Made in China

This is a transcription of “Made in China,” dated July 15th, 2008.

Nina: Chef Nik-Tu, say hello to Spices of Life

Nina: Hi this is Nina Simonds with Spices of Life. I’m in Beijing, China at one of my favorite restaurants. It’s called “Made in China” and I wanted to give you a firsthand tour. So let’s go and see what they have. This happens to be one of the most beautiful restaurants that I’ve been to. Let’s pretend you’re here for dinner. And we’ll go in and I’ll show you the beautiful bar where you can enjoy cocktails and wine. Notice the beautiful pots that they have – bamboo steamers and tea kettles. What’s so exciting about this restaurant is that you are actually seated at some of the stations at the restaurant. So here they usually have a wonderful fountain of chocolate bubbling away. You can see various ice creams, fruits, and a tray of desserts. Look at this beautiful refrigerator. One of the things Made in China tries to do is to focus on local ingredients, so they have farmers who are growing vegetables for them. I know the Chef, particularly, and the general manager, like to feature local specialties. One of their superb specialties is Peking Duck. For two hours they are going to roast it, so at the end there will be beautiful, crisp skin and succulent meat. And then from here we are going to go over to the dumpling table, where they make the most wonderful pot-stickers. So you can stand here. It’s theater and dining in the same place. You can watch the chef prepare some of their delicious dumplings. They say the more skilled the chef is, the more pleats he has in the dumplings. Over here we come to the stir-fry section. You can see all the beautiful stir-frying of fresh vegetables; it goes very quickly in this hot, hot fire. Oh, it’s making me hungry. If you’re in the mood for some delicious food in China, or Beijing. You definitely want to check out Made in China. Thanks Chef, Nik-Tu.

Healthy Chinese Food Exposed – Pyramid on a Plate

This is a transcript for “Pyramid on a Plate #1: Healthy Chinese Food Exposed,” dated April 29, 2008.

Nina: Hi, this is Nina Simonds for Spices of Life. Today I’m in a Chinese restaurant and I’m thrilled to have Dr. Eric Rimm, who is an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. So what we’re going to do today is to dispel some myths about Chinese restaurant food. I think it’s relevant to say that CSPI – the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog agency based in Washington that focuses on nutritional issues – has come out with a study pointing out that restaurant Chinese food is very high in fat and sodium, which is true. Correct, Eric?

Eric: Yes, it is. It was a really interesting study, because there is a wide range of food that you can get from a Chinese restaurant. There is a fair bit of hidden sodium and also some of the dishes have a high amount of fat.

Nina: It’s also true that we do need some fat. Correct?

Eric: Yes, of course we need some fat. In fact, some of the fat they use in Chinese restaurants is good because it’s liquid vegetable oil. So some of the things they use for stir-frying are beneficial. We do want to have some fat in our meal.

Nina: The one thing that I felt – I had problems with this study. It was a little bit sensational and misleading. I think it’s easy, if you know the right way to order, to have a very healthy, according-to-the-pyramid, meal in a Chinese restaurant.

Eric: And that’s the great thing about a Chinese restaurant. You open the menu and you have 50 or 100 or 150 choices. Of course they picked out the ones that are commonly consumed, but also those that are really high in sodium or those that may be high in saturated fat. You just have to pick out the right foods and be smart about it. There’s a lot of options.

Nina: And that’s what I thought. I thought that we would really bring everyone full circle, and challenge you, Dr. Eric Rimm, to eat healthily, but also pleasurably. We want this to be a delicious meal, so everyone feels they won’t be hungry an hour later. They’re going to come out and really be satisfied, and also eat according to the USDA pyramid. This restaurant offers brown rice as well as white rice.

Eric: Sometimes it’s not on the menu, you just have to ask for it. But I think that’s one of the things that will actually help you stay full, an hour or two hours after a Chinese meal. A lot of people order white rice and that gets digested very quickly. It actually does make you feel a little more hungry two or three hours after the meal. Stick with the brown rice and I think that will help a lot.

Nina: Okay, let’s look at the menu and order some delicious, USDA approved, Dr. Eric Rimm approved, dishes. Let’s order a meal and have a great time.

Eric: Sounds great to me.

CK Sao (CK Shanghai): Too much oil, too much grease, isn’t good for people’s health.

Eric: What kind of oil do you use when you stir-fry?

CK: Peanut.

Eric: Wow! Excellent.

Nina: That’s expensive, so a lot of restaurants don’t want to use it.

Eric: Alright, let’s try this. I guess if you were trying to take the pyramid and condense it down to a plate at a Chinese restaurant – it’s a circle, so you’re kind of stuck with that shape, but you could draw some pyramids within your circle. You would set aside this much for the brown rice. Any great Chinese meal is going to have some vegetables either mixed in, or as the main course, and that should be a pretty big portion of what you have. That can include a whole range of things that you can get at a restaurant, but the greens should be at least a third, or maybe even a half of what you’re going to eat there. And again, I think it’s important to have a few different kinds. That’s the shrimp! That’s over here in the protein. We’ll have the vegetable protein and the animal protein.

Nina: So the shrimp goes in the animal protein.

Eric: And if you want to have some bean curd or some other kind of protein, that would go over here in the vegetable protein.

