Have you ever had a really yummy meal and you feel full, but you still go looking for dessert? No, you’re not greedy… You might be experiencing the Goldilocks effect and needing to balance salty with sweet, warm with cool, to make it just right!
The five element flavours are:
Wood – sour
Fire – bitter
Earth – sweet
Metal/Air – pungent, spicy
Water – salty
When you use all five flavours in your meal, the body doesn’t register any deficiencies so long as the flavours are balanced. The properties of the flavour also need to be in balance. So where you use a warming spice like ginger, you can also use a cooling spice like cloves.
Too much of any flavour can throw the body out of balance as well. Too much sour which is an astringent can lead to constipation. Too much bitter can be dehydrating. Too much sweet which is causes acidity in the body can lead to a build up of phlegm. Too much pungent, while it cuts through phlegm, can be drying and draining. Too much salty can cause fluid retention.
An easy way of balancing flavours in a meal is to use a Chinese five spice blend. This blend came about to balance the elements in the body and have various mixes, not necessarily using just five spices. You can use Chinese five spice blend in marinades, braising and roasting dishes, veggies and even in breakfast dishes like porridge or French toast.
Common five element spice blends will include variations of: cinnamon, cloves, pepper, fennel, star anise, ginger, nutmeg and cassia. You can buy ready made blends or have fun experimenting with making your own, varying the spices for the different taste properties you would like to balance.