Increasing the Health Benefits of Chinese Food
In the introduction to Fresh Chinese, Wynnie Chan, a nutritionist with the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre in the UK, states that the aim of the book is to bring things back to basics by "reducing the amount of salt, fat, and sugar, while increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables in most dishes – and all without compromising on taste." She provides over 80 nutritious, easy to follow recipes that make it easy for cooks to focus on the "fresh" and keep the fat out of Chinese dishes. Every recipe includes a nutritional analysis, with the number of calories, fat content, and the amount of sodium. Scattered throughout the book are healthy eating tips - for example, did you know that plums are a good source of Vitamin E?
Covering the Basics
Chan begins by reviewing the five food groups, providing the nutritional benefits and serving portion sizes. After telling us what we should eat, she then makes sure we know what to avoid. An added bonus are the suggestions for reducing the amount of salt in dishes - a perennial problem in Chinese cooking. While some of the tips are fairly common, others, such as replacing Chinese soy sauce with highly concentrated Japanese Tamari, are less-well known.
Preparing a Complete Meal
Throughout the book, Chan provides suggestions for pairing recipes (for example, serving Roast Pork with Vegetarian Fried Rice). She also provides a menu plan for a variety of occasions, from a family dinner to a buffet for 8 – 10 people.
Healthy Recipes, Fast
The chapters cover everything from Soups and Starters to Desserts, with a special chapter on Vegetarian dishes. The recipes are clearly written, and with a few exceptions, contain ingredients that are readily available in the international section of many local supermarkets. There are some interesting healthy variations on classic recipes, such as Sesame Chicken with Cucumber that gets extra flavor from English dry mustard instead of sugar, and a low-fat baked version of bananas with sesame seeds, cinnamon, and yogurt. The recipes reflect the fact that, just as Vietnamese and Thai chefs have made use of Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques, Chinese chefs are incorporating South-east Asian ingredients such as fish sauce and lime juice into their dishes.
Chan does an excellent job of tracing the origins of each recipe - it’s interesting to note that, despite the fact that Cantonese cuisine has the reputation of being the healthiest of China’s regional cuisines, she features a number of recipes from western Szechuan province.
Chinese Food: Healthy or Unhealthy?
My one disappointment is that, despite the book’s title, Chan includes several non-Chinese Asian recipes, such as a Thai red curry, Vietnamese Spring Rolls and a variation on Malaysian Laksa. Sticking with Chinese recipes, instead of turning to other Asian cuisines, would have helped emphasize that the nutritional value of properly prepared Chinese food. However, the recipes are very good, and could be paired with Chinese dishes.
The Bottom Line
You don’t need to be on a diet to use this book. Fresh Chinese is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to prepare healthy balanced meals for their family.Fresh Chinese: Over 80 Healthy Chinese Recipes, by Wynnie Chan
Published by Hamlyn, a division of Octopus Publishing Group
13 DIGIT ISBN: 9780600615088