How to Cook Healthy Chinese Food at Home
The three cooking techniques that’ll make you look at Chinese food differently
When it comes to healthy eating, Chinese food gets a bit of a bad rap in the UK, undoubtedly down to our love of the oily sauces and luminous charms found in local takeaways. But many of the cooking techniques used at home are actually really healthy, says chef Jeremy Pang, founder of School of Wok and author of Chinese Unchopped.
“Takeaways and cheaper restaurants have usually been around for two or three generations and they’ve traditionally cut corners to save money,” he says. “Deep-frying things in batter makes it much easier to mask what’s underneath. All the batter and gloopy sauces mean people’s perception of Chinese food in the UK is as comfort food and a bit of a treat, but home cooking is much different. The main techniques are stir-frying, steaming and braising, which are all really healthy.” Here are Pang’s healthy Chinese food tips.
Steam with a Wok
“Steaming keeps more nutrients in, you don’t need cooking fat, you can cook anything – and it’s a lot easier than people think. It’s a great way to cook fish and seafood because you keep that natural texture and it’s a gentle cooking process so it’s not going to dry it out. At home my mum always cooks steamed chicken and mushroom with rice. Put one part water to rice and steam in the wok. Place marinated chicken and dried shiitake mushrooms on top for the last ten to 12 minutes of cooking and it’ll be really succulent and cook down into the rice.”
How to Braise
“Braising is used when you’re cooking curries, stews and broths. You don’t need much oil as the flavour is coming from cooking something over a long period of time. Take a clay pot, put a couple of teaspoons of oil at the bottom and add your base flavours like ginger and garlic. Add your main ingredient, such as marinated beef, sear it to keep the moisture inside and get the flavour caramelised from the bottom of the pan, then add water or stock. I like squid this way because it breaks down so it’s softer and succulent, and you get all the flavours of the sauce and spices.”
Stir-fry like a Pro
“Stir-frying shouldn’t take any longer than five minutes. You’re cooking things very quickly on a high heat so you’re keeping all the nutrients in. Choose oil with a high smoking point such as rice bran oil or vegetable oil – you only need 1-2tsp. Sear everything really quickly. With veg you’re just cooking out the raw flavour, you don’t want to lose the crunch.”
School of Wok (opens in new tab) runs Asian and Oriental cookery classes and courses in Covent Garden, WC2N. Buy Chinese Unchopped (Quadrille Publishing) on Amazon (opens in new tab)
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Charlotte Thomas is a freelance journalist and health and fitness blogger at Lunges & Lycra (opens in new tab).