same as when i’m in italy…pasta is a small portion of the meal, it’s mostly fish/meat and vegetables.

    safe travels…

  14. This is why I love your blog so much. I come for the lo-carb and get this wonderful travelogue. I was looking forward to the pics on this trip and you haven’t disappointed me. I do the same thing on trips…I look to see how many fat people there are.

  15. Based on my own travels, plus what I’ve read, seen on TV, or heard from other travelers, I think what Americans consider to be the ethnic cuisines of other countries is actually quite different from what people in those countries actually eat. I suspect restauranteurs who open ethnic restaurants in the States often modify what they serve to appeal to American tastes, and when a lot of Americans travel, they look for places that cater to western tourists, so they have no idea what people where they are visiting actually eat. I always feel better in an ethnic restaurant locally if I see a number of customers of that nationality in the restaurant–it probably means the cooking is closer to what that cuisine is like in the mother country.

  16. Oh! I am so hungry now! : D Enjoy your very busy adventure, when you can!

    I have been thinking about what an overwhelm the comments and reply tweets (I keep wanting to call them twits!) have been to you. My deep thought is: you are being too hard on yourself! I don’t think anyone would reasonably expect you to even reply to comments or replytweets – when you do, I consider it a fabulous treat. Consider that!

  17. I’m curious: were there sweet sauces on those low carb Chinese Dishes you ate, doc?

    Some were a little sweet, but nothing compared to how sweet the same dishes would be in the US. Some of the meat dishes were breaded as well, so it wasn’t a completely low-carb feast, but it also wasn’t laden with rice as it would’ve been at home.

  18. Upon reading this, I thought….

    Hong Kong has a strong free market, so the economy and people prosper and when people become prosperous they seem to ditch the filler foods (such as rice) and revert to a more paleolithic diet.

    In contrast, when you look at the socialized economies in Asia (world), for many people the diet has more rice than meat and often not enough of that. Mainland China has the second highest prevalence of diabetes in the world. (India is first, the U.S. third!)

    It shows clearly how people prefer meat to grains when they can afford it, and also what kind of modern economy (liberty) makes it possible for people to afford it.

    It resonates with the data presented by Taubes indicating that obesity and malnourishment go hand in hand.

    Don

  19. If you’re going to an electronics factory be aware that manufacturers who send designs to China, at least for microphones, have found their circuits, board layouts with part number and all, inside another “manufacturers” product down the way. Well, mic reviewers have found this and told the makers, who were horrified. My husband found this while reviewing a microphone for an audio industry rag. He took the thing apart and sure enough, it was a pirated design right down the logo.

    Intellectual property is an issue, it is real and while I’m sure you’re aware of it I have actually seen it. Will you have assurance that whatever is built there will not find its way into a similar product sold by someone else?

    If you choose not to approve this comment that’s just as well. Frankly, it’s not something most of your readers will give a Rat’s Patoot about. However, quality control in China is another issue, as described by a friend of mine who has toured the factories there. He describes the model as “agricultural.”

    There is no guarantee that this won’t happen to us, but we’re taking steps to prevent it. Plus we don’t have an electronic gizmo, so it’s not so much of a worry.

  20. What about the sauces on the meat? Were they sweet and thickened? In North American Chinese restaurants, even if you avoid the rice and noodles, it is hard to eat low carb due to sugar and thickeners in everything. And I don’t mean the dreadful sweet and sour stuff – the horrible red goop on mall chinese food. But even restaurants where some Chinese people go.

    Slightly thickened and sweetened, but not nearly to the extent they are in the US.

  21. Yum, yum, that chinese cole slaw looks a lot like and probably tastes like Korean kim chee which is a common food here in Hawaii. Thanks for those photos and have a good trip.

  22. Jon,

    Deliberate obfuscation.

    We will never know how many babies died as a result of poisoned baby food. Thousands? Millions? There is no way of knowing. With a city of ’60 million’, it would hardly be a drop in the bucket and hey, they are overcrowded anyway, right?? So what’s the big deal?

    We do know that at least 4,000 dog owners had their hearts ripped out when they helplessly watched their healthy dogs go into irreversible renal failure and die within 3 weeks. This is not anecdotal. These are documented (by veterinarians, of which I am one) cases due to poisoning. How many more were not documented?? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would say the number should be doubled. Due to what? ‘High quality’ dog food imported from China. Oh gee. They made a ‘mistake’. Not likely. They just filled out the batch with industrial waste and hoped nobody would notice.

