You can count on Chinese restaurants to serve up dishes full of MSG (even when they claim none), and high in sodium and “bad” fat, especially if fried. Many traditional Chinese condiments, such as hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and rice vinegar, are loaded with salt, sugar, additives and, sometimes, artificial colors.
My key substitutions in the recipes below include: using coconut aminos in lieu of soy sauce; coconut vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) instead of rice vinegar or black vinegar; and making a homemade sunflower-seed-based hoisin sauce instead of using a store-bought one, where sugar is the No. 1 ingredient.
With these paleo versions of home-cooked Chinese food, don’t expect the same sodium, sugar and MSG-infused high of Chinese restaurant food. The flavors and texture will be nuanced and subtle, but definitely "cleaner" — and equally (if not more) delicious!
Chinese restaurant sesame noodles can be gloppy and greasy, heavy on the sesame paste. This version, which substitutes slightly chewy zero-carbohydrate shirataki noodles (a.k.a. "Miracle Noodles" made from the root of a plant called konnyaku imo) for white flour noodles, is light and slightly piquant, thanks to the judicious use of sesame oil, coconut aminos, grated cucumber and red pepper flakes.
Place above ingredients in a large bowl; using a whisk, mix well. Set aside.
Adapted from the original version at Crunchy Mama
Yields approximately 1/2 cup
Commercial hoisin sauce is loaded with sugar (the No. 1 ingredient on the label!), salt, caramel coloring, additives and potential allergens (wheat and soybeans). Eating anything that has been marinated in hoisin generally leaves me with a pulsing headache and dry mouth. This homemade version has a runnier, thinner consistency than store-bought hoisin and is milder in flavor, but equally delicious without the "hangover" effect.
Char sui (barbecued pork), originally a Cantonese dish, is popular in Chinatowns throughout the world. It typically has a distinct red hue, thanks to artificial coloring, and, with maltose or honey in addition to hoisin sauce, char sui can also be overly sweet. This recipe uses only pasture-raised pork (all-natural and organic are fine, too), and the marinade contains no red food dye, added sugars or sodium.
Sweet, succulent baby bok choy gets a tasty spin with fresh minced ginger root and a splash of coconut vinegar, made from the sap of coconut trees.
As a child, I adored this home-style eggplant dish, which my Sichuan-born father, a Chinese scholar and excellent cook, used to make. It was my first introduction to hwajiao, literally meaning "flower pepper" in Chinese — also known as Sichuan peppercorns. The tiny reddish-brown seedpods come from a prickly ash tree and, when toasted and ground, impart a truly exotic, citrusy-smoky flavor. Both the hwajiao and a touch of ground pork (omit the pork for a completely vegetarian dish) enhance the natural "meatiness" of the eggplant.
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