Five Flavors of Chinese Food

(Last Updated on December 21, 2023 by Amiee)

Chinese food culture can’t stand without traditional Chinese medicine. The precious classic book of traditional Chinese medicine –Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, which is not only a Chinese health bible but also guides our daily diet. It divides Chinese food into five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty.

The book discusses the relationship between the five flavors of China food and the five internal organs. It pointed out that the sour taste could enter the liver, the bitter taste enter the heart, the sweet taste enter the spleen, the salty taste enters the kidneys, and the spicy taste enters the lungs. It means that the sour taste is good for the liver, the bitter taste is good for the heart, the sweet taste is good for the spleen, the salty taste is good for the kidneys, and the pungent taste is good for the lungs.

The five internal organs are also closely related to the four seasons. Care should be taken to maintain the liver in spring, heart in summer, spleen in summer, lung in autumn, and kidney in winter. Healthy people, eat more sour food in spring, bitter food in summer, sweet food in summer, spicy food in autumn, and salty food in winter. But not too much. Traditional Chinese medicine classics always tell us that yin and yang must be balanced,  in order to be healthy. This is also the way in which the Chinese eat and deal with things.

The five grains, five fruits, five meat, and five vegetables we eat every day have five flavors. The book also believes the five representatives and tastes in fruits, meat, grains, and vegetables:

Five fruits: jujube is sweet; plum is sour; chestnut is salty; apricot is bitter; peach is spicy.

Five meat: beef is sweet; dog meat is sour; pork is salty; mutton is bitter; chicken is spicy.

Five Grains: rice is sweet; hemp (hemp seed) is sour; soybean is salty; wheat is bitter; yellow millet (yellow rice) is spicy.

Five vegetables: winter amaranth is sweet; Leeks are sour; soybean leaves are salty; allium macrostemon bunge is bitter; green scallions are spicy.

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