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The Elements of Life: A Contemporary Guide to Thai Recipes and Traditions for Healthier Living Hardcover – October 5, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Description

Discover the Thai approach to food and wellness-and use nature's elements to eat for optimum health, beauty, and spiritual well-being

The traditional Thai philosophy of diet and health involves eating meals planned around your "home element"-earth, water, wind, or fire-as well as the weather, time of day, and other factors. In this book, award-winning author Su-Mei Yu explains this age-old philosophy and gives you information and recipes to help you prepare meals that will promote better physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

She describes the personal characteristics related to the each of the four home elements, as well as the tastes, flavors, aromas, and natural ingredients best suited to them. She shows you how to identify your home element and eat foods that accommodate it through different times of the year and different times of the day. Beauty treatments geared to your home element will help you to relax, rejuvenate, and feel renewed.

Recipe Excerpts from The Elements of Life

Salad Rolls with Chicken, Mango, and Grilled Asparagus

Crispy Shrimp with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Shrimp and Thai Eggplant Salad

Cucumber, Papaya, and Chamomile Facial Mask

From Publishers Weekly

Yu, author of Cracking the Coconut and chef/owner of the San Diego restaurant Saffron, explores the Thai approach to food and wellness in this unique and illuminating collection. Based on the belief that fresh, locally grown vegetables are natural remedies essential to maintaining good health), the book details the four elements of life: earth, wind, water and fire. To be healthy, all of our bodies' elements must be in harmony, which occurs through a diet that combines the most beneficial tastes, flavors and aromas of our element and allows for varying factors such as time of day and weather. Recipes help achieve this balance and are grouped together by element. Yu provides a wide array of options for each meal, including stir-fried shrimp with asparagus; cool rice vermicelli with grilled vegetables; noodles with Chinese broccoli and pork or chicken; and mango sorbet with young coconut ribbons. Headnotes list the ailments each dish will improve. Yu also includes recipes for facial masks, massage oils and sachets that calm the mind and the senses. An informative and appetizing look at Thai tradition and its relation to food, this book offers a new perspective on healthy eating. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471757071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471757078
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.1 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

It has been seven years since I started researching and writing The Elements of Life. It came about because of my curiosity about why even the simplest of Thai dishes is layered with bold, vibrant and complex tastes, flavors and aromas. I was to discover that the innumerable seasonal and natural ingredients used by Thai cooks are chosen not only for the end result of splendid fare, but also reflect a deliberate intent to create healthful and irresistible medicine. Food, as traditional Thai cooks would say, is medicine.
The book, The Elements of Life mirrored my latest quest as a Thai cook, author and amateur food historian. My first book, Cracking the Coconut, Classic Thai Home Cooking was written to record traditional Thai home recipes and techniques. It was followed by Asian Grilling, a book of fun and easy recipes with Asian flavors. The Elements of Life explains the concepts and natural philosophy that underlie Thai cooking and the Thai way of life. It is a culmination of my personal journey to study this ancient teaching. Knowing my home element is like having a personal compass. It has guided me to live in full partnership with nature as I cook and care for myself, my family and friends, and the customers of my restaurant. It is also the foundation on which a cooking academy, Prem Center Organic Cooking Academy was founded by myself and my dear friend, M.L.Tri Devakul. The school is located in Mae Rim, northern Thailand where guests and students can learn firsthand how to apply this philosophy by harvesting, cooking and eating seasonal produce from our organic farm.
I hope you will join hands with me in preserving nature's ways, and in turn cooking and eating nature's gifts and being rewarded with good health and contented life.
Please visit my blog: http://www.sumeiyu-thailiving.blogspot.com/ and my restaurant's web site: http://www.saffronsandiego.com

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Elements of Life may look like a coffee table book, but it is so much more. It serves as a doorway into the Thai way of life and traditions. Follow the steps and the adventure begins. For the interested reader, this book enables an uncomplicated method of incorporating Thai recipes for food and health/well-being.

