As we are surrounded by a plethora of tempting options from world cuisine to choose from, it would be wise to select the healthier and wholesome preparations while trying them out, says Naini Setalvad
Globalisation has brought world cuisine onto our plates. More and more people are choosing to eat and order from outside. Trying out world cuisines and fusion foods from different countries has become fashionable. Not only the aerated drinks and the ready-to-eat pastas, sauces and noodles too have become a staple among the Indian masses. The menu can include anything from fried Manchurian, tacos, nachos, cheese balls to foods made from molecular gastronomy, which is a fusion of physics and chemistry, and is served with fuming flasks of liquid nitrogen, LED blinking water baths, and different chemicals and syringes giving rise to different fragrances, textures, and even sounds. Who needs plates and saucers when we have chocolate spoons, crispy potato baskets, or steel meshes as serving items?
Like the children following the Pied Piper, we are blindly following the herd, giving rise to a billion-dollar industry that encourages us to give up our local, regional, seasonal produce. This business recommends that we greedily eat more quinoa, kale, and broccoli at every meal.
A cocktail of world cuisine on our plate, loaded with chemicals and pesticides to increase the size and flavour, is probably the reason for rising instances of early puberty, hormonal disturbances, and the rise of obesity, diabetes, and cancer in people.
But this does not mean that you need to eschew all these wonderful cuisines, to maintain your health. In fact, there are plenty of healthy options in these cuisines to choose from.
Read on to know what you can make at home, or order at a restaurant, from these exotic Chinese, Japanese, and Thai foods.
Chinese foods: Who hasn’t had midnight cravings for spicy Manchurian with fried rice or Hakka noodles? However, a constant craving for any of these foods is not good for your body. We need to replace Kung Pao potatoes, fried Manchurian, and Hakka noodles with udon noodles and jasmine rice, which are much healthier to eat. For drinks, you can choose antioxidant-rich green tea or jasmine tea that helps protect the heart. For starters, you can opt for vegetable clear soup, and have stir-fry veggies, sautéed greens, jasmine rice, or steamed dumplings filled with vegetables for the main course.
Japanese foods: It is widely known that the Japanese are one of the oldest living people in the world. Their healthy diet is one of the main reasons for their longevity. I have noticed that not only do they sit on the floor during meal times, their food contains a healthy amount of peanuts, sesame, ginger, as well as fermented vegetables and drinks. So, while considering Japanese cuisine, you should pick and select their best foods. Many Japanese dishes contain fermented foods which enhance the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Miso soup, for example, is made from fermented beans. Edamame beans satiate your hunger, help you maintain your weight and provide fibre which aids the digestive system. Your main course can be Japanese curry along with sushi and sashimi. Japanese staples such as tofu and sticky rice are really good for health. Rice cracker is a Japanese delicacy to snack on while sipping on Macha tea. Macha tea is known to boost metabolism, lower blood sugar, and calm the mind and body.
Thai foods: The Thai cuisine is known for its impeccable diversity, precision, and balance in its dishes. Since it is heavily influenced by Chinese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese flavour, there is something in it for everyone. Tom Yum Soup is a Thai masterpiece as it blends the sour, salty, spicy, and sweet flavours perfectly. Made from mushrooms, lemongrass, and lime leaves, this is an authentic Thai delicacy in which vegetables of your choice can easily be added. Som Tham, better known as Thai Papaya Salad, is basically shredded raw papaya which is a delicious salad. Try their most famous dish—Thai Curry which is available in green or red gravy. This dish is an unforgettable blend of delights with its coconut and basil flavours along with vegetables such as eggplant and bell peppers. This curry should be had with rice as it tends to be soupy. Thai food is filled with flavours and spices, and the use of coconut in almost all their dishes helps your body get good fat. Spices like kafir lime, galangal, thai basil, lemon basil, and star anise are used in abundance. Fresh fruits are often served as dessert after the meal. What is common in all these three cuisines is that most of their food is prepared in a wok, and rice or noodles is the standard base for cooking. They also have quick, time saving, one pot meals which contain vegetables, rice, chicken, or tofu. So, the next time you crave for Asian cuisine, choose from the healthier options provided to us by these different countries.
Stir fry veggies
250 gm broccoli, chopped
1 red/ green capsicum, sliced
100 gm snow peas, trimmed of strings
125 gm baby mushrooms, sliced
6 pieces baby corn, sliced diagonally
5-6 pieces spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ginger, finely grated
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Heat vegetable oil in a wok. Add all the vegetables. Add ginger and garlic. Stir fry for two to three minutes. Stir in the sesame oil and soya sauce. Serve immediately.
Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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