The Herbal Way, Chinatown
Tucked behind a jaunty facade on Ultimo Street in the Haymarket is a place that abides by ancient traditions reaching back to the Han Dynasty more than two thousand years ago. The Chinese Ginsengs and Herbs Co. is where people come far and wide for their herbs and medicines.
Walking into the shop for the first time is bewildering. It's piled high with mysterious stock in jars or brightly coloured packets.
If you're in need of a health check, you are invited to wait in a makeshift area at the back of the shop adjacent to a small office. Usually it's really busy up there. People young, old, of Chinese or Western origin will sit patiently in the chairs provided. Today just one Buddhist monk is waiting and he doesn't wish to be photographed.
A man of great vigour opens the door from time to time ushering people in or out with greetings or farewells.
Then your turn will come to meet the wonderful Mr Kevin Lu. He will invite you into his tiny office, which is stacked high with neatly piled papers. Kevin is a man with great chi energy, or life force. Well over retirement age, he works every day except Wednesdays.
Back in the shop, your script will be taken by one of the Chinese herbal dispensers, the Eastern version of chemists.
They will proceed to open a number of the hundreds of drawers to select the herbs.
Once measured, they are tipped onto paper and wrapped into packages to be taken home.
The huge mortar and pestle that rings like a clear bell.
Then your order is toted up on the abacus and you'll be told how to prepare the herbs. Usually the contents of each packet can be boiled up twice in a biggish saucepan until the water is reduced to a cup of liquid.
The liquid will usually be dark brown and taste a little strange but not unpleasant. In any case, you're given Haw lollies to take the edge off the taste.