The Spirituality of Food
If you've learned anything about the Chinese by now it's the importance of eating. Chinese culture is very food-centric. It's no wonder that food would take on a spiritual quality and be similarly endowed with spiritual attributes as well. If you delve deeper into Chinese cooking, traditions beyond the regional variations in schools of cooking you'll find that according to Taoist philosophy, foods are also endowed with the spiritual attributes of yin, yang, and neutrality.
Most Chinese dishes reflect this subtle balance between foods that are yin-heavy and foods that are yang-heavy. Yin foods are said to be “cold.” Some example of yin foods are apples, bean curd (tofu), beer, bitter melon, winter melon, watercress, cabbage, soybeans, mung beans, water chestnuts, watermelon, cucumber, ice cream, oysters, tomatoes, duck, and most fish. Traditionally, you should avoid overdoing it with yin foods as too much yin force may cause the runs, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and colds according to Chinese medicine. Yang foods are said to be “hot.” Some examples of yang foods are: chilis, garlic, onion, curry, eggplant, mango, crab, potatoes, green peppers, chocolate, beef, chicken, turkey, smoked fish, coffee, and eggs. An excess of yang foods is said to cause skin problems, nose bleeds, gas, gas, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, and sore throat. The third type of food is the neutral food. They are foods that have no discernible excess of yin or yang energy. Some examples of neutral foods are: carrots, cauliflower, lean chicken, milk, peaches, plums, brown rice, and steamed white rice.
A common misconception of the concepts of yin and yang is that they are opposing forces such as good and evil, but that is not at all the case. The yin force is the feminine force associated with the moon and the elements of water and metal. It is a complementary force without which the yang force would not exist. The yang force is the masculine force associated with the sun and the elements of wood and fire. The forces together represent all things and together they are associated with the element of earth as earth pervades all things.
Not only are foods themselves attributed with yin and yang properties, but cooking methods are as well. Boiling, steaming, and poaching are yin cooking methods, utilizing water. The yang cooking methods are the fire and frying methods of roasting, stir-frying, and deep-frying. It should be pointed out however that foods are not all purely yin and yang. That concept in and of itself would be unbalanced and not at all Taoist. Rather, it is believed that foods simply favor one characteristic over the other. Foods that are thought of as yin foods also possess yang force. It's just that they do not in as great a degree as the yang foods.