Most Americans perceive that the only dishes Asian restaurants make are grease bombs that come in a to-go box, and that any other Asian dish is just too adventurous to try. Well, move over fried egg rolls and chow mein: Southeast Asian dishes are healthy, delicious and more than worthy to grace your dinner table tonight.
Growing up, I didn’t eat casseroles, meatloaf, and pasta every other day. Like most other Asian children, my staples were rice and noodles. I remember waking up to the smell of Pho` and eating my soup with a side of vegetables.
Pho` is a traditional Vietnamese soup and noodle dish filled with hot meaty broth. While there’s no standard Pho` recipe, beef is typically used to flavor the broth along with spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom and onions.
Rice noodles are added to a bowl and the broth is poured on top to cook the noodles and the meat. Fresh herbs like basil and cilantro top the dish, and green onions provide a bright note as well. To add more flavor to the soup, spices, chilies, and lime can be used, too. The calorie count depends on the size of the Pho` bowl. A small size bowl (3 cups) can pack up to 500 calories, so the bigger the bowl the more the calories.
Instead of fried egg rolls, try spring rolls. Spring rolls are vegetables rolled into sheets of rice paper. Rice paper used for spring rolls are circular edible wafer sheets and are about 20 calories each. Meat can be used in the spring rolls, but go meatless if you’re vegetarian. Calorie intake depends on the type of spring roll you have, but all vegetable spring rolls run about 85 calories. However, if meat is added, the calorie count goes up.
Another Asian dish is any form of seasoned meat with rice. Rice is an Asian culture staple because in Asia, families couldn’t afford much else. Rice is typically eaten with other elements, such meat or vegetables. And the meats are typically marinated with spices then either baked, fried, or grilled.
Asians usually eat white rice with their dishes, which has up to 242 calories per 1 cup serving. Brown rice isn’t as eaten as often as white, but switching out white rice for brown saves calories and is a much healthier, whole grain choice.
So the next time you’re having a serious Asian food craving, instead of getting food from the local Chinese eatery, try food from a local Southeast Asian restaurant. Southeastern Asian dishes are light, healthy, incorporate tons of vegetables, and pack far less calories than your standard fried rice and egg roll.