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Balance your meals with this big list of hot and cold foods

Impress your Chinese parents when ordering at a restaurant with this handy guide of hot and cold foods according to traditional Chinese culture.

For the unititiated, Chinese dinner tables have long been ruled by a concept that all foods are either “hot” or “cold” by their essence. Instead of a physical property like being cooked or raw, these qualities have to do with their effect on the human body.

Too much of one kind of food will throw off the body’s internal balance. To avoid this, Chinese diners typically plan their meals in order to feature an equal split between “hot” and “cold.” This means that if you order foods that are fried or spicy, you are expected to balance it out with “cold” foods like tomatoes, eggplant and watermelon.

Ready to order? Here’s a selected list of “hot” and “cold” foods as found on Baidu Encyclopedia:

Hot Foods


Lentils, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Chinese mustard plant, parsley, hot peppers, chives, green onions, pumpkin, garlic, ginger, cooked white turnip, cooked lotus root


Lychee, longan, peaches, jujubes, apricots, cherries, Mandarin oranges

Meat and Dairy

Mutton, shrimp, pig liver, eggs, cheese

Seeds and Nuts

Chestnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds

Drinks and Condiments

Alcohol, tea, coffee, brown sugar, mustard, pepper

Cold Foods

Grains and Beans

Congee (rice porridge), millet, mung beans


Eggplant, tomatoes, cucumber, bean sprouts, bitter squash, cauliflower, kelp, winter melon, parsley


Cantaloupe, watermelon, pears, kiwi fruit, mulberries, mango, persimmon


Duck, snails, crabs, eels, pig intestine


Traditional Chinesse medicine is less a science and more of a lifestyle when it comes to authoritative answers. For us, it seems egregiously wrong that mango is considered “cold” and not categorized alongside cherries, lychee, and longan.

Further complicating matters are the traditional Chinese concepts regarding taste and food pairings. With all these rules, ordering a Chinese meal can become an overly complicated procedure.

All the same, this list should put you on the right track to help you choose the right dishes for a Chinese crowd.

Images: Flickr


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