How to Cook Something Bold the Healthy Way
By Madalina Hubert
November 8 is “Cook Something Bold and Pungent Day.”
This is not a national holiday, nor a cultural celebration.
In fact, it was invented by two ordinary Americans: Thomas and Ruth Roy.
During the 1990s, the couple came up with a list of quirky holidays for every month of the year, with evocative titles, such as “Get a Different Name Day,” “No Housework Day,” and “Stay Home Because You’re Well Day.”
Cook Something Bold Day has become popular, because, after all, don’t we love a culinary challenge? It’s an opportunity to get out of our comfort zones and explore something new, bold, and tasty.
And while we’re challenging ourselves, why not take it a step further, and prepare something healthy! In that way, both our bodies, and our taste buds, will benefit.
Here are some tips from traditional Chinese medicine, which has much to say about spicy, pungent foods.
Since ancient times, Chinese people have believed that the five elements (wood, fire, earth, water, and metal) permeate every aspect of our physical world, including our bodies.
Each of these five elements corresponds to particular organs, temperatures, seasons, and food flavours.
When traditional Chinese medicine doctors use dietary therapy for their patients, they study the interactions of these five elements in the body.
As for the food flavours, they are sour, bitter, sweet, pungent (or spicy), and salty.
People should generally balance these five flavours for a satisfying meal that reduces cravings and boosts energy. Read more about this in our “The Flavours of Fine Dining in Chinese Cuisine” article.
How to Create Bold and Pungent Flavour
Since we’re talking about cooking something bold, let’s look at the pungent (or spicy) flavour.
This flavour belongs to the metal element, and it dominates during autumn. It corresponds to the lungs, large intestines, nose, and skin. Some examples of pungent (or spicy) foods include ginger, onions, garlic, chili peppers, and horseradish.
However, before rushing to prepare that extra-pungent dish, a few words of caution.
Keep in mind that we all have different bodily constitutions. Some of us have a tendency to get cold easily, while others find themselves feeling hot no matter what they do.
Pungent taste is most helpful for those with a cooler bodily constitutions because this flavour heats up the body.
For best results, watch your body’s reaction to the food, and add or reduce the flavour as needed.
Something else to keep in mind is the weather. Those who live in humid regions may need more pungent food because this flavour expels wind and cold from the body.
Those living in temperate climates probably need less. This partly explains why certain cultures eat more spicy food than others.
There is also the question of balance.
The pungent flavour, while beneficial, can also harm the body if we eat these foods in large quantities.
At the same time, notice that Indian food, which includes many spices, is served with yogurt, a cooling food.
This principle of balance is important to keep in mind for all flavours, but especially for the strong pungent flavour.
With these principles in mind, let’s enjoy a bold dish today.
In the words of Thomas and Ruth, “Now is the time to create the heavenly, homey odour of pungently bold cooking. Don’t forget the sauerkraut and garlic!”
Madalina Hubert is a Toronto-based writer specializing in art, culture, travel, and culinary explorations.