    Luckily, not all areas of the country were hit, but my area was. I had to give a much larger than normal number of dogs (and cats) an ‘easy way out’. I reported my cases. Many vets I know around here did not.

    Dr. Eades: Please tell us you aren’t part of one of their commercial ‘food processing’ concerns.

    Keeping it anonymous for paranoid reasons.

    We are not involved in any food processing functions. In fact, we aren’t doing anything with food at all.

  23. What’s under the crispy beef? Is that iceberg lettuce? Cabbage? Were the meat dishes usually served on top of veggies in place of rice?

    The meat was virtually always served over some kind of vegetable. Never over a starch.

  24. On our last visit to Shanghai, my wife and I lunched with my godmother, who has Type 2 diabetes. She noted our (at least to my family) odd habit of not eating the rice provided and added somewhat wistfully that she was forbidden to eat rice – doctor’s orders.

    Seems Chinese doctors have a leg up on Western docs in that they have no question as to where the diabetes problem comes from – insulin.

  25. Dear Dr Eades
    I am enjoying your travel diary – I feel ‘homesick’ as I read it, as I love that area of the world, despite the dust, dirt, pollution and press of people.

    “The city is called Zhuhai and it is a conglomeration of the cities Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Dongguan”

    In the interests of accuracy – Zhuhai (Pearl Sea) is a separate city in Guangdong province. It certainly isn’t contiguous to Shenzhen ( Special Economic Zone), Guangzhou (old Canton) or Dongguang (see here for map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_prefecture-level_divisions_of_China#Guangdong)

    In my experience (and I have visited my relatives-in-law in Zengcheng county, south Guangdong, quite a few times in the past 25 years), even in poorer villages the diet centres around fish and shellfish from the village fishpond or market, vegetables from peoples’ gardens (often grown on the roofs of the 3-5 storey houses, eggs and meat from the hens scratching around everywhere, and meat and fruit from the village market.

    Pigs are still kept, but not in the numbers they were in the 80s. Rice, sugar cane and peanuts used to be the staple cash crops then, but now bananas and vegetables are grown in their place.

    South China, particularly the Pearl River Delta, has become prosperous through industrialisation, and the county of Zengcheng is where 2 million pairs of jeans are made each day, so it is now home to many migrant workers.

    The former peasant farmers have become landlords and managers (although it’s not as simple an arrangement as that sounds), and the migrants do the farming and the jeans finishing.

    I didn’t actually visit Zhuhai, but I was given the information I presented by one of the guys we’re working with who is a Brit who has an office in the area and visits multiple times each year.

  26. Oh – and the cabbage dish is a pickle, to be eaten as a condiment or appetiser. Chinese cuisines offer a large variety of pickled vegetables, but Cantonese generelly prefer the fresh and clear taste of dishes without too many ingredients or heavy sauces.

  27. Oh how I miss Hong Kong! I went there about 3 years ago and had the time of my life! I stayed at the main land Shangra-La and was blessed to have the AMAZING Cafe Too 2 floors below me… and three floors below me, a gigantic Mall! You are so right about Hong Kong being on steroids! I think it’s on MORE than just that! ha ha! I wish I could go back soon!
    I also took Cathay Pacific over – First & Business Class – and I do remember not really complaining about the food too much (I eat very low carb) – the servers were able to modify my meal as much as possible which is pretty impressive since we were on an airplane!
    Anywho – Enjoy your stay!!!

  28. Dr. Eades, do you have an opinion on the HCG method of fat loss? Thank you, Chris.

    At least five double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have shown it HCG doesn’t work any better than placebo.

  29. Quote (KD):

    Yes, I’m concerned that Dr Mike on his travels will get a skewed picture of what people living in China do. In China (and Japan, and many other places, I imagine), when people go out they eat different things from what they eat at home. My interpretation of Chinese people’s perception is that you eat healthy, balanced meals at home (based around rice and vegetables, which are pretty abundant in Canton), and then you eat special meals when you go out. That usually means lots of meat. The general belief is that that is not healthy because it’s too yang (Cantonese people would say “yeet”). People who think yin-yang theory is mumbo-jumbo will probably laugh at me, but that is my major stumbling block to “converting” to high protein/high fat. (I’ve been reading the blog for a few months, and have been convinced at least that the standard model of basing the diet around grains has lots of questions surrounding it, but not totally that high protein/high fat is the answer.)

