What’s Better For You – Chinese Takeaway Tonight
Crispy shredded beef
Crispy shredded beef is made from thin shreds of beef, dipped in an egg-white and cornflour batter, then deep fried to give it a crispy coat. And obviously, all that oil makes for a dish that’s high in fat, which gives those calories a big bump.
Just remember that when a Chinese menu calls something crispy, it’s not going to have much in common with lovely raw veggies. The reality isn’t quite so nutritious – it almost always means that food has been deep fried, which is the case in this dish.
The crispy beef is generally served in a sticky sweet chilli sauce, which also features garlic. Both chilli and garlic are healthy ingredients, but unfortunately this is cancelled out by the added sugar.
While beef is a relatively high-fat meat, I’m not going to blow it out of proportion. It’s a good source of the protein, absolutely needed for our bodies to repair and grow, and one of the best sources of iron and zinc. So long as you remember that it’s not a good idea to eat too much red meat – don’t eat it more than twice a week. With this dish, it’s the cooking technique that’s not great for you, rather than the ingredients.
If you have your heart set on this dish, serve it with plain boiled rice, or plain noodles. It’ll offset some of the calories, compared to the more indulgent fried rice or noodles.
Better for you – Chicken and cashew nuts
This is more like it – although the chicken is fried, it’s stir-fried, which uses a lot less oil than crispy beef. Chicken is a lower-fat meat than red meats like beef and lamb, but still provides plenty of protein, along with reasonable amounts of iron and zinc (though less of the minerals than red meat).
You’ll also get a decent serving of vegetables – definitely onions and peppers, sometimes broccoli and if you’re lucky, those deliciously crunchy water chestnuts. The sauce itself is a tasty mix of stock, ginger, chilli, and soy sauce, which is then thickened with cornflour.
The cashew nuts are the finishing touch, finishing this dish off admirably, nutritionally speaking. Nuts are high in protein, as well as fibre, and this combination helps us to stay full between meals. They’re also a great source of the monounsaturated fats that are good for your heart and circulatory system. Interestingly, our bodies have more trouble absorbing the iron from vegetarian foods as they do from animal products like meat. But in this dish, the vitamin C-rich peppers help with absorption. Nuts are relatively high in calories, thanks to their relatively high fat content, but if you’re eating sensibly and maintaining a healthy weight, I think this is far outweighed by their nutrition benefits.
So, big thumps up from me. Enjoy this one guilt free.