Posts tagged ‘healthy’

July 21st, 2011

What makes “Asian” dish Asian?

Happy National Junk Food Day!  To celebrate this joyous occasion, let’s talk about McDonald’s.  The other day, on the way back from the gym, my husband lifted up his tired arm and pointed at a huge billboard ahead of us for McDonald’s new Asian salad.  His question, “What do you have to put in there before you can call it Asian?”My husband always jokes that he doesn’t like ‘Asian seasonings’.  He’s usually laughing when he says it, but we both know he’s serious.  He says there’s something in there that he can’t quite identify, but can always taste.  There are a few ingredients that I know for sure that he won’t like it.  The prime suspect is Japanese dashi, fish stock.  Add soy sauce, salt, and sugar to the fish stock, and it’ll make a great soup for udon and soba.  It’s also the base for miso soup.  I guess growing up with it, I never thought miso soup smelled, but apparently, according to my selective husband, it does.  Luckily, these dashi based dishes are mostly Japanese, and not that conventionally ‘Asian’, so it’s unlikely that the McDonald’s “Asian Salad” will contain dashi.  Of course we’d still have to buy the salad to find out, but before that, our fun guessing game began.

My husband guessed the Asian salad would contain edamame, a food he first tried at my grandmother’s house in Japan.  (Looking back, maybe we should have told him that you’re only supposed to eat the inside?)  When it was my turn to guess what McDonald’s thinks is ‘Asian’,  I chose canned Mandarin orange.  Why?  Just think back to every Chinese chicken salad you’ve ever eaten.  Aren’t Mandarin oranges always in there?

Were we right?  Well, I went to McDonald’s and placed my order.   I was impressed with the wide variety of Asian culture on display as the cashier presented me with two options: “grilled” or “crispy” chicken.  ‘Crispy’ being the code word for fried.

Being a fan of Asian culture, I ordered both.  Just like they served in ancient Tokyo, my salad came with a packet of Newman’s Own Low Fat Sesame dressing.  To add even more Asian-ness to the mix, a packet of sliced almonds was included.  The salad was much better than I expected, but basically it’s just orange or sesame chicken on a bed of green salad.

But to answer the big question: were our guesses right?  Yes! There were both edamame and mandarin orange slices in it.  Add ginger dressing and you may have that ‘Asian seasoning’ my husband is always complaining about.  I suspect these two items plus ginger dressing are the answer to my husband’s question.

With the mystery solved, only one question remains: would I order this again?  Actually…yes.  It was a pretty good deal for 270 calories. Tasty and filling (Crispy: 420 cal).  I guess my husband will just have to stick with his Happy Meal!

June 7th, 2011

Banned from the house

We were hosting a Sunday family dinner at our house. Everybody was enjoying food; roast chicken with pancetta and olives, creamy polenta (recipe at bottom) and grilled asparagus. Nice, right?  My husband went to the kitchen to get drinks from fridge and came back and whispered to me “there’s something rotten in there.”

Keeping a meticulously clean kitchen, I knew nothing was rotten in our fridge.  What was he smelling?  The culprit was kimchi, Korean fermented pickles.  The ‘rotten’ quality comes from the fermentation; garlic, chili, onion…, all the healthy stuff that’s good for your body, but bad for the nose, if you’re not used to it.  That night, it was decided: kimchi is officially banned from our fridge, along with natto, the other fermented product that I love, but that can also really stink up your place.  The way my husband explains it, “The smell makes it too hard to notice if the other food has gone bad.”

Smell, maybe more than sight,  is such a big part of the culinary experience.  When I was a kid, I smelled every food that came my way.   My parents were embarrassed by my behavior, and scolded me a million times, “Do not smell that, you are not a pig!” But, no matter how many times they said it, I never listened.  I have a very keen sense of smell.  I can smell things that are far away or things that are very subtle; it  is my superpower; ESP or invisibility might have been more useful for fighting crime, but my gift serves me well in the culinary world.  I was having dinner with my best friend last week, and as soon as my plate came, I unconsciously smelled my dish.  “You still smell everything, don’t you?” she casually mentioned.  I didn’t realize anybody noticed my habit, but looking back, I have to rephrase my previous statement from “When I was a kid…,” to “Since I was a kid, I’ve always smelled every food that comes my way.”

There is a brand of natto (Japanese fermented beans dish) that smells less offensive. The manufacture’s website mentions since they are freshly made in United States and never frozen, the smell stays mild.  In other words, most of natto in the states are imported from Japan, so due to temperature changes, its fermentation is accelerated and that may lead to a stronger smell.  So natto has started to sneak into our fridge.  Here’s my favorite breakfast and lunch menu.  Kimchi and natto over rice with seaweed.  While there’s no single word in this menu that appeals to my husband besides ‘and’, for me, it’s heaven.

Creamy Polenta recipe:

1C polenta

2C chicken stock (this is what I use and think is the BEST)

1C water

1TS butter

1/2 C low fat or regular milk

salt & black pepper to taste

Boil chix stock & water, add polenta, stir medium heat for a few minutes

steam in low heat 20 min with lid on

add milk stir, salt & pepper low heat for 5 min

add butter stir for a minute or so and serve.