Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Beautiful and bountiful, the peony rules the table

FEW items in nature can compete with the beauty of a peony in full bloom. The most striking peonies are the highly fragrant, massive double blossoms, usually pink, red or white. Peonies bloom in late spring or early summer.

With a long and varied history in the East and West, peonies are used by people for food, medicine as well as a source of inspiration for art and gardens.

"It's the king of flowers with its pleasant aroma and breathtaking beauty. People all over the world like it because it stands for wealth and honor," says Li Hongyan, a senior nutritionist from the Shanghai Tongmai Food Co Ltd.

More importantly, its medical worth is gaining attention.

According to Li, the petals of peonies contain a great deal of nutrition such as proteins, fats and amylum. The petals also include vitamins and mineral ingredients such as calcium, and make it easy for these to be absorbed.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, peony tea is good for skin, activates the blood, can help regulate menstruation, and can be used to treat arthralgia and rheumatism. It is a very suitable drink for women.

"I usually use transparent cups to make peony tea. When the petals dance in the water, the fragrance emerges and I feel as pleasant and free as the petals," says Li.

The roots, bark and flowers of the peony all have a medicinal value.

The roots and bark contain a kind of hydroxybenzene, which is said to cool the blood as well as having antibacterial properties.

Recently the "Absolute Peony" dinner at the ShiLe Boutique Lifestyle Center in Pudong showcased the colors, flavors and delight peonies can bring to people.

At the dinner, a soup proved most surprising, packed with essence of chicken, pork, seafood stock and, more significantly, peonies. The flowers were sliced into several thin pieces and made the soup look simple and delicious.

A dish called Peony Mandarin Fish (Mudan Guiyu) was eye-catching. A fresh boneless fish was sliced into pieces and shaped into a peony bloom.

A pumpkin jelly was served on the same plate. Subtly sweet and clean, it made a pleasant palate cleanser.

"There are a variety of ways to use peonies in food. Frying, baking or using them in soup are all good," says Feng Yixiang, chief chef at the center's Xiao Shan Qing restaurant. "The dishes can be very attractive with the use of peonies, with their vivid colors and imaginative placement."

The dinner's overall nourishing effect was taken literally with paintings and calligraphic works featuring peonies hanging on the walls.

"The beauty of the peony has long inspired artists in both the eastern and western parts of the world. It is often referred to in poetry and literature," says Zhang Xuyi, general manager of ShiLe.

"Peonies are one of the major motifs of Chinese decorative art and can be found on porcelain, in woodblocks and screen paintings as well as embroidered onto tapestry and clothing," he says. "April is the best season to appreciate the flowers."

According to traditional Chinese beliefs over 1,000 ago in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the joie de vivre, which included reading, chatting, meditation, sun bathing, wine tasting, gardening, music, painting, taking a stroll and exercising, was the ultimate state of living.

Zhang hopes that more people can embrace this centuries-old philosophy and present themselves with grace and passion - living as peonies do.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend