The latest fad foods in China are drawn both from time-tested products grown locally and others that come from abroad, Pauline D. Loh reports.
Sea-buckthorn berries (shajizi, 沙棘子)
|Sea-buckthorn berries. Photos by Pauline D.LOH and provided to China Daily
The herders and shepherds of Inner Mongolia autonomous region have long used sea-buckthorn as fodder for their cattle and lambs. This real super food has an extremely high vitamin C content, about 15 times that of an orange by weight and is packed with vitamin E, dietary minerals and omega-7, a fatty acid that helps build healthy hair, skin and nails.
It is rich in carotenoids, amino acids, polyphenols and flavonols. Sea-buckthorn is available in concentrates, juices, and powder form as supplements.
Cordyceps (dongchong xiacao, 冬虫夏草)
This is the caterpillar fungus, a parasitic symbiosis that has produced one of the most expensive traditional Chinese tonics, literally worth more than its weight in gold.
The moth caterpillar is attacked by fungus, which slowly takes over the insect body and develops into a mushroom the following spring.
It is found primarily on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau as well as in the northern parts of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces.
Traditional Chinese medical practitioners swear by its immunity-enhancing properties and it is often prescribed to "strengthen the qi", the energy force in the body. Current price for cordyceps is about 200 yuan ($32) per gram, or 200,000 yuan per kilogram.
Cordycep flowers (chongcaohua, 虫草花)
This is neither cordyceps nor flower. It is a mushroom, developed and cultivated after research isolated the main ingredient in cordyceps that is believed to be beneficial to health - cordycepin. The bright orange-yellow mushrooms are sold as a fresh tonic supplement for soups, stews and stir-fries. It is certainly a much more affordable alternative to the worm-fungus, and tastes better, too. Maca root (Peruvian ginseng)