Looking for a healthy Vietnamese takeaway? Just follow the advice of Dr. Carina’s.
Naughty – Mi Xao Don, Crispy fried noodles
Generally, when you see the word ‘crispy’ on a takeaway menu, it’s been deep-fried, which means it’ll be high in fat. And this Vietnamese dish is no exception. All of the Southeast Asian cuisines have their own ‘naughty’ way of serving noodles – the Chinese have Chow Mein with crispy noodles, and in Vietnam they have their Mi Xao Don.
The noodles are definitely the star of the show, forming a crispy golden ‘bed’ for a stir fry of meat, chicken, seafood or vegetables. After the non-noodle ingredients have been stir-fried, they’re cooked until tender in a sauce made from garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. All very tasty, but soy, oyster and fish sauce are also all high in salt, and too much salt can raise your blood pressure.
The noodles are generally egg noodles rather than rice noodles. The egg makes them tastier and higher in protein and vitamin A, but the flip side is that they’re higher in fat – and that’s before they’re deep fried until crispy!
This dish has some healthy facets – meat, chicken and fish are good sources of protein, and any those veggies can count towards your five a day if there are enough of them (about 80g or three tablespoons or so). But I’m afraid that this dish’s fat and salt content places it squarely in ‘treat territory’, for those once-in-a-while indulgences.
Nice – Beef Pho
Vietnamese beef pho is a soup that thinks it’s a full meal, and indeed it is (so long as it’s in the ‘mains’ section of the menu, or you make sure you’re getting a ‘meal portion’, and not a starter-style soup without noodles).
The star of the show is the flavoursome broth, with spices including ginger, cloves and star anise, plus plenty of filling noodles. Once all the flavours have infused, the steaming soup is poured over wafer-thin slices of raw beef, which is quickly cooked in the heat. Alternatively there may be chunkier pieces of meat which are actually cooked in the broth. It’s generally served with some veggie garnishes, such as sliced spring onions, and herbs such as basil or coriander.
All this adds up to a dish with plenty of health benefits. Beef is great for protein, iron and zinc, and although it’s also relatively high in saturated fat, the amount you get in a beef pho shouldn’t tip you into unhealthy territory. Those spices are good for you too – ginger can help settle the stomach, cloves are packed with antioxidants that can help reduce our risk of heart disease and cancer, and star anise has been used in traditional medicine through the ages to treat stomach cramps and coughs.
Beef pho isn’t ‘slimming food’ – it’s filling and hearty, and you should feel you’ve had a proper meal. You just need to bear in mind that it’s quite high in salt, so go easy on salty foods for the rest of the day.
Dr Carina Norris is JUST-EAT.ie’s independent resident nutritionist. Carina is a registered nutritionist, author, journalist, and consultant. She also possesses an MSc in Public Health Nutrition. She was the nutritionist for Channel 4’s Turn Back Your Body Clock, and wrote the spin-off book for the series, as well as the last four ‘You Are What You Eat Books’, and several other health and nutrition books, most recently The Food Manual.
(Source: JUST EAT)