Chinese takeout is always a treat, but it can be hard to sort out whether it’s a healthy one. Of course, with egg rolls, spareribs and fried rice, there’s not much guessing. But when it comes to the vegetable stir-fries and noodle dishes, the answer isn’t as obvious as we’d like.
In principle, most Chinese stir-fries and noodle or rice dishes should be nutritionally sound.
Lots of vegetables and carbohydrates and smaller amounts saturated fat from meat.
But those ingredients usually are accompanied by plenty of oil and sodium in the wok.
If you really want to enjoy the healthy balance of ingredients in Chinese dishes, you can take matters into your own hands.
This chicken and shiitake mushroom lo mein has all the flavor of the restaurant version, but just 4 teaspoons of oil and a lot less sodium.
Start by substituting whole-wheat spaghetti for the traditional lo mein noodles. This adds fiber and a pleasant, nutty flavor.
Next, for both the sauce and the chicken marinade, use dark soy sauce.
This is richer, sweeter and more full bodied than traditional soy sauce, and that means you can use less and cut the sodium.
Finally, use a nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned wok in order to get away with using a small amount of oil.
Peanut oil is an excellent choice for stir-frying because it can be heated to a relatively high temperature and adds a nice peanut flavor.
CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM LO MEIN
Start to finish: 45 minutes
For the sauce:
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
For the stir fry:
16 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1 egg white
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
4 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slices
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
6 scallions, cup into 3-inch pieces then sliced lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
To make the sauce, in a small bowl whisk together the broth, cornstarch, dark soy sauce, brown sugar and oyster sauce. Set aside.
To prepare the stir-fry, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg white, cornstarch, dark soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the chicken and mix thoroughly.
In a large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium-high. Swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and stir-fry, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper and scallions. Stir-fry until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and set aside.
Return the skillet to medium-high and add another teaspoon of the oil. Swirl the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook for 3 minutes.
Turn the chicken and cook, until no longer pink in the center, about the 3 minutes more.
Push the chicken to the sides of the pan and add the last teaspoon of oil to the center. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir the reserved sauce to recombine and add to the center of the pan; cook until the sauce begins to bubble and thicken, about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan, along with the reserved vegetables. Toss to coat with sauce and continue cooking, until the lo mein is heated through, about 4 minutes more. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 329 calories; 36 calories from fat; 4 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 33 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrate; 23 g protein; 7 g fiber; 185 mg sodium.