The Evolution of Re-Engineering Chinese “Takeout”

Since I embarked on my “course correction” in October of 2007 and becoming 67 pounds lighter, and with Rachel herself carrying 50lbs less — we’ve been doing a lot of Asian-inspired stir-fry cooking at home as our “go to” typical dinner when we are very hungry but want to eat something healthy. Where we used to order from our favorite Chinese American local delivery places, we now cook our own healthier, albeit different versions, with higher amounts of vegetable and protein content and much less fat. To be perfectly honest, I actually prefer eating this way now, even though I really miss my egg rolls, fried rice, lo mein, and egg foo young soaked in gravy.

The photos I am going to show you should give you an idea of how we’ve been approaching our typical, non food porn meals. You will notice a common theme is that we incorporate a lot of green vegetables as well as tofu in our cooking, and many of our sauces are stock based. We also now use a large, nonstick wok and “paint” it with a small amount sesame oil using a silicone basting brush instead of free-pouring oil, which also cuts down on the fat content quite a bit. We also use a lot of alternative whole grains to just plain brown rice as the beds for our stir fries, such as Quinoa, Kamut, or Barley.

Beef with Oyster Sauce by you.

Here is one of the earliest attempts to actually “re-create” a takeout dish, Beef with Oyster Sauce and Chinese Broccoli. Note that we are now using portioned controlled amounts of brown rice instead of white rice.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Bean Curd Skin (Yuba) Noodles with Spicy Peanut/Sesame Sauce by you.

Cold noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce, one of the first things we made when we burned our Fat Pack membership cards. These “noodles” are actually made out of Yuba, or tofu skin. No carbs.

No Guilt Egg Foo Young by you.

We only did this once, but we should definitely do it more often — Griddle-Style Egg Foo Young, using Egg Beaters. Lower in cholesterol, and not fried, using only Pam spray as the oil.

No Guilt Egg Foo Young by you.

Egg Foo Young, Plated, with Garlic Saute Gai Lan and Soya/Stock cooked Quinoa grain instead of fried rice. The “Gravy” is simply a mixture of stock, soy, and oyster sauce, thickened with a little bit of cornstarch.

Chinese Turkey Meatballs by you.

Here’s sweet and sour meatballs, made with Turkey. The fried rice is brown rice, with a lot of vegetables in it, accompanied by a healthy portion of Shanghai Bok Choy saute.

Tangy Turkey Chinese  Meatballs with Bokchoy and Winter Mushrooms by you.

Here’s another variant.

Chicken Soong With Pressed Smoked Firm Tofu by you.

Chicken Soong is a type of ground chicken saute seasoned with oyster and hoisin sauce, accompanied by a lettuce wrap, which usually has a lot of pinenuts in it. The only main difference between a restaurant  version and this one is we use a lot less oil and we amped the protein content significantly by adding tofu. We use either all chicken white meat or turkey breast, as well as smoked or seasoned baked pressed tofu that we buy from chinese groceries to give it some extra flavor.

Hibachi-style Chicken, Egg, Shiitake Fried Brown Rice by you.

We always make a lot of brown rice in advance so we don’t have to cook it for every meal — our investment in a rice cooker has really paid off. This fried rice, like the one pictured above, uses brown rice, a small amount of oil , chicken, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, chicken breast, and scallions.

Shroom Insanity 2 by you.

What else can I say about Shroom Insanity? Several different types of mushrooms and firm tofu. Its an obscenely expensive dish as far as basic produce costs go, but if you’re a mushroom fan, its totally worth it.

Moo Goo Gai Pan by you.

Moo Goo Gai Pan is another Chinese American dish that translates well to a healthier version. Here we’re using King Oyster as well as white mushrooms, as well as edamame to accompany the light sauce with the chicken.

Moo Goo Gai Pan with Kamut grain by you.

Another slightly different version of Moo Goo Gai Pan, but with different green vegetables and high-protein Kamut grain as the base.

Shrimp Stir Fry with Hot Bean Sauce by you.

One of my favorite condiments is black bean or fermented hot bean sauces. Both China and Korea have different types, and they are great for throwing into any kind of stir fry dish. This Shrimp stir fry features Sichuan-style hot bean paste.

Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce and Gai Lan by you.

Here’s a Shrimp with Black Bean sauce and Gai Lan.

Another hot bean and black bean sauce heavy dish is Ma Po Tofu. This gets made at least twice a month during the winter.

Lemongrass Beef with Asparagus and Preserved Shredded Tofu by you.

Vietnamese food is also totally game. This is a lemongrass beef, using a lean flank steak, with asparagus and shredded tofu.

Garlic and Sherry Shrimp Saute with Yellow Leeks and Smoked Tofu by you.

Cooking seasonally is also a great way to get variation. This is a garlic sherry shrimp saute with yellow leeks, with smoked tofu.

Pineapple Chicken and String Beans with Smoked Tofu by you.

And a Pineapple Chicken with String Beans. Consider the possibilities of different flavor combinations to break up the same old stir-fry.

Baby Gai Lan with Thai Basil and Chicken Stir Fry by you.

Fresh herbs of different types are also good to use. This chicken stirfry dish uses Thai Basil along with Baby Gai Lan tips.

Charlie Deal's Jujube Kung Pao Chicken by you.

I stole this “Kung Pao” chicken recipe directly from an Asian-Fusion restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina. The secret ingredient? Black Vinegar.

Spicy Capsicum Pepper Saute with Pressed Tofu by you.

Spicy Pepper Capsicum Saute with Pressed Tofu. More black bean sauce and lots of fresh green chiles. Turkey meat takes on a whole new dimension with this much chili fire.

Shrimp and Smoked Tofu with Green Beans in Penang Curry by you.

Curry Pastes will also really liven things up. We used Penang Curry to amp up a recent Shrimp stir-fry.

Shrimp and Smoked Tofu with Green Beans in Penang Curry by you.

What can I say, I love my green beans.

Chicken, Tofu Skin, Tofu and Mixed Vegetable "Chop Suey" With Green Curry and Brown Fried Rice by you.

Here’s another one of the typical throw it together last second fusion dishes we make.  Chicken, Tofu Skin Noodles, and mixed green vegetable chop suey flavored with Thai green curry paste and brown fried rice.

Shrimp and Eggplant with Miso Sauce by you.

Japanese flavors work really well too. These are Japanese Eggplants and Shrimp sauteed with Awase Miso paste in a stock-based sauce.

8 Responses to The Evolution of Re-Engineering Chinese “Takeout”

  1. louisecol says:

    This is amazing! Thank you for sharing such a wealth of ideas for quick, healthy meals. I can’t wait to try them.

  2. TongoRad says:

    Yeah- it looks like you’re having great success and eating well to boot. Way to go!

  3. These re-engineered takeout dishes look fabulous. Colour me impressed. I love the shrimp with leeks and smoked tofu. In fact, I think I may steal that one. ;)

  4. Fabulous. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

    Congrats on both of your weight loss numbers – it’s pretty amazing and inspiring.

  5. MissGinsu says:

    Your family has lost 117 pounds?!? That’s like losing an entire person. That’s awesome. I’m so impressed with your stick-to-it-iveness. Now how ’bout you give up that sweet-n-sour meatball recipe?

  6. That looks totally great. We are doing something similar here. Not so much focused on weight loss as eating healthy (passing on the white rice in favor of brown and all) and as long as we take it in small steps, it is working well.

    Not that we wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds along the way!

    Thought – if you ease back a bit more in the meat, and increase the vegetables, then not only is it healthier, but you can eat much, much more. Which makes this a winning combination for me (I never say “no” to more!).

    Congratulations on the weight loss. That is incredibly impressive.


  7. CrazyBuddha says:

    I recently purchased a book called “Fresh Chinese”. Apparently in the UK there “The Chinese National Healthy Living Center” in London created a project called the :Chinese Takeaway Project”. They wanted to improve the nutritional knowledge of takeout cooks and reinforce the values of traditional healthy Chinese practices. The kicker of all this… It was free!

    Why can’t we do something like that here. How many times have you had Chinese food that was too greasy or too saucy?

  8. lori venus says:

    thank you so much for sharing. cant wait to try cookint them.

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