I have been noticing a trend in the comments that I make on other food blogs I read. Aside from my drooling over them, I often find myself commenting that I’ve never heard of this vegetable or tried that dish before. This got me thinking, why is that? I think it has a lot do with my parents and growing up in a Chinese family. As I mentioned before, we don’t often eat out as a family. My mom did/does all the cooking and it’s mostly Chinese or Vietnamese food. Perhaps this is because of her job as a chef, where she prepares North American meals that she doesn’t want to make the same dishes at home. That is not to say we don’t have BBQs with burgers or pasta, but if we do, it usually has some Asian flavour or influence to it. So even though my parents have been in Canada for many, many years, they are still traditional in how they live and eat. This is my take on the core differences between our Chinese diet versus a North American diet:
- Rice is the equivalent of bread. Rice is our preferred carb and we can eat it at every meal. Whether it’s in the form of sticky rice wrapped with lotus leaf (lo mai gai) for dim sum, congee for breakfast or fried rice for lunch, it’s not a meal without some rice.
- Soup is a must at dinner. We do not have water with dinner, we have soup. The soups are not of the creamy or hearty variety. They are simple but flavourful soups made from a stock of bones and contain vegetables such as winter melon or watercress. It doesn’t matter that my mom works full-time and that these soups often take hours to make, there is always soup on the table for dinner.
- We don’t eat salad. All the veggies we eat are cooked either in stir-fry, in soups or hot pot. We also eat different veggies such as bok choy, gai lan, garland chrysanthemum and napa cabbage versus Brussels sprouts, asparagus and collard greens.
- Fruit is our dessert. We don’t often eat the good stuff: cakes, pies, brownies, cookies, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit especially the weird exotic ones like rambutans, biriba and mangosteen.
- We usually don’t eat large amounts of meat as a main, like pot roast, meatloaf or even steak, on its own. Okay, maybe it’s just beef that we don’t eat a lot of. The meat we eat is often used in stir-fry dishes with veggies or in fried rice or noodle. The only times we have meat (such as Hainanese chicken or roast pork) on its own is during important Chinese holidays when these dishes are used as offerings to the gods or ancestors. And finally….
- Every dinner is at least a five course meal of: soup, dessert and 3 other dishes along with rice. Everything comes out at once rather than one after the other. We can sit for hours at the dinner table, chatting and eating until either all the food is gone or until we’re stuffed and can’t move because in an Asian household it’s rude to say no to food. What I’ve learned over the years (something the hubby hasn’t learned yet while eating with my family) is to always have a bit of food in my bowl that I can nibble on and to pace myself. As an aside, the hubby also needs to learn to apply this trick while drinking with my dad.
What do you think? Do you see any differences in your diet growing up versus the diet of others?
As promised, I will now leave you with a recipe for a nutritious salad made with my new favourite veggie – kale. I’ve only tried kale for the first time a few weeks ago, but have now found many ways to eat it: in pasta, on pizza and even to make chips.
The chicken you see is one that has been recently trending on wordpress and pinterest and it looked so good I had to try it. It’s called “man-pleasing chicken”. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t pleasing to my man. It could be that I didn’t use the maple syrup or chicken thigh that is called for in the recipe. I am definitely going to try this again with the right ingredients before making my final judgment.
Have a great weekend!
Kale salad (adapted from eatinghealthyinla.com)
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 1 handful cashew nuts
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- sea salt
- Toast cashews at 350°F for 5-10 until golden.
- Wash and tear kale into bite size pieces.
- Add kale to a bowl along with 1/8-1/4 tsp sea salt. Squeeze in bit of lemon juice. Use your hands to “massage” or work the kale until it softens (about 2-5 minutes). I find doing this makes chewing a lot easier.
- In a small bowl add garlic, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix.
- Add to kale, avocado and cashews.
Man-pleasing chicken (from wittyinthecity.com)
makes 3 servings
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used regular syrup)
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1.5 pound of chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (I used 4 skinless chicken breasts)
- Preheat your oven to 450ºF.
- Mix together dijon mustard, maple syrup, and rice wine vinegar.
- Put chicken into an oven-proof baking dish. Salt and pepper the thighs.
- Pour maple mustard mixture over them, turning the thighs in the mixture so they are fully coated.
- Put the chicken thighs into the oven, and let them bake for 40 minutes (I baked for 30 minutes) or until a meat thermometer reads 165ºF.
- Baste the tops of the chicken with more sauce half way through.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Plate the chicken, making sure to spoon some extra sauce over the top.
- Sprinkle over some fresh rosemary.
Notes and Tips:
For the salad, we find that using all the juice from one lemon makes it too lemony so adjust the amount to your liking. I also added some dry currants to the salad; I think other dried fruits would work well too. For the chicken, I halved the ingredients for the sauce because I didn’t have enough Dijon mustard. This amount of sauce was probably too little for 4 chicken breasts and I didn’t really have any extra sauce left after baking.