A maverick in the kitchen, Chef Hannah An has always looked to elevate traditional Vietnamese dishes with unusual pairings of spices, sauces and ingredients not widely used and frankly not thought of!
On a recent relief trip called “Roots for Peace”, Hannah journeyed to the Quang region of Vietnam to find new inspirations from spices and fresh produce to create a plethora of not only delicious and technical dishes but most importantly mindful of the health benefits.
Hannah rediscovered the native peppercorn spice grown and planted in that specific area whose endless health benefits include cancer prevention, stimulation of digestion, cough and cold relief, weight loss, skin improvement and anti-depressant.
Here are 10 spices Hannah suggests one should have in their weekly diet, which are also incorporated into her current menu at The District by Hannah An.
1) Peppercorn Spice
- To prevent cancer: The piperine in black pepper can be credited with the prevention of cancer, and becomes twice as potent when combined with turmeric. The spice also has Vitamin C, Vitamin A, flavonoids, carotenes and other anti-oxidants that help remove harmful free radicals and protect the body from cancers and diseases. The best way to eat pepper to harness maximum benefits is to eat freshly ground pepper, and not cook it along with food.
- Stimulates digestion: Again, the piperine in black pepper eases digestion and stimulates the stomach, which then secretes more hydrochloric acid that helps to digest proteins in food. So a bit of pepper in food will actually help you to digest it faster.
- Relieves cold and cough: Black pepper is antibacterial in nature, and therefore helps to cure cold and cough. A teaspoon of honey with freshly crushed pepper does the trick. It also helps to alleviate chest congestion, often caused due to pollution, flu, or a viral infection. You can add it to hot water and eucalyptus oil and take steam. And given that black pepper is rich in Vitamin C, it also works as a good antibiotic.
- Enables weight loss: You might not want to believe this, but black pepper is brilliant when it comes to extracting nutrients from food. And its outermost layer contains phytonutrients, which helps to break down fat cells, and also increases metabolism. If you eat fresh pepper, and begin to perspire, that’s the pepper helping your body to get rid of excess water and toxins. But you need to control consumption – a pinch with your food (one meal) is enough.
- Improves skin: Did you know that crushed pepper is one of the best exfoliators nature has provided us? Don’t use it directly though; add a bit of honey, curd, or fresh cream to it. It also enables blood circulation, and provides the skin with more oxygen. Adding it to your food also takes care of unwarranted skin wrinkles. Black pepper is known to help in the cure of Vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses pigmentation, and creates white patches.
- Addresses depression: It’s said that the piperine in black pepper helps to deal with depression. It stimulates the brain, and helps it to function properly by making it more active.
Contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory effects
3) Garlic Can
Combats sickness and improves heart health
4) Ginger Can
Treats nausea and has anti-inflammatory properties
Lowers blood sugar levels and has a powerful anti-diabetic effect
6) Sage Can
Improves brain function and memory
7) Rosemary Can
Helps prevent allergies and nasal Congestion
Relieves IBS pain and may reduce nausea
9) Holy Basil
Helps fight infections and boosts immunity
10) Cayenne Pepper
Contains capsaicin, which helps reduce appetite and may have anti-cancer properties