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Soap beans, silver ears and peach gum

By Pauline D. Loh | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-28 10:17

Soap beans, silver ears and peach gum

Snow fungus [Photo by Pauline D. Loh/China Daily]

The snow fungus, also known as white fungus, silver ear or white jelly fungus, is no stranger to the Chinese kitchen. This relatively rare fungus is known as "vegetarian bird's nest", a reference both to its nutrition benefits as well as its texture.

Usually sold dried, it is rehydrated before cooking, and a little bud will blossom into a large clump of snowy, curly-edged frills. It was largely used to add texture to a dish, but now again, scientists say the TCM sages were right: Tremella fuciformis is good for you as it is a valuable source of easily digested vegetable protein.

Finally, there is peach gum, little nodules of dried resin harvested from Prunus persica, the Chinese peach tree. Again, the gum crystals are a traditional dessert, served to the Empress Dowager Cixi by the Manchu chefs in her imperial kitchens.

According to the ancient medical tome, Benjing Fengyuan, peach gum is an excellent skin tonic that "clears the blood and cures pimples and acne". It goes on to say that regular consumption would also help prevent urinary tract infections.

Incidentally, peach gum is now marketed as an alternative to gum Arabica, widely used in food manufacturing as a binding agent.

That shiny stuff they smear on mummy tummies before the gynecologist does an ultrasound is also likely to be peach gum based these days as it is used more and more in pharmaceutical products.

The old folks believe that beauty starts from inside out, and one of the best ways to keep your youthful looks is to keep a positive attitude and worry less. To start with, I'm pretty sure having a bowl of hot, sweet dessert full of natural collagen that's going to make any woman happy.

Soap beans, silver ears and peach gum

Soap beans, silver ears and peach gum

Cured meats and crusty claypot rice 

Calm the soul, clear the broth 

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