Change your thinking! If you think of Chinese food as being deep-fried, highly-salted, hugely-calorific, with lots of expensive ingredients, then challenge yourself to think again.
Maybe that's the reputation Chinese takeaways had in the past, but if you eat on the streets of Shanghai these days, you will not only get value for money but a healthy, locally sourced, good honest and tasty meal. So much so, that recently apartments in Shanghai are being built with no kitchens, as there is no need!!
Celebrity Chefs — Go With It
Even some celebrity chefs have realised that Chinese food is not as hard as we all thought and it can be done with our health in mind. Both James Martin and the Hairy Bikers have joined with the mind set of Ken Hom and Gok Wan, in realising we can recreate our favourite meals at home in the UK. Recently Morrison's Magazine contained recipes on how to cook low-calorie Chinese takeaways, so even supermarkets are getting behind it.
Healthy, Fast, Filling, Cheap and Sociable
My points are that home made Chinese food can be:
- Healthy — as they tend to have more vegetables than meat.
- Fast — Most preparation is done in advance and it cooks quickly as it is done on a high heat.
- Filling — but slimming too. Even if you only slightly adapt a menu, these small changes can make a healthier, cheaper meal; e.g. spray your wok in one calorie spray rather than oil, choose low salt, or light soy sauce rather than dark. I grate a raw carrot into recipes to bulk out the meat and thicken the sauce with virtually no calories. Kung pao chicken is a bit better for you if you add half a peeled and diced cucumber to the last 2 minutes of cooking time — trust me, you really don't notice.
- Cheap — because you are using what is in season, maybe from your own garden, cheap or leftover it is good value.
- Versatile — Although there ARE lots of ingredients in the cookery, the non-fresh items are used for lots of different recipes and things like the spices last for ages. These days you can take shortcuts like jars of easy chillies, ginger and garlic, these keep in the fridge once opened, for a month.
- Sociable — ideal for a dinner party as everything is prepared before and cooked quickly and it looks great when prepared.
Chinese really is the new "ready meal", a convenience food.
Go Back to School
In China if you have a spare day, I really recommend you try to get to an authentic Cooking School. Cloud 9 has a restaurant in Guilin, and they also have cooking schools. If the food in their restaurant is anything to go by you are in for a treat. You could ask your China Highlights tour organiser to look into this for you.
It just takes the mystery out of the recipes for you and the confidence to give it a try when you get home. Also remember that there are so many types of Chinese food you can do a school in each region you visit. We cooked a thank you meal for the people who looked after our cat while we were away, which went down really well.
Learn From Anywhere
Having spent 2 hours climbing a mountain in Guilin to get to the top of the rice terraces we had a good appetite for lunch. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best. We had pork, bamboo cooked rice and egg with green bits in which was delicious.
I asked how it was made and was told it was just scrambled egg and chives (which is a fairly common item on many menus, but it never tasted this good — maybe it was the fresh mountain air, or maybe it was Grandma's rice wine home brew going to my head). I asked again for exactly how to make it, and after a trip to the kitchen and a lot of pointing and thumbs up we had the knowledge.
The Tastiest Scrambled Egg Ever
In a hot wok, drizzled with a nut oil, add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add 4 whisked eggs with a good grind of fresh salt and pepper and a bunch of spring onions (not chives) trimmed, split down the middle and cut into 2 inch lengths. Stir with the heat on for 2 minutes only. Serve with rice and a meat in separate bowls.
For other recipes you really can get everything you need on the China Highlights website. There's a wealth of information here.
Celebrate Chinese New Year with Special Offer Ingredients.
At Chinese New Year there are always supermarket offers and competitions on oriental foodstuffs. Get yourself to your local Asian/Chinese food store, I find they stock great ranges and things like spices and colourings in cheaper, larger bags, rather than more expensive and smaller tubs or bottles.
Give it a try.
You may well surprise yourself at the results! Here's another quick recipe for you. Only 4 minutes cooking time!
Low fat filling meat noodles
Ingredients for 2 servings:
- 50g minced lean pork (I used left over cooked gammon)
- 100g noodles
- 1 tbsp low salt soy sauce
- 1 tbsp ground pepper
- ½ tbsp chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- Bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped finely
- Seasonal fresh veg, diced. i.e. peppers, onions, pak choi, carrots.
- 1 tbsp ketchup
1. Spray Wok liberally with One Calorie oil, cook mince and ginger on high heat for a minute, stirring. Add pepper and ketchup and after 30 seconds turn down heat.
2. Add to this the soy and chilli sauce and spring onions and stir.
3. In a pan of boiling water add the noodles, boil for 3 minutes then add your fresh veg for 30 seconds before draining. Mix together and serve.
Chinese cookery is not too difficult for you and I to master, but like anything start with something simple and build up your confidence gradually. In two visits to China we have eaten a huge array of different foods and despite both of us having irritable bowel syndrome and eating anything from scorpion to yak, neither of us needed our medication; it is a very healthy diet.
Celebrate with another recipe from my holidays — hot green tea with a teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds for a nutty, smoky taste. Easy. Enjoy!
Recommended China Tour
If you are planning a China tour and want to experience Chinese cookery, we can help you arrange it. See below recommended China tours for inspiration:
- 8-Day Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai Tour — the Golden Triangle
- 12-Day Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Yangtze River, and Shanghai Tour — includes a giant pandas experience
Our tours can be customized . Just tell us your requirements and interests, and our guide can assist in making sure your food is carefully prepared, so you enjoy a wonderful trip without worrying about what might be lurking in your bowl.