The general opinion of most of the public is that chinese food is tasty but not healthy. This was not always the opinion of most people as some time ago, asian cuisine was thought of as very healthy. There was a time when eating a bowl of fried rice and vegetables was pretty healthy eating because everything was made with mostly unprocessed ingredients. Those times are behind us as most “americanized” chinese food outlets are using too much sodium and ultra refined oils. It has been common knowledge for some time now that American Chinese food eateries don’t serve the healthiest of foods. Of course, the more pricey places MAY serve healthier, more traditional foods but that ain’t in my budget. I have found that the healthiest Chinese foods that I can eat are the dishes that I prepare at home! American Chinese food typically treats vegetables as a side dish while traditional dishes of China emphasize vegetables. Go onto the Internet and get a simple recipe of a couple of your favorite Asian dishes and learn how to cook it. But if you must eat out, here are the types of dishes to avoid.
1- Don’t eat the fried rice! This is the first thing on the Chinese food menu that you need to avoid the most! Eating white rice by itself is a no-no among low-glycemic eaters, but then you want to fry it in processed, super-refined oil. Fried rice is simply white rice that has been fried. It is becoming popular among restaurants to use cheaper oils as opposed to the 100% peanut oil or coconut oil used in traditional Asian cooking. Dietary suicide is what this is. Of course if you are only eating every few months then it could be ok. But if you eat Chinese food more than once a month then you should avoid eating any of the meals including fried rice.
2. Don’t eat anything cooked in a sauce or gravy. This is popular at the Asian eateries found at your local mall. Everything is breaded, deep fried and covered with a sauce. This is a sure way to get your daily supply and more of sodium and sugars all in one meal. Mongolian beef, Kung Pao chicken, Soy sauce, sweet and sour sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce are all full of sodium and sugar and should be avoided. It is a great thing that many places have a low sodium menu or a diet menu for those people with health issues such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes. The best way to cut the sodium out of your Chinese meal is to order steamed vegetables. Explain to your server that you want a traditional Chinese meal without the salty sauces.
3. Don’t eat Deep-fried “anything”. Most Americanized-Chinese restaurants menus are meat-based. Americans love eating deep fried dead animals so Asian eateries give them what they want. And what is that stuff that they are frying your food in? Ask to see the label of their fry oil to see how many ingredients are in the “vegetable” oil! Many of these tasty dishes are battered then deep fried which makes the calorie count soar even more! The batter absorbs the oil which raises the fat content of your meal dramatically. Hunan chicken comes to mind. Batter, fried and covered in sauce, it was my wife’s favorite before she became vegetarian. And my former favorite: egg rolls!
4. So what do I do? Even the veggie-style meals are full of sodium. A plate of stir-fried green beans has 900 calories and 2,200 milligrams of sodium. If you go to a quality Asian restaurant then the cook will work with you on the way you want your food prepared. Let them know that you want steamed white rice instead of fried white rice and you want your sauce on the side. I often ask the preparer to substitute tofu for meat in many meals and the price stays the same. Ask if they have a “light” or “diet” menu. Some may have a menu just for low sodium customers. It never hurts to ask. The good restaurants WANT you to ask!
Chinese restaurants in America have become extremely popular in the last 50-70 years. There was a time when eating Asian food was not popular as eating Chinese dishes was equivalent to eating peasant food or worse. Apparently this was where the stigma of eating rats or dog meat in Chinese food was born. This was done by the extremely poor and is not true today as inspections of eating establishments are done regularly by the government. The popular Chinese dish called Chop Suey was considered to be a meal fit for those who begged for food or could not afford other dishes on the menu. Today, this dish is my personal favorite and is one of the favorite items ordered by repeat customers.
With the poor reputation that Chinese food had to deal with, it was not a business that was prone to success, at least not in the beginning. It was tough in the early years of Chinese cooking to set up an eatery in America. Most Chinese immigrants drawn by the 1848 Gold Rush struggled against racism and prejudice against the Asian style of eating but still established restaurants and imported an array of Asian ingredients to use. Most people in America were not familiar with herbs such as ginger or even cinnamon! Over time and with the aid of some very imaginative marketing, Asian dishes began to catch on and the phenomenon spread. Today there are more Chinese restaurants in America than there are McDonald’s hamburger joints. Of course this is because so many people think that the meals are healthy for them.
Healthy Vegetable Chop Suey
1 cup- Noodles or White rice
1-2 tbsp- soy sauce
2 tbsp- Cornflour
2 cups -Vegetable stock
1 cup- Cabbage shredded,
1 tsp Ginger,(chopped)
3-4 cloves Garlic, (chopped)
1- Onion,(sliced thin)
1 cup- green beans
1/2 cup- broccoli florets
1 tsp- Vinegar
Oil – 3 tbsp of coconut oil or peanut oil
1) Prepare noodles or white rice.
2) Heat two tablespoons of oil in a fry pan, add chopped ginger, garlic and stir-fry.
3) Add sliced onion and saute until it turns tender.
4) Then add carrot, beans, cabbage, broccoli florets and stir-fry for two minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked but still crisp.
5) Stir in the soy sauce and the vinegar. Pour in the veggie stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir in the blended cornstarch.
6) Allow it to simmer for two minutes until it thickens.
7) On a plate arrange a serving of noodles or white rice and pour the vegetables over it.
8) Your vegetable chop suey is ready.
Randy Powell, Eating-Veggies.com