Unique Chinese Herbal Gifts

Rose-infused wine

This is a beautiful and fragrant wine gift. Start with a good white wine (I like to use something slightly sweet, like a Muscat or a Riesling), and remove half the wine to another container, to make room for the rosebuds. Use about half a cup of Mei Gui Hua (which are red rosebuds that you can get from me), making sure they are very fragrant. Insert the rosebuds into the wine, cork it, turn the bottle on its side, and refrigerate it for about two weeks. Beyond that, it might get too strong. Strain the wine and save the rosebuds if you can use them soon in a decoction for invigorating blood and relieving pain. The reason I prefer to do this with white wine is that the wine takes on a beautiful rosy color. You could use red wine, though. The result will be a wine with a wonderful rose fragrance to it.

Herbal cooking packets

I made a fun gift last year for a woman who loves to cook: I packaged different edible cooking herbs in pretty cloth or net bags (the kind jewelry is sometimes stored in), and labeled them with suggestions on use. These are the five herbs I included:

  • Fenugreek Seeds (Hu Lu Ba)
  • Infuse seeds in warm milk or cream for half an hour till the milk has a caramel flavor and color; use this milk or cream in any recipe such as rice pudding, crème brulée, etc.

  • Nutmeg (Rou Dou Kou)
  • Grate whole nutmeg for eggnog or other creamy drinks; use with meat dishes such as Moussaka or other exotic casseroles; use in fruit desserts such as pear and apple crumbles or clafoutis.

  • White Pepper (Bai Hu Jiao)
  • Grind freshly to use in any cream sauce that calls for pepper; it helps cut the richness of anything with cheese or milk, such as a gratin of potatoes or cauliflower.

  • Star Anise (Da Hui Xiang)
  • Use with cloves, stick cinnamon and black peppercorns to spice fruits like French prunes or pears, apricots or peaches; use some red wine with it and then serve these fruits with sausages or roast pork.

  • Cinnamon Bark (Rou Gui)
  • Use in any recipe calling for cinnamon sticks, or just infuse them into any tea to warm and spice it up.

    Spiced dried plums

    You could also make spiced dried plums (get the really good French plums at a specialty shop; they are called Pruneaux d’Agen) and you could simmer them for 5 minutes in red wine, star anise, cinnamon sticks, a bay leaf, and some peppercorns. Then package them in nice glass jars with instructions on what they go with (they would be great served alongside any meat, like turkey, pork, sausages, even beef). They should keep two weeks after cooking.

    Christmas tree ornaments

    You could also take some really pretty herbs (like star anise, Gou Ji, cinnamon or Bing Lang) and figure out a way to make them into ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree. If they are fragrant, even better.