We've been trying to find out what exactly is the english translation for the fookien word "tsin" and "diat", cool and warm is the closest I can think of. Every so often this comes up as a table topic. Chinese commonly use these terms to describe the type of food and it's effect on the body. So I googled, apparently it's called yin and yang.
Yin and yang is a Chinese philosophy, that seeks the essence of nature, a balance commonly related to two opposite but complimentary phenomenon.
Yin (陰 or 阴 "shady place, north slope, south bank (river); cloudy, overcast") qualities are characterized as soft, slow, insubstantial, wet, cold, conserving, tranquil, gentle, and corresponding to the night.
Yang (陽 or 阳 "sunny place, south slope, north bank (river), sunshine") qualities are characterized as hard, fast, substantial, dry, hot, excited, aggressive, and corresponding to the day.
The Chinese believe that to achieve bodily harmony, you must balance your intake of yin (cool, bland) foods with yang (the rich and hot). Do not be fooled by simple assumptions, as these terms often have nothing to do with the taste, nor how it is cooked. They relate to deeper essences of the foods nature.
Generally, new mothers should eat yang foods like fried pigeon since it is believed that tummy becomes cold after birth, same goes with those chronically fatigued. Yin foods, on the other hand, are recommended for the irritable, to pacify your mood. You might assume that all drinks are cooling; beer is, but brandy is not.
The Chinese also classify ailments as yin (cold) or yang (hot) and believe that as the body ages, it becomes increasingly yin. Such yin diseases as anemia are treated with yang foods, and assorted yang infections (sore throats, measles, etc.) with yin foods. So to ease dry (yang)cough, you have to take yin food, it means you can have ice cream but not chocolates!
Not all Chinese agree on which foods are yin or yang, but as a general rule, they break down as follows:
All bland or boiled foods, most greens. Almonds. Apple. Asparagus. Bamboo. Banana. Barley. Bean curd. Bean sprouts. Beer. Broccoli. Cabbage. Carrots. Celery. Clams. Corn. Corn flour. Crab. Cucumber. Duck. Eels. Fish. Grapes. Honey. Ice creams. Lemons. Milk. Mushrooms. Mussels. Oranges. Oysters. Pears. Peppermint tea. Pineapple. Pork. Potatoes. Salt. Seaweed. Shrimps. Spinach. Strawberries. Soya beans. White sugar. Tomatoes. Water.
Broiled meats, fatty meats and fried foods, hot and spicy foods, sesame oil, shellfish, sour foods, tangerines, vinegar and wine. Beef. Black pepper. Brown sugar. Butter. Cheese. Chicken liver and fat. Chillies. Chocolate. Coffee. Eggs. Smoked fish. Garlic. Green peppers. Goose. Ham. Kidney beans. Lamb. Leeks. Mushrooms. Onions. Peanut butter. Roasted peanuts. Potato. Rabbit. Turkey. Walnuts. Whisky. Wine.
On the otherhand, Yin and Yang also is a result of different cooking methods:
Yin Qualities: Boiling. Poaching. Steaming.
Yang Qualities: Deep-frying. Roasting. Stir-frying.