The first step is to use the included Elements of Life wheel to determine the reader's applicable Home Element. This step took only a couple of minutes. The elements are earth, water, wind and fire. An individual may have one or two home elements. Once the home element is determined, the Basics Chapter offers general guidance. Read that section first and then turn to the applicable home element chapter for specific guidance for eating and well-being. The entire process is fascinating and encompassing. After using the Elements of Life wheel my home element result was approximately 2/3 water and 1/3 earth. Both the water and earth chapters apply to me, with a stronger emphasis on water.

I first checked the Earth chapter. The contents include Food for Health, Hot weather recipes, Rainy weather recipes, a chart that incorporates the aromas and flavors of the element making it easy to see how to add items most beneficial to me in my cooking and life based on my home element(s). The Bliss section of the chapter offers advice to optimize physical being and includes recipes for facial masks, a foot rub, hair conditioner along with a section of special scents (like cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, juniper berry, etc.) that are complimentary, massage oils, sachets and finally traditional remedies for minor ailments. The Water and other home element chapters are similarly organized.

The book is lushly illustrated although every dish is not pictured.
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Format: Hardcover
Just as Traditional Chinese Medicine made a huge splash in the Western world for its understanding of the body's "humors' and has produced the best cold and flu medicine around, and acupuncture, so does Thai cooking rely on a foundation of astrology combined with a TCM style list of "elements." Once you know your "home element" you can find your section in the book which s pleasantly comprehensive and custom-written for your type of constitution.
The concept is not new - Indian medicine ayurveda, calls these humors "doshas" and also prescribes diet accordingly. But it is still a new concept in the West - that everyone's body is actually different. That one recipe does not serve all. That what you love is actually not good for your partner, and you need to cook for all constitutions, not just one.
The book takes a complicated subject and prescribes a full menu for all four seasons for EVERY element type. What makes it easy to read is Yu's wonderful full-page photographs...photos are explanatory, not just artful, a pleasant suprise.
Unlike Thai cookbooks focusing on Thai street food, these recipes can actually be cooked at home. The author is a Thai restauranteur in California and spouse of a non-Asian foodie, so her ability to translate culture is as good as it gets. This book will probably end up being a reference and foodie classic once our culture abandons industrial agriculture and fully adopts sustainable foodways. That could take decades. But the book exemplifies how far Americans are from the healthful diets of Asia and why Thailand is the center of medical tourism today. Expand your mind!
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Format: Hardcover
The most important part of this book is the "elements of life", because the point of eating - it's consuming right product of nature, that provide comparable for your own type energy. So, the whole idea of this book is not just "nice Thia recipes" and "Thia philosophy". Last century, human's life style turns from natural to convenience way, from personal preference to mass way, from energy to calorie, that all things actually brakes connection with your own body and create misunderstanding of its real needs and natural ways that life works! . ...and substitutes by dieting, pills and all kinds of unnatural and unbalanced way to correct that mistake. That particular book provides thousand of years knowledge in very simple way and helps to understand how to find the right food in right time of the day and particular weather, for yourself and each member of the family. This way I found why the potatoes is good for my husband and bad for me..... By the way, it is almost impossible to find such information. This book is unique!
Don't think too much about some Thia or Chinese ingredients, that difficult to find. The most important - to be sure what kind of food it is right for you.
.....But in this system I found confusing nuance. It said that if you born premature, you need to add that time to your B.D. date...I add and was completely wrong in definition of my "home element. So, I used my real (premature)B.D. and everything fall in the place!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A well written book with some interesting yet simple and healthy recipes. There's some beautiful pictures, but I wish it had more pictures of the final dish. I also like that it included some natural recipes for facials and foot soaks.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful book, and so much more than a cookbook! I love how she ties in the elements with the recipes. I bought this as a Christmas gift for my son, so I'm not really using it, but I couldn't resist looking through it and trying a couple of recipes. The photos are beautiful and the recipes are easy to follow.

I've been going to her San Diego restaurant since it opened and love that they've added more variety. From the time my son was little this was one of our (and his) favorite carry-out spots for a delicious healthy meal. Now he and his wife really enjoy cooking. I know they will love this book!
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