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Ripe mangoes in combination with grilled sun-dried salted fish is one of the most popular Khmer dishes served when the weather is heating up. That is because we consider mangoes and fish as cool food. According to Khmer traditional medicine, an offshoot of Indian ayurvedic, food is divided into two groups, warm and cool. Warm or cool in terms of the food’s internal characteristics, not its physical temperature. When we eat warm food, it has a heating effect on our bodies, while cool food adds a cooling effect. So, when the temperature is heating up, we eat cool food to cool us down.
Traditional Chinese medicine, likewise, divides food into such similar groups: cool, neutral, and warm. Both Chinese and Indian medicines consider all kinds of bananas as cool food, though in Cambodia, only pisang awak banana is classified as cool, while the rest are considered warm.
Some cool food to consider: sweet, acidic, and bitter ones such as melons, cucumbers, cherries, strawberries, eggplants, pomelos, celeries, oranges, fennel, yogurt, milk, coconut water, tea, pineapples, radishes, neem flowers and leaves, lettuces, mints, cilantro and most leafy greens. Think salads. Because Cambodia’s weather is very hot and humid, salads are very popular. Our salad repertoire is very extensive. It makes up more than 30% of the Khmer cuisine. Neem flower and melon salad and pomelo salad are two popular salads that frequently appear at the dinner table when the weather is scorching hot.
Some hot food to consider skipping in summertime: spices, meat, root vegetables, sugar, coffee, ginger, wine, nuts, mustard greens, onions, lady finger bananas, durians, lychees, squashes, and rambutans. When it’s hot outside, don’t reach for your sweet tea or iced coffee, instead of do as the Japanese do, drink a cup of hot green tea. Lay off the alcohol, drink cold milk or try mango or mint lassi instead. Consider skipping steak and try fennel and parsley salad to go with your grilled salmon. A big, juicy burger for lunch? Try loading up lots and lots of cold, salted butter on a good, crusty baguette and top with sliced breakfast radishes and a sprinkle of sea salt instead (a favorite of the French in summertime).
Do you have any favorite food to help cooling down in summertime? Feel free to share in the comments.Published in