Chinese cuisine is not known for being healthy, no doubt thanks to the fact that most dishes are fried with plenty of oil. If you’re losing weight orwatching your figure, you don’t have to swear off Chinese food all together, however. Here are 10 dishes you’ll find in China that are both low calorie and delicious.
Steamed/Grilled Shrimp, Chicken or Fish
As mentioned above, the majority of Chinese dishes are stir-fried. However, there are usually one or two options of grilled (Kǎo / 烤) or steamed (Qingzheng / 清蒸) lean protein on a Chinese menu. Yunnan restaurants, in particular, do awesome grilled fish. Steamed pork and vegetables is also pretty common, and if you can change the pork to chicken, you’ll save even more calories. Winning!
Egg Drop Soup
Broth-based soups, such as Egg Drop Soup (dànhuātāng / 蛋花湯), are light on the calories and heavy on taste, making them a great mid-afternoon snack. They also serve well as a light starter at dinner that will hopefully stop you over-stuffing on too much of the naughty stuff.
Fried dumplings may touch a different part of your heart, but they also touch a different part of your bum and thighs. Steamed dumplings (jiǎozi / 饺子) or boiled dumplings (Shuǐjiǎo / 水饺), particularly vegetarian ones, contain far fewer calories and are (almost) as satisfying to scoff. There are normally a few classic veggie dumplings on most Chinese menus, including tomato & egg and tofu & pickled vegetables. If you can’t bare to go full veggie, opt for varieties with lean proteins, such as chicken or prawn.
Commonly translated as Buddha’s Delight, Luóhàn Cài (罗汉菜) was originally a dish served to monks. It’s now a common vegetarian option all over China, not to mention in Chinese restaurants overseas. It’s simply vegetables (and sometimes seafood or egg) cooked in light soy sauce and a few other seasonings. While you may be packing in a bit of sodium with this one, it’s light on the oil and heavy on the veggies.
Some argue that tofu has no flavor. However, others (myself included) would argue that tofu is a vehicle for flavor. The Chinese do a particularly good job at seasoning silken tofu dishes, known as dòuhuā (豆花). Silken tofu is also super healthy, as it basically contains zero fat. Savory forms usually come with a combination of pickled vegetables, preserved egg, soy sauce and chili sauce.
Shredded Tofu Salad
Shredded tofu salad (Liángbàn Gàn sī / 涼拌干丝) looks pretty uninspiring - kind of like strips of cardboard - but it’s actually super delicious and fairly filling. Again, a good vehicle for sauce, it’s best eaten with a splash and vinegar and chili oil. This dish makes for a great substitute for noodles, replacing heavy carbs with lean protein.
Meat skewers (Chuàn Shāo / 串烧) are a popular street snack all around China, but especially in the north. While fatty lamb is probably the most common, you can usually get chicken, beef and tofu skewers in restaurants, making this a lean protein hit. They’re also super cheap, which never hurts.
One of the most genuinely delicious healthy Chinese food options is Beggar’s Chicken (Jiào Huā jī / 叫化雞). Cooked inside a big ball of clay, this traditional Jiangsu dish isn’t super common and doesn’t come particularly cheap, but it serves as a tender and tasty treat for those watching their waistlines.
Spinach with Peanuts
While the classic spinach with peanuts dish (Lǎo Cù Bōcài Huāshēng / 老醋菠菜花生) might be staggeringly salty at times, it generally comes with very little grease. There’s also plenty of goodness in the form of fiber, iron and vitamins from the spinach and healthy fatty acids, including Omega 6, from the peanuts. There’s usually a fair bit of garlic thrown into the mix as well, which helps regulate cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Congee (Zhōu / 粥) is not the most sexy of Chinese foods, let’s not deny, but with its basic-ness comes healthiness. The rice porridge works well as a low fat breakfast that will keep you nice and full until lunchtime. Just avoid the one with added pork fat, for obvious reasons!
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Keywords: low fat chinese dishes healthy chinese food
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