When you’re trying to stay healthy, eating out can seem off-limits. Hidden fats, carb-laden dishes, processed foods and off-the-charts portion sizes can make staying at home seem the safest option – but not all cuisines need ruin your diet. Indochinese food relies on fresh, varied ingredients and health-boosting herbs and spices to create flavor, rather than fat, salt and sugary breads.
Each dish uses an interplay between the five taste senses (sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter) to create a rich complexity of flavor, and the variety of fresh ingredients needed to hit these different taste groups means the dishes are rich in micro and macro nutrients as well. Fish-based sauces and a preference for rice-based dishes render it gluten-free, while the prolific use of medicinal herbs makes its consumption a great way to consume those cancer-fighting ingredients which can be so hard to integrate into Western dishes. Indochinese cuisine isn’t just guilt-free, it’s damn good for you – read on to learn a little more about why, and to discover some dishes which are particularly tasty and healthy.
Gluten-free is fast becoming a craze, and for good reason – though only around 1% of the population suffers from Celiac disease, if you follow a proper gluten-free diet (based around lots of fresh fruit and veg as well as meat, fish, poultry, cheese and eggs) rather than loading up on processed gluten-free alternatives, your immune system will flourish and your weight will effortlessly stabilise. Indochinese cuisine is loaded with fresh vegetables, is rice and rice vermicelli based and doesn’t use the gluten-laden soy sauce favoured in Japanese and Chinese cooking.
The use of fresh herbs in Indochinese cooking is one of its biggest health benefits – rarely found in Western cooking yet intensely important for our immune systems, Indochinese cuisine makes heavy use of ginger, a known anti-carcinogen which also aids digestion and inflammation; lemongrass, a vitamin and micronutrient grass with a fresh, citrusy flavor; turmeric, an immune-booster in the same family as ginger; lime leaves, a spicy, citrusy leaf which is rich in vitamin C; mint, which is packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins; chili, a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin C; tamarind, another tasty anti-inflammatory and coriander, which is rich in fiber, iron and vitamins C and K. Better still, these ingredients are used in combination, making each Indochinese dish a valuable source of nutrients.
Known for its use of fresh as well as dried herbs and spices, Indochinese cooking is packed with a marvelous range of fruit and vegetables: shallots, cauliflower, bamboo-shoots, cashews, daikon, cabbage, carrots, beans, garlic, pickle, pineapple, papaya, mushrooms, lime, coconut, eggplant, water-spinach and chili are just some of the exotic and nutritious ingredients that might turn up in your dish. With coconut milk used in favour of cow’s milk, Indochinese cooking is also lactose-free. Indochinese cuisine is also a tasty way to consume more fish: prawns and white fish are Indochinese staples – lightly prepared and fragrantly seasoned, these mild-tasting sea-foods are perfect for those a little more cautious about fishy flavours. Otherwise, duck, lean beef, chicken and pork are staple meats – though Indochinese cuisine lends itself naturally to a vegetarian diet. It can easily be adapted for vegans, too – with such a high proportion of fruit & veg, and cheese and milk nowhere to be found, all you need to do is ask for no fish sauce.
So named because they’re especially rich in nutrients and vitamins, superfoods have been hot on our radars recently due to their health-boosting properties. Tomatoes, which are bursting with anti-oxidant and anti-aging lycopene; coconuts, which are crammed with minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium; broccoli, which is loaded with fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C; garlic, which helps save off bowel and stomach cancers as well as lowering cholesterol and papaya, which is a vitamin C and E powerhouse, are all widely used in Indochinese cuisine. With such a diversity of flavourful nutrients on the menu, eating out has never been so good for you!So those are the benefits – now what about the dishes? Below, we’ve selected a few of our favourite Indochinese offerings for you to get started on, based on your dietary preferences.
So those are the benefits – now what about the dishes? Below, we’ve selected a few of our favourite Indochinese offerings for you to get started on, based on your dietary preferences.
Stir Fries are a great way to cram in loads of healthy veg and this dish is packed with vitamins, not to mention flavor! With strips of zingy ginger, fresh chopped chili and aromatic basil leaves, this life-affirming stir-fry is a treat for the senses. Broccoli, baby corn, peppers, cloud ear mushrooms, red onions and bamboo shoots are stirred into a Siamese yellow bean sauce.
Unlike traditional pancakes, Thai pancakes are made with rice flour (and a LOT of sugar), making them perfect for sweet-toothed gluten-phobes. Filled with sweet corn, grated coconut and coconut cream, they’re a great way to indulge while still sticking to fresh, natural ingredients.
Duck is a great source of protein and a rich, fatty meat – it’s very important to ensure you’re getting enough calories if you’re going carb-free. Marinated half duck is chargrilled to perfection with a hint of 5 spice and served with chili salsa, ensuring you won’t go hungry. Combo up with our spicy green papaya salad with crushed nuts to pack in extra vitamins.
Cashews add a ton of healthy fats to to this dish, while super-foods broccoli and ginger pack a mighty punch of flavor and dose of vitamins. Fragrant lemongrass, earthy coriander, spicy turmeric and crunchy cashews are sizzled up with peppers, broccoli, baby corn, bamboo shoots, cloud ear mushrooms & fresh chili, for an aromatic explosion of nutritious flavours!
Packed with nutrients, gluten and lactose-free and as delicious as it is nutritious, Indochinese cooking is the ultimate guilt-free pleasure. With so many combinations to try and so many flavours to sample, Indochinese cuisine makes a great addition to any health-conscious consumer’s dietary repertoire.