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Eat to sleep well

Sleep is vital for recovering from a stressful day. Insomnia caused by stress, work, family conflict, disease or environmental reasons can lead to nervous breakdowns, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and even cancer.

I recommend countering insomnia by eating cooked dishes of lotus seeds, long nhãn (dried longan), nấm mèo Ä‘en (a kind of edible mushroom called jelly ear fungus), and nấm linh chi (literally: supernatural mushroom, or lingzhi or reishi mushroom). These ingredients are easy to find at the market.

Lotus seeds are particularly helpful in producing a good night's rest and are the basis of the following five recipes.

A tasty porridge can be made by cooking 100g of lotus seeds, 30g of sticky rice and 100g of sliced lean pork in a pot of water over a medium flame until it turns into porridge and the lotus seeds are soft enough to eat. Season with salt and sugar, and serve hot.

A good variation is lotus seed and nấm linh chi soup, which is made by cooking 100g of lotus seeds, 20g of nấm linh chi and 30g of sticky rice in a pot of water over a medium flame until the concoction thickens and the lotus seeds and mushrooms are soft enough to eat. Season with sugar and enjoy one hour before going to bed.

Another is lotus seeds and hải sâm (sea cucumber). For this, place 100g of lotus seeds and 200g of sea cucumber in a pot, cover with water, and simmer until the lotus seeds and sea cucumber are soft. Season with sugar and salt, and eat ahead of the evening meal.

Lotus seeds and coconut also go well together. Put 100g of lotus seeds in a pot, cover with water and simmer until they are soft. Then add 100g of scraped coconut plus a pinch of sugar, and stir well. Leave the pot on the stove for five minutes before ladling out and drinking the soup.

The fifth lotus seed recipe is for a sweet soup and needs 100g of lotus seeds and 200g of dried longans. Put both in a pot with three bowls of water and cook gently until the seeds are soft. Sweeten to taste with sugar.

Besides lotus seeds, nấm mèo Ä‘en is the basis of several dishes for treating insomnia.

Here are three recipes:

The first needs 50g of nấm mèo Ä‘en and 50g of nấm mèo trắng (white fungus), which should both be soaked in a bowl of water for 15 minutes, removed and rinsed. Place them in another bowl along with some rock sugar and a little water. Pour two bowls of water in a pot, and place the bowl of mushrooms in the pot. Steam over a high flame until the mushrooms are soft, which should take about 15 minutes. Eat the mushrooms and drink their water in the evening.

The second recipe requires 15g of nấm mèo Ä‘en, 8g of nấm mèo trắng, 6g of nấm linh chi (lingzhi or reishi mushrooms), five black jujubes and three thin pieces of ginger. Place the lot in a pot with 750ml of water and cook over a high flame until the mushrooms are soft. The soup can be enjoyed before lunch or dinner.

A sweet soup can also be produced with 30g of nấm mèo Ä‘en, 30g of nấm mèo trắng, 30g of lotus seeds and five black jujubes. Put all the ingredients in 750ml of water in a pot and cook over a high flame until the mushrooms and lotus seeds are soft. Add a pinch of crushed rock sugar and stir well. Enjoy the sweet soup for dinner.

Rau nhút (water mimosa) also aids in sleeping well. This vegetable can be eaten by first washing and soaking it, or it can be cooked in water along with some freshwater fish to go into a sour soup.