Yes Chinese food can be healthy, nutritious and even slimming

The headline on today’s RTÉ News “Chinese takeaway meals can exceed daily calorie requirements – study” has me exercised. Of course the Safefood Research is balanced and contains a lot of very useful information about the risks of over-eating unhealthy Chinese takeaway food. But viewers who simply catch the headline could get the impression that Chinese food is inherently unhealthy. It’s not – if it is prepared and eaten in the manner and in the quantities that are typically used in a Chinese household. Chinese food, when authentic, is probably among the healthiest in the world.

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Since we returned from China in July I’ve been cooking authentic Chinese recipes at least 3 or 4 times a week. We notice that our weight has reduced and we feel less bloated. We are eating far larger quantities of vegetables than we used to but less red meat. I serve rice with the meals but I find we eat about half the recommended portion size – it’s usually only needed as soakage for the sauce. I use groundnut oil in cooking but, because most dishes are stir-fried, the actual quantity of oil used is actually quite small. And, because soy sauce has a high sodium content, I hardly ever add salt for seasoning. Last but not least it is quick and easy to prepare and as we use bowls and chopsticks to serve there isn’t even much washing up to be done.

For instance as part of my commitment to Meatless Monday, below are photos of what I threw together within about half an hour of coming home tonight.

The general rule when serving a meal in a Chinese household is to serve one dish per person with one extra and usually at least one dish is served cold.

All the recipes are by Fuchsia Dunlop from her latest book Every Grain of Rice which I strongly recommend to anyone who wants to start cooking authentic Chinese dishes at home.

Spinach in ginger sauce – Jiang Zhi Bo Cai

This delicious dish is served cold and oozes healthiness.

Spinach in Ginger Sauce

Fish-fragrant Aubergines – Yu Xiang Qie Zi

The people of the land-locked province of Sichuan love their “fish-fragrant” dishes which draw on the seasonings used in cooking fish, but no fish gets near this dish of melting, silken aubergines.

Fish-fragrant aubergines

Stir-fried garlic stems with mushrooms and bacon – La Rou Chao Suan Tai

Ok I cheated a little here on the “Meatless Monday” theme by adding in a handful of smoked-bacon lardons. These little garlic stems, available at the Asia Market, are utterly delicious. The dish cooks in moments and is drizzled with a little sesame oil.

Stir-fried garlic stems with bacon and mushroom

Stir-fried peas with chilli and Sichuan pepper – Qiang Qing Wan Dou

A spicy take on frozen or fresh peas (I opted for Irish peas, frozen when fresh, rather than Venezuelan imports) and another dish than cooks in moments.

Stir-fried peas with chilli and Sichuan pepper

So forget the takeaways and prepare your Chinese meals at home. You will find lots of recipes on this blog. There, I feel better for getting that out of my system!