Chenpi, chen pi, or chimpi (simplified Chinese: 陈皮; traditional Chinese: 陳皮; pinyin: chénpí; literally: ‘preserved peel’) is sun-dried tangerine peel used as a traditional seasoning in Chinese cooking and traditional medicine. It is aged by storing them dry. The taste is first slightly sweet, but the aftertaste is pungent and bitter. According to Chinese herbology, its attribute is warm. Chenpi has a common name, ‘ju pi’ or mandarin orange peel.
Chenpi contains volatile oils which include the chemical compounds nobiletin, hesperidin, neohesperidin, tangeridin, citromitin, synephrine, carotene, cryptoxanthin, inositol, vitamin B1, and vitamin C. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine uses the alcohol extracts of several citrus peels, including those extracted from mandarin orange and bitter orange.
In general, the longer Chenpi is aged, the higher the quality. Since the products produced in Xinhui are purported to be the best quality, it is often called Xinhui Pi or Guang Chen Pi. It is normally cut into shreds before serving and presenting in the raw form.[unreliable source?]
The practice of using citrus peels in traditional Chinese medicine originated from Song Dynasty and has lasted for seven hundred years. Chenpi was of high popularity through the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was shipped to foreign provinces by businessmen from Xinhui in Guangdong. A famous Qing doctor named Ye Gui (1667-1746) prescribed Chenpi as one of the ingredients in ‘Erchen Tang’, a decoction consisting of two old drugs. Chenpi business brought wealth to Xinhui peasants and it also extended to food processing, logistics areas which forms a food production chain. However, there was a decline of Chenpi business in the 1990s until late 2002 when Chenpi farmers helped set up the Chenpi Industrial Association with support from Xinhui Agriculture Bureau and Business Federation, and Chenpi has regained its popularity since.
Xinhui chenpi is famous for its special production technique, where emphasis is put on peeling and storage methods. People can also do it at home.
Prior to consumption, chenpi is soaked and rinsed with cold water until it becomes soft; the soaking time is recommended to be no longer than half an hour with a view to retaining its flavor. Afterwards, the white pith is gently scraped off from the softened peel.
Some tong sui desserts such as red bean soup will use this ingredient occasionally. Chenpi is used to make the Hunanese dish orange chicken. It can be also used for other kinds of food and beverages such as porridge, duck, pigeon, mooncakes, green bean soup, jam, and wine. Chenpi-infused tea can also be prepared.
Chenpi is a common ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is used to regulate ch’i (or qi), fortify the spleen, eliminate dampness, improve abdominal distension, enhance digestion, and reduce phlegm. There is a well-known Chenpi-derived medicine named ‘snake gallbladder and tangerine peel powder’. The powder is used for heart disharmonies.
When Chenpi is used with carotenoids, subacute oral toxicity arises. Carotene-rich foods include baked sweet potato, cooked carrots, cooked dark green vegetables (e.g. spinach) etc. It should be used cautiously to patients suffering from vomiting blood.
Traditional Chinese medicine urges caution in using Chenpi when red symptoms occur such as red tongue or redness in the face. In addition, pregnant women or those who have menstrual problems should use it carefully. Small doses may lead to inhibition of uterus contraction while large doses will cause stimulation of it.
Whole citrus peel is readily available from most herbal markets and specialty food stores. Some stores also sell citrus peel powder or capsules.
Starting from around 2010, extensive land development for commercial and residential use in China has caused the decrease of farmland, especially in Xinhui, affecting the supply of Xinhui citrus and consequently Chenpi production. This in turn has contributed to a steep increase in the price of Chenpi. Based on data in late 2014, Xinhui Chenpi aged one year costs around 140 HKD per kilogram while those aged 10 years cost 600 to 800 HKD per kilo. Chenpi stored for more than 20 years can reach as nearly as 24,000 RMB per kilogram. 65-year Chenpi even costs 23,000 RMB per tael. Wholesale price of Chenpi costs 40 to 70 HKD per pound.
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