Healthy Chinese Food Near Me – In the Kitchen
When most of us think about Chinese food, we picture a white take-out carton filled with a mound of deep-fried chicken or pork swimming in a sweet, saucy sea. This image feeds the common – and false – perception that there is no such thing as healthy Chinese food. However, it’s easy to cook fresh, healthy, meals using authentic Chinese ingredients.
What Americans of non-Chinese descent call “Chinese food” isn’t representative of authentic Chinese meals. Dishes such as sweet and sour pork, General Tso’s chicken, and chop suey were developed by Chinese immigrants who adapted Cantonese recipes to appeal to the Western palate. In doing so, they developed some of the “guilty pleasures” that so many of us enjoy today.
Even though making healthy Chinese food might sound complicated, it really isn’t. The main ingredients of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese food include chicken, beef, and shrimp, with healthy vegetables and rice. That’s not terribly exotic, is it? The cooking methods are a bit different from standard American cuisine, though, as are the oils and spices.
Let’s start with ingredients. At the supermarket, one of the key differences between Chinese and American cooking quickly becomes clear. Chinese produce is sold at peak freshness and meant to be consumed that day, or maybe the next, whereas American produce is intended to have a long shelf-life. So, when you shop for healthy Chinese food, get your produce the day of, or the day before you plan to cook and eat it. You can, however, stock up on nonperishable pantry essentials like spices, dried rice noodles, and oils.
Once you have some of the basics in your basket; soy sauce or wheat-free tamari, rice vinegar, and sesame oil, can be used as building blocks to create a wide variety of healthy dinners.
It’s important to make sure you have all your ingredients ahead of time. While we might be used to knocking on a neighbor’s door mid-recipe for a cup of flour, they might not be able to help you if you need fermented bean paste. You can prepare even further in advance by starting to cook your ingredients a day or two ahead of time.
One way to do this is by parboiling noodles: simply add dried noodles to boiling water until they soften, but remove them before they are fully cooked. Storing parboiled noodles in your refrigerator can save you at least ten minutes when cooking under a time crunch. Fully cooked rice noodles keep very well in the refrigerator…so don’t be afraid to cook these to an al dente finish.
Simple, healthy Chinese food meals:
- Once you have your parboiled noodles, you can also prepare your mix-ins ahead of time. Sliced onions, bell peppers, bok choy, and other veggies can be prepared well in advance to be tossed and stirred in a hot wok (large skillet or frying pan) before dinner. Add regular or gluten free soy sauce to taste and you’ll have a healthy meal in no time.
- After mastering a simple and healthy stir fry, you’ve opened the door to a world of healthy, home-cooked Chinese food. When you crave the crunch of General Tso’s, you can easily recreate that at home in a healthy way. It starts with a kitchen staple you already have: corn starch. Simply toss vegetables, fish, or meat in the corn starch and refrigerate it to ensure the coating sticks. Heat up an inch of neutral oil (like peanut), in a cast iron skillet and fry until crisp. Then add your spices at the end.
- For a uniquely hands-on dinner, gather friends or family to create a chilled Vietnamese summer roll assembly line. No two rolls are exactly alike; all rolls are encased in a rice paper wrapper, but they can contain infinite combinations of healthy ingredients like cooked shrimp, fresh herbs, and vegetables. Try a little friendly competition to see who can create the best combo! (Make sure to eat your creations right away so the rice paper doesn’t dry out). I love this hands-on dinner, even though it takes a little practice. Here is how it works:
- Everyone gets a HOT water bowl.
- Spin the rice paper wrapper in water and lay it across your plate (hint: put a couple of chopsticks on your plate to prevent the wrapper from sticking or alternatively drape the rice paper wrapper over the edge of your plate nearest you).
- Lightly fill the wrapper with your preferred ingredients including asian dipping sauce, fold it like a diaper, roll, and enjoy!
DO Try This at Home!
These simple recipes are just the beginning of your healthy, home-cooked journey. Once you conquer the intimidation of working with recipes you’ve never made before, you’ll be introduced to a new world of fresh, healthy flavors. Stepping outside your comfort zone never tasted so good.