    Dr Mike, if you have any colleagues who have been trained in Chinese medicine but also have some background in western medicine or biochemistry, I’m hoping that one day you’ll have some in-depth conversations with them and let us know what came of them.

    Quote (Don Matesz):

    I never knew that. Depending on when that tendency began, the standard interpretation would be that it’s a disease springing from the recent comparative affluence. When I lived in China in the 1980’s, Coke was very hard to find, while now, at least in cities, it’s available everywhere. China has fairly recent memories of extreme poverty, which has given rise to the sentiment that fat=wealthy=healthy, which I believe is grappling with traditional notions of health and balance. Thus, I think it would be easy to argue that increasing diabetes is linked to the move away from rice and vegetables and towards more meat, more processed foods, more sugar (and perhaps more sedentary lifestyles in some quarters). And it’s difficult to determine which of those is more significant unless you’ve already made up your mind that meat is good (or that meat is bad, or that sugar is bad…).

  30. Dr Mike, is there any correlation in your opinion between fat accumulation in certain area and insulin rssitance. I, for example, tend to accumulate most of my weight in my lower body, which I despise. As a man thats the least I would like my fat to be ther, but I was recently told by my cardiologist its actually safer for the heart. I was never a meat person at all and most of my life craved carbs, but I know for sure low carb is the only way for me to lose weight or maintain it. I am now convinced beyond reasonable doubt. So low carb it is for me for the rest of the journey. I am still eating mostly fish, cottage cheese, veg and frozen berries. Not so much meat. Why do some men like me accumulate fat in lower area, is there any correlation with carb intolerance or insulin resistance. I know my testosterone is absolutely fine but I still hate the fact my body loves to store fat where it doesnt belong, in my opinion!

    The only real correlation is between visceral fat and insulin resistance. Lower body fat is primarily subcutaneous fat, which hasn’t been shown to be correlated with IR.

  31. @Rick

    I hold a Master of Science in Oriental medicine, an acupuncture license in Arizona (#562, look it up online if you like) and NCCAOM certification in Oriental medicine including herbal medicine. If balancing yin and yang is your concern, on a low carb diet you have meat (yang) and non-starchy vegetables (yin) — you don’t have to throw in the filler foods to “balance” heating and cooling types of foods.

    Personally, I’ve never seen anyone overheated from eating a meat-based diet, but I’ve seen plenty of people with blood and yang deficiency from vegetarian or low meat diets. I don’t think you can get “too yang” (i.e. overheated, too dry, too active) by eating a meat-based diet.

    The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine), thought to originate around 300 B.C.E., contains the following passage:

    “In ancient times, people lived simply. They hunted, fished, and were with nature all day. When the weather cooled, they became active to fend off the cold. When the weather heated up in summer, they retreated to cool places. Internally, their emotions were calm and peaceful, and they were without excessive desires. Externally, they did not have the stress of today. They lived without greed and desire, close to nature. They maintained jing shen nei suo, or inner peace and concentration of mind and spirit. This prevented pathogens from invading. Therefore they did not need herbs to treat their internal state, nor did they need acupuncture to treat the exterior. When they did contract disease they simply guided properly the emotions and spirit and redirected the energy flow, using the method of zhu yuo to heal the condition.”

    So it is clear that Chinese Physicians have long known a) that their ancestors were hunters (notice that they didn’t mention gathering plants), and b) that those ancestors were healthier than the agricultural Chinese. A highly developed medical system like Chinese medicine only arises in a population that has lots of unhealthy people.

    Further, if you go back into Taoist roots of Chinese medicine, you find that the Taoists very well understood that agriculture caused a decline in health (as well as liberty). Early Taoists clearly taught that eating grains fed “grain worms” that destroyed health. Early Taoism taught “bi gu” — avoid grains. [Read Taoist Body by Kristofer Schipper, an ordained Taoist priest.]

    Regarding diabetes, it has a very long history in China, and Chinese physicians knew long ago to treat it with carbohydrate restriction. Diabetes was identified by urine analysis at least as early as 700 CE in China, whereas it was not identified by European physicians until 1660 CE. [See Temple R. (1986) The Genius of China: 3,000 years of science, discovery, and invention. London: Prion Books Ltd.]