Nina: Here’s some Ma-Po Tofu. It’s a little saucy but good.

Eric: For someone my size, this might not be quite enough. But the idea of the pyramid, and the way the USDA has it set up, is that everybody compares what they eat to how much they exercise. Because if you exercise, you burn more calories and you need more calories. But this might be perfect for the average-sized female, who needs 1600 calories a day.

Nina: How many calories do you need if you don’t exercize?

Eric: Between 1600 and 1800. Look at that. That’s the perfect Chinese meal. No fried foods here, because there is a lot of hidden fat in that. You want to have some fat, and we have some in the shrimp and stir-fried vegetables, so that’s good. We have the brown rice instead of the white rice, and we have a lot of different vegetable sources.

Nina: And you could have a glass of wine. Red?

Eric: Red or white. In fact, if you’re at a Chinese restaurant you could get a great beer. One or two drinks a day is great.

Nina: Thank you Eric!

Eric: Cheers!

Nina: Great. Thank you Eric, and this is Nina Simonds at Spices of Life and we’re trying to make a difference.

Stir-Fried Broccolini

This is a transcription of “Quick Bites” Stir-Fried Broccolini,” dated May 28, 2008.

Nina: Hi, this is Nina Simonds for Spices of Life and we have another veggie quick bite. Today we’re going to stir-fry some broccolini with garlic. Here’s some broccolini. Did you know that broccolini is actually a hybrid? It’s a cross between broccoli and kai-lan, which is Chinese broccoli, and it’s slightly sweeter. So what we’re going to do is take this lovely broccolini and cut it into sections, and then we’re going to blanch it in boiling water for about a minute and a half, and refresh it in cold water. Once you refresh it in cold water, the broccolini will stay nice and bright. So, it’s already been refreshed and we have some minced garlic right here. I like a lot of garlic, so I’m going to use about two tablespoons of garlic. We’re going to go over to the stove. The wok is quite hot. We’re going to add a teaspoon or a little bit more, maybe a teaspoon and a half, of olive oil. Now don’t be afraid to get your wok really hot, because you want to get that delicious seared flavor on the vegetables. Then we’re going to add our broccolini, the blanched broccolini. We’re adding the garlic, don’t be afraid to sprinkle it right in. Don’t be shy with the garlic! We’re adding a little bit of salt, about a teaspoon. Once again you can go to the website recipe section for all of the recipes. Now I’m adding about two tablespoons of rice wine (sake) or you could add a dry white wine. You’re just going to toss this over very high heat, to give it that flavor of garlic. You want it to be tender. That’s it! There you have it. That’s stir-fried broccolini. Now you can do this with broccoli, with spinach, watercress, cabbage. Really, any type of green vegetable. It’s delicious and very simple. What I like to do is make a bunch of this at the beginning of the week, and then I have it all during the week. I throw it in soups and stews. I reheat it in my microwave and it’s delicious. So, from Nina Simonds and Spices of Life, stir-fried broccolini!

Toasted Sesame Green Beans

This is a transcription of “Quick Bites: Toasted Sesame Green Beans,” dated May 13, 2008.

Nina: Hi, this is Nina Simonds from Spices of Life. Today we have some toasted sesame green beans, they’re string beans. And I have about 1.5 lbs. of green beans here. What you want to do, with either your fingers or a knife, is top and tail the beans. Rinse them lightly. Drain them. What we’re going to do is to actually microwave them, or steam them. We’re going to flavor them with a little bit of toasted sesame oil. You do want it toasted so that it’s dark and fragrant. We’re just going to toss the green beans in the sesame oil and water so that it gives it a little bit of flavor. Then, we’re going to them in either a pie plate or some other type of heat-proof dish. We’ll cover them with a little bit of plastic wrap so that they steam in their own juices. These are going to steam in the microwave for 7-8 minutes, and we’re going to sprinkle them with toasted sesame seeds. So there you have it, toasted sesame seed green beans from Spices of Life.

Sauteed Chicken With Cherry Tomatoes

A Great Chicken Dish

This dish is equally good for family or guests. I serve it with steamed rice, but my father loves it over mashed potatoes. A simple salad or vegetable on the side is nice, but not essential.

Six Servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts *

4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped coarsely

6 shallots, peeled and chopped coarsely

1 ½ pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, or 2 pints, rinsed and drained

1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano

¾ cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet, a Dutch oven, or a casserole with a lid, pour in the oil, and heat until quite hot, about 400 degrees. Line the pan with a batch of chicken breasts and fry over high heat until golden brown on one side, about 2 ½ to 3 minutes. Turn over and brown on the other side. Remove with tongs and continue browning the remaining pieces.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the cherry tomatoes, oregano, white wine, salt and pepper to the pan and sauté, uncovered about 4 to 4 ½ minutes, shaking the pan, from time to time. Arrange the chicken in the pan, cover, and cook about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  3. Scoop the chicken out onto a platter and serve with rice or over mashed potatoes.

*You can substitute boned chicken thighs for the boned breasts. Cook as directed in steps 1 and 2, then add the seared thighs and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked. Serve as directed.

© Copyright Nina Simonds 2008

Disclaimer: Herbs, foods, and other natural remedies are not substitutes for professional medical care.
For a specific health problem, consult a qualified health-care giver for guidance.