Use Natural Ingredients for Seasoning

The ingredients used for seasoning also greatly matter to health. As revealed by Sylvia, the Japanese pot dishes enhance their flavour by using natural ingredients, such as scallions or garlic, or adding a soup base prepared with kombu and bonito. Seasonings are rarely used. By doing so, the dishes remain light and healthy.

Among the ingredients and sauces used for the Chinese clay pot dishes, fermented tofu and fermented soybeans have a higher sodium content. To enhance the flavour of a clay pot dish, Sylvia recommended using dried seafood, which contain a natural salty taste. For example, meat can be cooked with dried shrimps, dried scallops or dried oysters. If a soup base is required, fish soup and tomato soup are both healthy options. However, it is better not to mix the food with too much soup or sauce so as to limit the intake of oil and salt.

Choose Cooking Methods Wisely

Apart from ingredients, cooking methods also have significant effects on the nutrition of one-pot dishes. Take steam-potting as an example, a genre of hot pot which has become popular in Hong Kong in recent years. In a steam pot meal, the main ingredients are usually fresh seafood and vegetables; natural ingredients like garlic, gingers and spring onions are used for seasoning purposes. All these food items make a healthy combination. Furthermore, unlike the traditional hot pot which boils the raw ingredients in the soup, a steam pot meal uses steam chambers, which can help preserve more nutrients.

In Chinese clay pot dishes, some ingredients may be cooked using the “quick deep-frying” (or deep frying) method. Hence, some dishes that seem to be healthy are in fact hidden traps with high sodium and fat. An example is fish fillet and tofu in clay pot, in which the ingredients are deep-fried quickly before being braised with a large amount of sauce. For our health’s sake, Sylvia advised that we should choose clay pot dishes that include a soup base prepared with fish, dried seafood or soya milk. Some examples of these dishes are seafood and vegetable soup, dace fishballs with lettuce in broth, and soaked vegetables with gingko nuts and tofu sheets.

Cooking utensils made of certain materials may help reduce the amount of oil used for cooking. To reduce our oil intake, Sylvia recommended cooking one-pot dishes with a non-stick pan, which does not require additional cooking oil. Further, she advised not to cook at an extremely high temperature, since the ingredients may become charred and release cancer-causing chemicals.

Extract from CookSmart, Issue 29