Kung “Pao,” indeed. A 2007 report from the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest served up the one-two (fat/sodium) punch that restaurant Chinese food is a nutritional disaster. The news made headlines, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Most of us have known for years that a dish of deep-fried Kung Pao Chicken is no more virtuous than a fistful of French fries.
But when I studied the cold, hard, artery-clogging facts and learned that an order of Lemon Chicken has the fat and calorie content of three McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwiches, and that a serving of Orange Beef delivers a whopping 1,500 calories, 11g saturated fat, and 3,100mg of sodium, I knew I had to take matters into my own kitchen. So I did, focusing on the naturally healthful essence of true Chinese cooking—heavy on the vegetables and light on the protein, low in animal fats, sauced with a gentle hand, and nearly always accompanied by steamed rice. Properly prepared authentic Chinese food is actually one of the world’s most heart-healthy cuisines. And you can prepare it in the blink of a stir-fry. Here are a few tips:
- Forget the wok. A heavy 12-inch skillet delivers the best results with a minimum of oil.
- Accentuate the positive. Turn Beef with Broccoli into Broccoli with Beef.
- Serve rice alongside rather than beneath the main dish, and opt for brown rice.
- For the ultimate fake-out, serve your healthful dishes in Chinese take-out containers, pass the chopsticks, and don’t forget the fortune cookies. Message? “You will enjoy a long healthy life and Chinese food too.”
—By Laraine Perri