Snapshots from Asia: The TCM Hall
Editor's note: This is the last of Wan Yan Ling's Snapshots from Asia series, as she's now back in the States for another semester of graduate school. I've really come to look forward to these twice-weekly little windows on day-to-day life in Singapore and am sad that this is the last one on Ling's figurative roll of film. The good news is that Ling is going to continue to write for us on a periodic basis—one that we'll figure out once she gets settled in for the fall. So, without further ado, here you go. Adam
There was quite a lively debate about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) here a while back, so I thought it apropos to introduce the good ol' TCM hall as it is today.
A popular image conjured up for TCM dispensaries is of a wizened, gray-bearded old man with spidery fingers, carefully measuring out roots, seeds, and twigs on sheaves of paper. There would be floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shelves of glass alchemist jars threatening to avalanche at the slightest inquisitive prod, and labels in illegible hieroglyphs that told you nothing at all.
Not too welcoming, huh?
Behold the modern day TCM hall:
It looks rather like a haphazard mom-and-pop storea quick, convenient place for people who know what they want to pop in, grab, and go. Which still doesn't make it any more accessible for those of us who wouldn't be able to tell snow frog glands from fossilized resin [waves hand wildly].
In recent years, there's been a trend for TCM dispensaries to modernizeinstall bright lights, snazzy shelving, air-conditioning, the works. Eu Yan Sang is a leading name in the region. It's known for genuine, quality-controlled herbs, and that's reassuring given that there's a thriving market in fake and inferior herbs, which the average consumer (you and I) would not be able to distinguish from the real thing.
See how it's all bright and shiny? It's also staffed with people who really know their TCM and are happy to chat. It's no substitute for a consult with a TCM physician, of course, but Eu Yan Sang is none-too-shabby. Packaging is in English, and, in a bid to cater to the younger (read: yuppie) crowd, they've a range of beauty products that apply TCM concepts to achieve glowing skin, treat spots, restore elasticity, etc.
Not bad for a stuffy, centuries-old practice ;)
About the author: Wan Yan Ling, Serious Eats's overseas summer intern, is an impoverished grad student and sourdough finger-crosser living in Singapore. She can usually be found in the kitchen procrastinating on "real work," or online tracking down obscure recipes. Ling thinks eating alone is no fun, and she still believes in hand-mixing.