Takeout Chinese food is far different from its true Chinese home-cooked counterpart, the latter of which emphasizes vegetables rather than meat and is lighter on sauces, fats and sodium. When you prepare your own Chinese delicacies at home, you control the ingredients and end up with a more authentic meal. There's no need for MSG - an ingredient American Chinese restaurants often use to boost flavor on the cheap, but which can cause headaches in sensitive people. And there's no waiting for a delivery person when you keep what you need on hand, ready to compose your next Chinese feast.
A few companies offer ready-to-prepare meals that make the task super-easy. Just check the labels – a quality meal will contain no MSG or gelatin. But if you really want to jump in and try cooking up some on your own, here are just a few basic favorites to get you started. They're ideal accompaniments to ready-to-make meals, or great on their own:
Egg Drop Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (fresh is delicious)
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Set aside 1/2 cup broth; add rest to large pot. Add ginger and chives; bring to boil. Combine remaining broth and cornstarch in small bowl; set aside. Beat eggs with fork in separate small bowl or measuring cup; pour egg very slowly into hot soup, stirring soup constantly. Add cornstarch mixture a bit at a time until soup is of desired thickness.
Easy Egg Rolls
1 whole boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons oil
3 green onions, chopped
14 ounces frozen stir-fry vegetables, finely chopped
12 egg roll wraps, stored under damp towel while recipe is prepared
Coat chicken in mixture of cornstarch and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan or wok. Add chicken and green onion; stirfry for three to four minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon soy sauce, then drain in colander.
Stirfry chopped vegetables for two minutes (add 1 tablespoon oil if necessary).
Mix 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons water; this will be your wrapper "glue." Position one wrapper so one corner faces you. Place 3 tablespoons filling at wrapper center. Fold bottom corner over filling. Moisten left and right corners with "glue"; fold to wrapper center, enclosing filling, and seal to bottom corner. Brush "glue" on top corners. Roll egg roll away from you, wrapping up filling snugly. Press top corner onto egg roll to close. Repeat for each egg roll.
Fry three egg rolls at a time in oil until brown on all sides; drain on paper towel. Repeat until all egg rolls are fried. Serve with soy, duck or mustard sauce.