According to the statistics, there are more Chinese restaurants in the country than any other type of ethnic restaurant combined. This is an astonishing fact, when you think about all the pizza joints and Mexican restaurants that are around, but if you think about it for a couple of minutes, you can probably name at least a handful of Chinese restaurants in your area right off the top of your head. Everyone loves to eat exotic dishes of fried rice, Szechuan Beef, and sweet and sour pork from their local favorite, but doing so can be detrimental to your health. By learning a few basic tips, you can learn to cook low calorie Chinese recipes in your own home.
First, let’s look at why eating at or getting takeout from your favorite eating spot is not a healthy option for you in most cases. One of the things that you will notice when eating at most Asian restaurants is that the food is extremely oily. This is because deep frying plays a central role in the preparation of many dishes. Have you ever wondered why the meat at your favorite Asian eating spot is always more tender and succulent than when you try to recreate dishes at home? It’s because these establishments use a technique called oil blanching. Oil blanching is a process in which the meat of your choice (chicken, beef, seafood, etc.) is marinated in a mixture of seasonings and cornstarch and then deep fried at a low temperature. What happens during this process is that the hot oil seals in the juices into the meat and also causes the cornstarch on the surface of the meat to gelatinize, leaving the cook with a piece of juicy, tender meat. While this cooking technique yields flavorful meat, it also renders inherently low calorie foods into fatty bombs. Oil contains approximately 120 calories per tablespoon and when you deep fry, particularly at the low temperatures needed for oil blanching, the food that you are frying tends to absorb a copious amount, causing you to ingest hundreds of unnecessary calories.
In addition to oil blanching, a lot of dishes depend on traditional deep frying to get the desired textures and results that the cook wants. For example, common dishes like sweet and sour pork or Szechuan beef are often laden with oil from the deep fat fryer. Even dishes like fried rice and stir fried vegetables can become greasy, fattening dishes in the hands of an unskilled chef.
Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks that you can use at home in order to slash the calories from your favorite Asian dishes. Not only will you help your waistline, but you will also help your bottom line since cooking at home is much more economical than getting takeout. If you want to have succulent and tender meat like you would get from the oil blanching technique, you can duplicate the results by using a water blanching technique, a process which is very similar to blanching vegetables. First, you will need to marinate your meats in a mixture of egg whites, salt, and cornstarch. Then, bring a pot of water to the boil. Add the meat into the pot and cook for about thirty seconds, or just until the raw color of the meat has disappeared. After that, remove the meat from the pot and allow it to drain well. From there, you can proceed with your favorite Chinese stir fry recipe.
Another tip that you can use is to cook with non-stick cookware. A non-stick surface will allow you to cook Chinese dishes at home without having to use a lot of oil to prevent sticking. Instead of using tablespoons of vegetable oil to lubricate your pan, which will add hundreds of calories to your Chinese food, you can use a couple of sprays of cooking spray, which is less than 15.
Finally, substitute some of the meat in your dish with vegetables to create a low calorie Chinese recipe. By weight, meat contains far more calories, fat, and cholesterol than vegetables, so by substituting some of the protein with additional vegetables, you can help to slash your caloric intake. Think of using vegetables as the centerpiece of your Chinese dish and the meat as one of your seasoning elements.
By knowing a couple of easy tricks, you can cook low calorie Chinese recipes in the comfort of your own home. Since you control the quality of the ingredients and the cooking techniques, your final dish will be much healthier and cheaper than anything you can order at your favorite Asian eatery.