    In his book Old and New Tried and Tested Prescriptions (circa 700 C.E.), Chinese physician Chen Ch’uan provides the first written description of three forms of diabetes and notes that the urine of diabetics contains sugar. Li Hsuan correctly explained that cereal foods supply “precursors of sweetness” while cakes and sweetmeats “all very soon turn to sweetness.” The famed physician Sun Ssu-Mo in about 655 wrote his book A Thousand Golden Remedies, in which he stated that to cure diabetic conditions, “three things must be renounced, wine, sex, and eating salted, starchy cereal products; if this regimen can be observed, cure may follow without drugs.” [See Temple R. (1986) The Genius of China: 3,000 years of science, discovery, and invention. London: Prion Books Ltd.]

    BTW, Sun Ssu-Mo also enjoys fame for having lived 101 years (581-682 CE)—he qualifies as one of the longest lived of famous Chinese physicians, despite having lived in the sixth century.

    So diabetes has been a major health problem in China for at least 1300 years, and famous Chinese physicians knew how to cure it by cutting the sugar and starch, including cereals. Unfortunately most of this knowledge has been ignored in “mainstream” Chinese medicine for a long time, especially since it got “standardized” under Mao Tze Tung’s iron hand.

    Don

  32. @ Rick again

    I want to add that the common Chinese person’s understanding of Chinese medical concepts probably is about as good as the common American’s understanding of Western medical concepts, i.e. not so good and without critical thinking. Also, most Chinese physicians, like most Western physicians, just believe what they are taught so there is a lot of crud spouted in Chinese medicine just as in Western medicine.

    For example, the typical Cantonese might view all meat as yang (heating, drying), but a well educated Chinese medicine practitioner knows that Chinese nutritionists have determined that beef, duck, goose, beef liver, and pork all have a neutral thermal effect (neither too heating nor cooling), not hot, and every single one of those also nourishes the yin (i.e., has a moistening effect). So based on these concepts, you can eat all the beef and pork you like and never get overheated and too dry (the meaning of “too yang”).

    Eggs and most dairy products (milk, cheese, cream) have a neutral thermal effect, and all nourish the fluids. Eggs are considered so good for nourishing yin (the moistening, cooling and material stuff of the body) that they are ingredients in the strongest of the herbal formulas Chinese herbalists use for nourishing yin (basically, for countering malnutrition). Butter is considered warm, and yogurt cool.

    Most fish also have a neutral thermal effect, and shellfish have cooling effects.

    Of commonly consumed foods, only chicken, turkey, and ham have warm thermal natures, and lamb gets classified as hot in Chinese medical nutrition textbooks.

    In contrast, cayenne, garlic, black pepper, chili, mustard, cinnamon, and ginger are all considered hot, and many other herbs (such as cumin, clove, rosemary, parsley, basil, bay, fennel, and caraway) are all classified as hot. And not one of these has the property of nourishing the yin (matter and moisture) of the body. So according to Chinese medical concepts, there are more extremely yang plant foods than extremely yang animal foods, and these are the ones that can cause imbalance and to avoid if you’re concerned with getting “too yang.”

    Again, this illustrates how the typical Cantonese has only a rudimentary and error-ridden understanding of Chinese medical nutrition concepts.

    Don

  33. When I wrote:

    “Of commonly consumed foods, only chicken, turkey, and ham have warm thermal natures, and lamb gets classified as hot in Chinese medical nutrition textbooks.”

    I meant “of commonly consumed animal foods.”

    Don

  34. Dr Robert Furchgott had passed away few days ago. I have never met or spoken to him but have seen few times. He was regarded as a noble giant by anyone who knew him. Have you known him personally Dr Mike. His discovery of nitric on blood vessels won him a nobel prize. I am not very familiar with his work further than that.

    On another note I have come to experience an intresting experiment.My friend’s persian cat was getting fat and lazy. She didnt know what to do about it. I asked her what she was feeding the cat. She showed me the dry food she was feeding her. The first few ingredients were corn meal, soy and chicken by product whtever that means. But most of the ingredients were grains. Where do you see cats eating corn and brown rice in nature? But my friend was insistant that it was all healthy for her sicne she was liking it so much. I suggested that she started feeding the cat some canned food and primarily meat only as its supposed to be. She did and in a few weeks the cat is more playful and energetic and seems to be getting less lazy. Shocking! Damn, even cats are addicted to carbs which are not natural to them! Those eveil carbs!

