Tradition of Toasting Grains from the East

June 11, 2020

I have great love for the Chinese, having visited this country 6 times and travelled extensively within it, it never ceases to amaze me how utterly fascinating this region is. The cultural diversity is rich, every region has their own unique customs and traditions and nature is simply stunning. Travelers have long known it’s a travelers haven.

People in general are some of the nicest I have met anywhere. Women are feminine, fully in their power, rarely degraded sexually. Men are Masculine, and I personally did not experience a hint of misogyny. Great respect is given to elders. I have rarely seen these traits so consistently anywhere in average citizens. I am sure there are exceptions, but all I am relaying is my personal experience as a traveller.

Chinese medicine in recent years has been gaining popularity in the West, because it’s foundation is built on solid 5000 year old higher science, that the West is light years behind, and in my opinion, will perhaps never even begin to come close to matching this wisdom. This higher science pays particular attention to eating properly to ensure good health among its other fantastic complementary healing modalities.

What fascinates me about China in particular is their knowledge of food. Visiting local markets is usually the highlight for me to study their vast knowledge of different plants and animals and their medicinal properties, this wisdom runs through generations.

The custom that is especially unique in the East is practice of drinking hot fluids throughout the day and with every meal. The Chinese are very proud of their teas, and every region has their own spectacular concoctions depending on the plants grown locally. In Tibetan Medicine, the practice of drinking hot fluids is an ancient cure for indigestion.

Something that sparked my curiosity in my recent trip was their use of grains, which varies greatly among the regions. To the average outsider, Chinese food is synonymous with rice and noodles. This is mostly true, but the sheer variety of foods and their unique preparations in different regions will probably take lifetimes to get a grasp of.

The practice of toasting grains has been a big part of their culture. Barley has been a major staple in their diet, besides flour being used to make noodles, toasted barley, is renowned for its health benefits. Barley tea is very popular, especially for digestive distress. Fermented barley is one of the ingredients used in Chinese herbal medicine for digestive distress. This is based on ancient wisdom and higher science.

Toasting has been an ancient tradition in many cultures, regardless of the climate. In the middle east, ‘Freekeh’ has long been a staple, which is barley harvested when it is still green and then toasted to preserve it. It has a cooling effect on the body. In Tibetan culture, toasting barley preserved the grain for the cooler months, which was then pounded into flour, with which yak butter tea and cakes are made, that have been their superfood for thousands of years. This practice warms and nourishes the body in bitter cold.

The popularity of grains has taken a major nosedive in Western countries, with gluten being blamed for every kind of health disease. I personally can’t be bothered anymore researching which irresponsible economic entity is behind this media campaign, I did all my research on this 20 years ago, and from what I have noticed, it’s the same misinformation fractal that introduced every so often to change public perception.

The West is addicted to new and improved, whereas in the East, trust lies more in tried and tested, although this is slowly being wiped out there as well with globalisation. The west bases its wisdom on science, which if you’ve followed this long enough, you might realise it’s only half or less than half truth. Every few seconds, a new diet trend hits mainstream, Keto, Atkins, raw food and so on.

Newer superfoods are introduced every second from some exotic region, it has now actually become extremely confusing, sifting through what will work for an individual. Nothing new will ever be sensible, if it is based in science, because it’s premise lies in divorcing spirit from matter. The concept of essence is simply absent.

When it comes to grains, I have seen very few, if any articles on the web that talk about toasting grains, the overwhelming majority preach soaking or fermenting. I have had severe digestive issues most of my life, so my body is rarely impressed by these popular soaking methods.

I will refrain from any scientific analyses and chemical breakdown of the toasting process, because I have found this exceedingly unhelpful in my process. All I can share is that my body responded very well to it. I experimented with barley in particular to see if I will have any ‘gluten’ flareups, and I didn’t. In fact, I felt calm and nourished.

I tried the same with other whole grains, like rice, buckwheat and millet, same effect.

In warmer climates, in South East Asia and even South America, popular drinks are sold, made with barley grains that cool the body during the hot season. This is another way of studying, how different preparation methods of the grains are used depending on the geographical location.

Toasting buckwheat is still practiced across the East, Russia and almost across all ex-soviet counties. In China, buckwheat tea is a popular remedy for stomach ailments. Rice is also either toasted or fried before cooking, especially when preparing congee, which is a staple breakfast porridge across China.

I do agree that GMO grains are toxic for the body, however, if you can source organic ones, try toasting them before cooking and give it a go. What I have noticed is that toasting (not soaking) deactivates the acidity of grains, making them easier to digest. Beans and lentils on the other hand actually benefit from soaking.

There is also another realm of food combination that is rarely present in the West. Online you get conflicting reports on the best combination of different foods. The best way to study this is actually to study the combination techniques of different regions that have a similar climate to where you live and then design an appropriate method based on what you can source locally. Your own temperament also has to be taken into consideration. Takes a bit of time and effort to work this out.

It is often beneficial to combine grains with appropriate quantity of meat (if not vegan/vegetarian). Across most cultures, something sour or fermented is always consumed alongside to aid digestion. To give you an example, in Japan, preserved vegetables are served alongside rice, in Central Asia, kumis(fermented horse milk) is consumed, in China and South East Asia, pickles are common, and much the same throughout Europe, with sauerkraut and gherkins being popular.

I don’t consider myself qualified to give any health advice, all I am doing is sharing what I have witnessed in different regions that I have roamed through. Its up to you to decide what works  for you.

The internet can be a great source of information in studying food traditions of different cultures. It can be confusing, because it is difficult to discern what can be trusted. What I learned from my process is that trends promoted by mainstream media are generally the ones to avoid buying into.

Over time, with practice, I am sure you will be able to decide what works for you. It is always good to get into the habit of asking your body what it needs. This is after all a very important aspect of the study of Self.

I wish you good health!

© Lala Rukh 2020 

Lala is an adventurous Traveller, her conquests have spanned across 6 continents through 115 Countries and territories and counting, that she records through digital art and photography. She is a life long student of the mysteries of the Self, with training in Plant medicine, Energy Healing and Wisdom Tradition of Ancient Egypt.

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