The Benefits of Getting All Steamed Up

by TGC Staff | January 16, 2002 12:00 am

If your only experience with Chinese food has been from the neighborhood carry-out, you may be surprised that the traditional Asian diet is known for its balance of health and flavor.

The largely plant-based Asian diet is linked to lower rates of certain cancers and other chronic diseases more commonly found in the West. Meat is used sparingly, like a condiment - just something to add a little flavor. And many ingredients common to Asian cuisine, like soy, tea, ginger, garlic and cabbage, have been recognized for promoting good health.

Another surprise may be that Chinese food doesn't have to be fried, or even stir-fried. Steaming is a classic Chinese cooking technique with healthful benefits. Because it uses gentle heat and no oil, steaming is a simple, convenient way to prepare low-fat, low-calorie entres.

Steaming eliminates a number of problems. When meat is cooked at high temperatures, carcinogens can form. Steaming is a gentle cooking technique that avoids this. Since overcooking is easily avoided with steaming, vegetables stay crunchy and bright. And, unlike cooking directly in water, steaming protects water-soluble nutrients, which do not dissolve in steam, resulting in more nutrient-rich food.

You don't need special equipment to prepare Chinese steamed dishes. A deep saucepan, Dutch oven, pressure cooker, roasting pan, or wok will work fine. The pot should be wide enough to hold a plate that comfortably holds the ingredients in one layer, with an inch between the heat-proof plate and the pot, so the steam will circulate evenly.

The pot should be deep enough to hold two to three inches of boiling water. The plate of food should sit on a stable, heat-proof stand or rack just high enough to prevent boiling water from splashing onto the food - about an inch above water level. A tight-fitting lid is also necessary.

Steamed Chicken with Red and Yellow Bell Pepper

Makes 4 servings.

  1. In a small cup, combine oil, 1/2 teaspoon garlic, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and soy sauce. Rub into chicken breasts and set aside while completing other preparations before steaming. (Chicken can be marinated up to 2 hours in a refrigerator; bring to room temperature before steaming.)
  2. Place chicken on plate used for steaming. Steam until chicken is almost tender. Add bell peppers and bamboo shoots. Sprinkle remaining garlic and ginger over vegetables. Continue steaming until chicken and peppers are tender.
  3. Cut chicken into thin bite-size slices, then re-combine with vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with rice.

Per serving:
219 calories
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat)
30 g. carbohydrate
17 g. protein
3 g. dietary fiber
347 mg. sodium

Source: AICR

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