  35. Vadim,

    Not that you are going to see this post.. But cats are OBLIGATE carnivores, so your instincts there were spot-on. The reason that carbohydrates are included in cat (and dog) foods is that they are cheap. Period. It has long been known that dogs can survive very well, thank you very much, on meat, providing it includes some organ meat as well as hair, bones and the ‘rest oft he story’.

    All dogs will much grass and it is largely to help them with transit through the digestion process. They don’t have the enzymes necessary (cats? Even worse!) to break down any sort of cellulose laden vegetable, so when they feed cats/dogs these things they are only salving their own idea of what is ‘good for you’.

    I’ve been long scared of feeding ‘bones’, but there are a lot of folks who feed raw chicken wings as a staple part of their dog’s (cats) diet with kidney/heart/liver thrown in for whatever sort of benefit they have.

    Remember that these animals evolved to eat most of the animal they have killed. Wolves do take down large elk and other large animals, but for a lot of the year many wolves subsist on a diet of only small ‘vermin’, such as mice. Bite. Swallow . The fur doesn’t digest either, but it winds itself into the bones so that the intestines are safely transited – we have coyote scat in our (long winding) entry to the ranch every few days, and it is full of hair, primarily rabbit, little bone shards are also cast, but wrapped firmly in the hair.

    Long story, but a particular gripe of mine, given my love of dogs (and SOME cats). But whatever can be said of dog’s diet, is triply true of cats. All that carbohydrate in their foods cannot be a good thing, because it is readily digestable they do absorb it, but to ill effects if you ask me.

    My dogs have been eating ‘low carb’ for over 25 years, and I rarely see anything other than old age creep up on them… My vet used to be a skeptic, but he has changed his tune the last 10 years or so given my dogs and several of his other client’s dogs as well.

    Oh one more thing: My dogs do NOT have ‘doggie odor’, ever. Their coats are sleek and clean, and they are quite healthy with only the usual damage from living in rough country and rocketing around after game and frisbees!

    Cheers, Dr. Mike – hope your trip was fun and not too exhausting. Sorry this was so off topic, but as I said, it is MY hot button… If WE evolved to eat ‘low carb’, what in the world are we doing feeding our pet carnivores junk carbs?

    Wallflower

  36. @Don Matesz
    Thanks so much for explaining all this. What you said about meats was pretty much the opposite of what I imagined: i.e. I would have thought chicken was less warming than beef or pork or goose. (Though I know about lamb being warming, and imagine that horse is similar.)
    Your phrase “Chinese nutritionists have determined that beef, duck, goose, beef liver, and pork all have a neutral thermal effect” seems to imply that there’s some easily measurable physical or chemical correlate of yin-yang. Is that assumption correct? If so, it offers a lot of hope for integrating Chinese medicine with western.
    Perhaps I’m veering too far afield here, but I note that two of the plant foods you list as too hot (cinnamon & ginger) are ones that have come to be highly praised in western medical science, and are classified as antioxidants. Is that coincidence or does that concept fit into the theory somewhere? (And what about turmeric?)
    Are there any books that deal with these matters in a way that doesn’t ignore western science? Do you have a blog?

  37. @ Rick

    “Your phrase …seems to imply that there’s some easily measurable physical or chemical correlate of yin-yang. Is that assumption correct? If so, it offers a lot of hope for integrating Chinese medicine with western.”

    Not correct. This way of categorizing foods (hot-warm-neutral-cool-cold) occurs, to my knowledge, in all “primitive” cultures, and is far from an exact science. Some Chinese researchers have suggested that pro-oxidation equals yang, and anti-oxidation equals yin, but this does not pan out correctly.

    We determine a food’s thermal effect by direct experience…that is, when you eat it, do you feel warmer or cooler or no change; and, how does it feel to the tongue/mouth?

    In some cases, we can find in the food (e.g. cayenne) some compound(s) that exert the thermal effect (e.g. capsaicin), in others (e.g. lamb), to my knowledge, we have not identified any single chemical that makes it heating. In all cases we are actually dealing with the effect of the whole food, not just one component. I think most people can “intuitively” sense that e.g. watermelon is cold, based on experience that eating watermelon feels really satisfying when the body feels hot. This is where Chinese science, medicine and nutrition differ from the reductionistic trend of Western sciences. Chinese thought focuses on the direct sensory experience and the context of the experience for information, whereas Western medicine tries to isolate a single chemical responsible for an action.

