What they do: The Red Pavilion in Brooklyn, New York, is a Chinese teahouse by day and a nightclub and performance venue in the evening, both of which emphasize Chinese culture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) food therapy. Many of the food and drink items on the menu are made with ingredients that, according to TCM, have various healing properties.
How they do it: Traditional Chinese medicine has been used to prevent, diagnose, and treat illnesses for more than 2,000 years. It incorporates acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, meditation, physical exercise, and massage, and centers on the concept of balancing opposing energies – yin and yang – and allowing for a free-flowing “qi,” the life force within the body. When qi is blocked and yin and yang are out of balance, illness results.
TCM food therapy focuses on consuming a balanced diet, using food as medicine, and tailoring one’s diet based on age, gender, and constitution. According to TCM, all foods have temperature and taste properties – hot, warm, cool, or cold, and spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, or salty – and these properties need to be adequately balanced to promote good health. Too much or too little of any type of food may be damaging to certain organs or bodily functions.
The herbal teas and foods served at The Red Pavilion are made with TCM herbs that have various healing properties. The herbal blends change based on TCM seasonal health concerns. In the spring, the focus was on liver health, and in the summer, there is an emphasis on reducing heat and inflammation. In the fall, herbs will target preventing dryness and boosting immunity and respiratory health, and in the winter, warming the body will take precedence.
Some examples of teahouse menu items as of July 2023 include:
- Su Mao Feng green tea, which is known as a digestive aid and has cooling benefits to combat the summer heat
- Liver Detox tea, made with dandelion, cassia seeds, kudzu root, cape jasmine fruit, chicory, goji, mulberry leaf, and chrysanthemum
- Calming tea, made with lily bulb, longan fruit, and jujube dates
- Spleen-Strengthening Multigrain Latte, made with quinoa, black sesame, barley, buckwheat, adzuki beans, oats, coix seed, non-GMO soybean, and millet
- Multigrain Congi Set, including several different grains slow-cooked in chicken bone broth, which is good for digestion, and served with toppings such as pickled mustard seeds and fermented tofu, which are also good for digestion and gut health
- Black Wood Ear Mushroom Salad, good for heart health, constipation relief, and kidney health
- Snow Fungus Pear Stew, good for anti-aging, skin health, and immunity
The nightclub’s drink menu also features TCM-inspired cocktails using herb-infused alcohol and/or other TCM ingredients. Many of the drinks are made with ingredients that support kidney health to replenish the energy of guests who stay out late at night.
Examples of TCM cocktails are:
- Sesame Colada: rum, Baijiu, caramelized pineapple, purple mangosteen, white sesame paste, and lemon. Sesame has beneficial properties for the large intestine and kidneys.
- The Red Dragon: Tequila, tamarind, blood orange, lemon, agave, and Sichuan chili powder with a poppy seed rim. Sichuan pepper aids digestion and warms the kidneys.
Red Pavilion staff, who do not necessarily have a TCM background, are trained in TCM upon hiring so that they can provide appropriate recommendations to customers.
Mission: To support the cultural visibility of the AAPI community in New York and provide immersive food and beverage experiences that incorporate live music, performance art, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect health: Although some components of TCM – such as acupuncture and tai chi – have been popularized in the United States, and there is a sizeable cohort of TCM practitioners here, there are very few, if any, other TCM-focused food and beverage establishments in the US.
It is important to note, too, that even though nightclubs are not typically associated with wellness, The Red Pavilion emphasizes wellness as a key part of having fun and being happy. Their goal is to convey that when we eat better, we are able to have more fun, and when we are happy, we are more motivated to take care of our bodies.
1241 Flushing Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Core Programs: Immersive food and beverage experiences integrated with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) culture and traditional Chinese medicine
Number of staff: 5 daytime, 6 evening
Number of volunteers: 0
Areas served: New York City
Year Started: 2023
- The Five Elements Cookbook: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine with Recipes for Everyday Healing (Amazon)
- ‘Food Is So Powerful’: How Zoey Gong, TCM Influencer, Food Therapist and Dietitian, Uses Traditional Chinese Medicine to Heal (South China Morning Post)
- Food Therapy and Medical Diet Therapy of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Clinical Nutrition Experimental)
- How Traditional Chinese Medicine Combines Health and Culinary Traditions (Food and Wine)
- The Red Pavilion (The Red Pavilion)
- Upcoming Events (The Red Pavilion)
- Zoey Gong Wants to Bring Joy and Connection Back to Our Diets (Bon Appetit)
- Zoey Xinyi Gong (Zoey Xinyi Gong)