Traditional Chinese medicine states that excessive heat, aside from discomfort and fatigue, also can affect the normal performance of the stomach and lead to indigestion.
So while Shanghai’s record-breaking heat wave this summer may sap your appetite, desserts and other cool foods can be a delightful way to help beat the heat.
Traditional Chinese medical theory explains the maladjustment to the weather as an imbalance of yin (“cold”) and yang (“warm”) energy flow in human bodies, upset by unusual temperature and humidity, and in need of being restored to their inner harmony.
Many of these symptoms can be relieved with delicious and innovative desserts that contain traditional Chinese herbs and other ingredients that are recommended for summer.
Other desserts, both Chinese and Western, might not be classified as having the same beneficial effects on health, but the colorful, tempting and fruity delights can help cool off the eyes and the rest of the body.
Sour plum soup, or suan mei tang (酸梅汤), is a recipe that has helped Chinese fight summer fatigue for hundreds of years — it is recorded in many ancient novels as a common summer drink.
Plums are great for increasing saliva and improving the appetite. It also helps clean waste from the blood, increase metabolism and absorb vitamins, which in turn serve to relieve fatigue.
A simplified version of sour plum soup can be cooked quickly with plums, honey and sugar, while a more traditional recipe includes more ingredients such as hawthorn fruit, which helps relieve indigestion; cinnamon sticks, which protect the stomach and enrich flavor; orange peel, which smooths energy flow and relieves pathogenic humidity; and sweet olive, which adds fragrance to the soup.
Watermelon and desserts containing watermelon are highly recommended too, as the fruit quickly hydrates the body, reduces internal heat and expels toxins, all important to restore the internal balance.
Porridge is another summer recommendation, as it is thinner than rice and helps with digestion. Chinese herbs are often added to congee dishes and they can be eaten hot or cold.
Mung bean is especially helpful to stimulate appetite and to reduce internal heat, while yi mi (薏米), or pearl’s barley, also works to reduce inner heat and increase metabolism, making it easier for toxins in the body to be released.
These two ingredients, also with lily’s root, are often boiled together into the classic Chinese mung bean soup and served cold. Some venues add other delights to the soup that slightly change the flavor and may enrich its taste.
Sometimes lily’s root is also served alone as a cold soup, as it helps moisten and protect the lungs, relieves cough, stimulates the appetite and produce calm during the agonizing heat.
Besides traditional Chinese summer treats, classic American summer delights such as frozen yogurt with various toppings also are popular in Shanghai, with slight alterations depending on the venue.
Shanghai Daily handpicks some Chinese and Western places with summer desserts that help relieve the effects of the heat and delights that are tempting by appearance and taste.
Xu Qi Xiu Chinese Herbal Tea
This small take-out place serves a variety of Chinese herbal teas, some rather bitter with a strong fragrance of medicine, others tasty and great for relieving the frequent thirst of summer.
The tea with couchgrass root and cane is a delightful classic, especially when served cold. It helps those who feel fatigue, constant thirst and cough. Gui ling gao (龟苓膏), or turtle’s shell, a kind of herbal jelly, is another classic specialty that helps greatly to reduce the heat.
Address: Bldg 10, 98 Xing’an Rd
This chain brand is a fun dessert place for eat-in or take-out. It is especially known for low-fat ice cream that contains only 3-percent fat, and yogurt, with nearly 60 toppings such as toasted nuts, all kinds of fruit, chocolate of varying sweetness, cookies of different flavors, corn flakes, coconut flakes and mochi rice cakes, among others.
This downtown venue on Henan Road M. is quiet, neat and efficient.
Address: Room 101, 88 Henan Rd M.
Xian Yu Xian
Winter melon, or dong gua (冬瓜), is not as sweet as watermelon, but serves well to increase metabolism, reduce internal heat and expel inner toxins.
Considered a vegetable, it is usually cooked in hot dishes or as soup, but this chain brand with dozens of branches in the city is one of the few places that offer an intriguing winter melon tea, which is easy to take away and drink while traveling.
Address: 2/F, 168 Lujiazui Rd W., Pudong
This café is not known only for burgers, but also for its milkshakes, with a little twist: booze.
Take ice cream and milk; add vodka, Kahlua or other liquor combinations; and finally top it with a topping like cookie crumbs and you have yourself a spiked frozen drink to take the edge off that unbearable heat.
There isn’t a strong alcoholic taste, but they are delicious nonetheless.
Address: 1/F, Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Rd W.
Tsui Wah Restaurant
Pearl’s barley is an ingredient used in many Chinese congee.
It is also one of the three key elements in the classic Chinese delight, mung bean soup, which helps relieve the heat and humidity.
Pearl’s barley serves well to reduce heat and increase metabolism, promoting revitalization.
This Cantonese restaurant serves a pearl’s barley drink, with lemon, which helps to increase saliva and to relieve swelling from drinking too much water.
Address: Room 106, 251 Xizang Rd S.
M on the Bund
This restaurant is for those who wish for a more high-end treat. Its Famous Pavlova is a meringue torte heaped with diced tropical fruit and glazed with a tangy passion fruit sauce.
It is dry and crispy on the outside and soft and light on the inside, balancing both with its taste and texture.