    Regarding cinnamon and ginger, they exemplify why we have difficulty identifying direct correlations between yin-yang and western categories like “antioxidant.” Since oxidation resembles burning, you might think an antioxidant “quenches fire” so would be classified as yin. But in direct experience cinnamon and ginger feel hot, generate circulation, etc, so Chinese science classifies them as hot. Again, Chinese science deals with wholes (ginger), not parts (e.g. only the antioxidant capacity).

    I don’t know of any book accessible to the layman that deals with these nutrition topics with any attempt to integrate them with Western science. The Dao of Chinese Medicine: Understanding an Ancient Healing Art by Donald Edward Kendall does discuss the scientific basis of Chinese medicine but is really suited only to practitioners.

    I do have a blog; clicking on my name takes you to it.

    Don

  38. I’m a bit late – I didn’t know the Drs Eades were in Hong Kong which I where I live. But…

    A belated welcome to Hong Kong, Drs Eades!

    Although Dr Eades says he didn’t see many obese Hong Kong people, I can say that over the twenty-some years I have lived here the numbers of overweight have really risen. Back in the 1980s it was rare to see an obese people. But nowadays it’s very common. And we have tourists coming from the Mainland who are also very obese.

    And Dr Eades is correct about rice eating. It isn’t eaten as much – or in such large quantites – as people might think. If eaten, it is in a quite small bowl that fits in a cupped hand. But folks do like their noodles and wonton.

    Glad you enjoyed the food!

  39. Thanks, Don, for pointing out what should have been obvious as regards clicking on your name! Thanks also for the tip about the Kendall book. I’ve just read the quite generous selection of pages that Amazon provides, and have learned that much of what I “know” about Chinese medicine may be a product of mistranslations from centuries ago. The book seems eminently readable, so I’ve gone right ahead and ordered it.

  40. I moved to Hong Kong from Canada 3 years ago, and believe me, HK people eat a LOT of rice. And noodles, and bread/pastries. If you stay in the wealthier areas, you will see less of it. But get into middle-class Kowloon and the eastern side of the island, and you will have a better idea of what the general population is like.

    I see obese people every day. Of course, obese Asians are typically smaller than obese Westerners, due to smaller frames, but there are still plenty of them. Most men over 40 have the bulbous abdominal obesity that you often see with carb junkies.

    And if you eat in a middle-class or budget restaurant, EVERYTHING is based on rice or noodles, with a side of meat. Vegetables are extremely rare. When I go out, I try to order the dishes with the most meat, and order a side of veggies (they are usually served steamed or sauteed). Occasionally, the waitress is unaware of the fact that they even serve veggies by themselves. One time at a ‘cha chan teng’ (HK style western cafe), a waitress displayed a shocking look on her face when we asked for vegetables! She couldn’t believe that we didn’t just want to order huge piles of fried noodles or rice!

    I’m sorry, but if you think HK (and China) people do not eat large amounts of rice, you have a skewed perspective, perhaps based on only going to fancy expensive restaurants where they serve dozens of tiny dishes. Go to a normal, every-day restaurant, and you will see people eating piles (literally, piled onto their plates) of fried rice, fried noodles, or huge bowls of noodles in soup.

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  42. Hong Kong also has some pretty good snacks, the most famous among ethnic Chinese tourists being a sweet pastry known as Sweetheart Cakes (老婆餅 lo po peng) and the most famous shop selling this is Hang Heung (恒香), located at Yuen Long (元朗) in the New Territories, though there are branches located throughout all of Hong Kong.

    For those who wish to eat Hong Kong’s famous seafood, there are different locations in Hong Kong’s coastal areas where freshly caught seafood is cooked and served. Places like Sai Kung, Po Doi O, Lei Yu Mun, Lau Fau Shan are good places to find restaurants specialized in seafood. These restaurants have different tanks to keep the seafood alive and will present live seafood specimens to their patrons for them to choose before cooking. Raw fish, known as yee sang (魚生) in Hong Kong, is a relatively popular dish and is prepared differently from Japanese sashimi.

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