If you're tired of the hidden fat in Asian-style fast-food, you can make your own stir-fry that looks like it came from fast-food takeout eateries, but without all the salt, hidden fats, or even unknown MSG that comes in the soy sauce, but may not be directly put in some of the foods, depending on the particular restaurant or eatery. If you enjoy Chinese or Asian-style one-wok stir-fried fast foods, here's how to make similar foods at home. You have the chance to substitute healthier ingredients such as rice bran oil instead of peanut or corn oil when you stir fry at home. Check out the SF Gate article, "LowFat Chinese Restaurant Foods | Healthy Eating."
Vegetable stir fries can be made lower calorie with less oil and salt. Instead of using noodles made from white wheat-derived flour, use gluten-free flours such as rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, or amaranth flour. Use whole grain flours, when you can find them. Too many places put MSG in their food as a flavor extender. Here's how to make food that tastes similar but substituting ingredients you want.
Whatever you are eating in Chinese or other Asian-style restaurants locally, usually a similar recipe turns up online. Just find out the name of the food and look it up on your search engine with the key word 'recipe.' Example, "Asian Orange Chicken Recipe - Allrecipes.com." For vegan recipes prepared in Asian style, see sites such as, "Vegetarian and Vegan Chinese Food Recipes - Vegetarian Food" or "Asian Green Beans Recipe - Vegan Chinese Green Beans Recipe."
Instead of corn starch and sugar to thicken your sauces when you stir-fry Chinese-style fast foods, you could substitute tapioca starch and leave out the sugar. If you want a sweet and sour taste, try a little fruit juice instead of sugar.
For example, a tablespoon of pomegranate juice or orange juice with a teaspoon of tapioca starch can thicken sauces, such as low-sodium soy sauce instead of the restaurant-style sugar and cornstarch used to sweeten and thicken sauces such as soy, Hoisin sauce, or oyster sauce.
Some fast-food Asian-style restaurants have a sign up saying the place does not add MSG to food. But that doesn't apply to the canned food that might have it in the cans already before whatever is in the can is added to the freshly cooked food.
Also to substitute for MSG some eateries just add more salt. Here's how to make your own Chinese and other Asian-style foods without adding all that salt. Just choose the ingredients that get along with your body.
One brand of noodles made from brown rice flour with added rice bran that's found in many supermarkets (including Raley's) is Tinkyada Pasta Joy, brown rice pasta with rice bran. These noodles come in a variety of shapes. You can use the spaghetti-style noodles. They are gluten-free, wheat-free, have a great consistent texture and are not mushy. You can make them al dente.
These noodles come from whole grain and are low fat, low sodium, and transfat-free. They're manufactured on wheat-free factory premises. Ingredients are brown rice, rice bran, and water.
If you don't see them in the supermarket in your area, the websites are ricepasta.com and tinkyada.com. There's an informational phone number printed on the package of pasta. Check out the website to see whether the informational phone number is still the same.
The whole grain brown rice pasta comes in various shapes such as spaghetti-style, elbow, and others. The manufacturer is Food Directions, Inc, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. The noodles bought in this city came from Raley's in Sacramento.
You can stir-fry with mushrooms and the liquid the mushrooms were cooked in instead of stir-frying in oils
Chinese food can be made without salt and without lots of oils, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. For example, you can stir fry poultry with shiitake or maitake mushrooms to make Chinese or Japanese cuisine and mix with other vegetables such as mung bean sprouts, celery, and napa cabbage.
Instead of the peanut oil used in many restaurants, try grapeseed oil, rice bran oil, or macademia nut oil. Use only 4 teaspoons of oil and herbs or spices instead of all that salt. By using whole-grain noodles, you add fiber so you don't feel hungry an hour after eating stir-fried vegetables.
Dark soy sauce or low-sodium soy sauce? Low-sodium soy sauce, may usually be the dark soy sauce type because it's richer in taste. The dark soy sauce goes further, is sweeter in taste, and can be used as a marinade. If you're on a low-sodium diet, use the low-sodium soy sauce, or skip the soy sauce and focus instead on herbs and spices without salt.
You can use vegan substitutes for chicken. Also try tofu turkey, seitan (wheat-meat if you're not going gluten-free) or other vegetable protein substitutes for animal protein, such as marinated, fried tofu stirred into vegetables.
Stir fry onions, celery, mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, napa cabbage, grated carrots, red bell peppers, scallions, chopped garlic, and two teaspoons fresh grated ginger. Use a wok with just a small amount of oil. Season with spices and herbs.
Make Your Own Soy Sauce Marinade
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth. Vegans can use vegetable broth or shiitake/maitake mushroom broth.
2 teaspoons tapioca starch
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey, pinch of stevia, or other sweetener, or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon oyster sauce (find out how much MSG is in the canned oyster sauce or make your own sauce from oysters when they're in season)
1 egg white (optional). Vegans can omit the egg white.
Mix the broth, corn starch, soy sauce, honey or brown sugar, egg white (optional), and oyster sauce in a bowl to make the sauce and put to the side. Cook your noodles according to directions on the package, usually boiling the noodles in water until they're al dente soft and comfortably chewy. Drain the noodles in a collander or strainer.
Use the sauce as a marinade for the poultry if you're making poultry and mushrooms with Chinese-style stir-fried vegetables. If you're making a vegetarian dish of stir-fried vegetables and noodles, don't put the egg white into the soy sauce mixture.
The egg white is only if you're going to use the sauce as a marinade for poultry. Without the egg white, the soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar or honey mixture is just a sauce for the vegetable stir fry dish.
Cooked poultry with mushrooms
If you're making poultry with mushrooms, coat the poultry with the mixture of egg white, cornstarch, dark soy sauce, and a little oil, about a teaspoon of oil. Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil, but just a little. You don't need lots of oil.
Add the onion to the poultry and mushroom dish and stir-fry. It works best if the poultry is cooked before you add it to the vegetables, of course. This is one way to use pieces of fresh, leftover poultry such as chicken or turkey slices.
You don't just dump raw chicken or turkey pieces into a frying pan together with quick-cooking vegetables. You cook the chicken or turkey first. That way, there's less chance of eating undercooked poultry full of bacteria.
Stir-fry the cooked poultry with the fresh vegetables and freshly-grated ginger until the vegetables are soft enough to chew, about five minutes. Cook the sauce until it thickens, about two minutes.
When everything is cooked, add the warm noodles to the pan and coat with the sauce. Heat everything through for a few minutes. Serve warm.
There's an excellent recipe in an Associated Press article by Jim Romanoff, "Lo Mein: A Healthy Makeover to a Takeout Staple," published in Mother Earth News, Oct. 30, 2009. The recipe shows you how to make your own soy sauce and marinade and how to make stir-fried Chinese-style shiitake mushroom and chicken lo mein for eight. See the recipe for the non-vegetarian version. It's lower in fat, calories, and salt.
The idea is to substitute healthier ingredients for traditional ones, and still have pretty much the same taste. Why buy food with MSG if you don't want it in your body, when you can make traditional ethnic foods at home using ingredients you want for your specific health needs?