Judging by the title, many potential buyers might see this book as simply a set of traditional medicinal recipes and nothing more. On the surface they would be correct but it would be a mistake to pass this one over! Why? Well, surprise of surprises there is a hidden treasure of everyday homestyle Chinese recipes, Chapter 6, Longevity Banquets, which makes it worth the price of the book alone.
Living in a Chinese household, when visiting my mother-in-law in Beijing, I am always in pursuit of "stealing" her simple homestyle recipes to bring back home for our everyday eating. After purchasing this book I discovered that the recipes in Chapter 6 Longevity Banquets are the type of dishes that my mother-in-law would prepare on a daily basis in her home.
Over the past 10 years I have used almost all of these recipes [Chapter 6] and they have served our family well--including cooking for the in-laws during their stay with us many years back.
Some of the recipes I modify by adding more ingredients. For example, in preparing Tofu, Chicken, and Seaweed Soup, Shrimp and Bean Curd Soup, etc. I use chicken broth rather than water. The Tomato Soup recipe is really one of the cleanest and best tasting hot and sour soup recipes around and you can modify it by adding chicken or pork. With Tofu with Mushrooms I add additional types of mushrooms like fresh shitake, oyster and wood ears along with fresh ground chicken. With Cabbage Beef and Onion Beef I add wood ears and dou fu gan [pressed 5 spice tofu]. The Steamed Trout recipe is almost a weekly dish for us and there are other fish you can substitute. Sauteed Celery and Sauteed Asparagus are fast, quick and simple and serve well as a side dish for any meal. There are endless variations on these recipes that you can creatively birth without much risk of losing the simplicity and flavor of the dish.
The Longevity Recipes of this book [which is a relatively small section compared to the entire book - pp. 189 - 243] exemplifies what is commonly meant by "healthy and tasty Chinese food" and are relatively simple and quick to cook. Even some of the milder medicinal recipes like Tofu and Egg White, p.81, Bean-thread Noodles and Cucumber, p. 87, Mung Bean Congee, p. 138, Celery and Vegetable Soup, . 147, Adzuki Bean Congee [add a little brown sugar] p. 170, are worth trying as a meal or second dish.
As a side note, if you are interested in Chinese medical knowledge, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are really an excellent introduction to the field but you don't have to get side-tracked in them--the recipes can simply stand alone.
With the widespread practice of taijiquan and qi gong, Chapter 7 Exercising for Health is well worth reading but keep in mind that these ideas are grounded in a different worldview and many of the readers with a more scientific/Western orientation are likely to dismiss them. Again, don't let this stand in the way of the recipes.
For those of you who have grown tired of the Chinese food found in the local restaurants or even the "gourmet" food of the upscale Chinese restaurants [both US and China] this is the book for you. It is real, honest homestyle Chinese cooking at its best and, given its price, is indeed a real hidden treasure.