Chinese Flavors | Torrance Memorial

Published on February 23, 2022

Chinese Flavors

spices

by Brianna Chang, RDN & Andrea Guastamacchio, RDN, CDE

Chinese flavors and cuisine are steeped in tradition and culture. Eastern medicine focuses on harmonizing emotions and balancing Yin and Yang to prevent disease. Good health is thought to be maintained by keeping the body in a balanced state. Asian cuisine includes this framework to balance their dishes and complexity of flavors. 

Chinese cuisine is full of unique spices, ingredients, and cooking methods that each contribute to the depth of flavors and variety of dishes from this part of the world. Depending on the region, Chinese dishes vary in ingredients and flavors. In Beijing you will find dishes with an emphasis on seafood, while the southern regions tend to cook dishes with more tart and tangy flavors. Food prepared in central China contains a multitude of spices. Among the most common cooking techniques utilized in Chinese cuisine are stir-frying, braising, and steaming. Ingredients and spices are used to layer flavors and create unique dishes representative of the region they originated from.

Most Chinese dishes begin with a base of fresh garlic, fresh ginger, and spring onions, or scallions. Garlic adds flavor but also helps our immune systems and promotes anti-viral and anti-bacterial activity. Ginger can be described as peppery and sweet accompanied by a spicy flavor. It can be found in different forms: fresh, dried, or crystallized. Benefits include pain relief due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, anti-nausea due to increasing gastric motility, and improved blood sugar regulation by encouraging muscles to absorb glucose. Scallions provide a mild punch of flavor and are part of the allium vegetable family which may block cancer growth; they are also high in Vitamin K which helps to thin the blood and protect against stroke and heart disease. Five spice powder is a unique blend of spices that is also commonly used in Chinese cooking. It contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorn, and fennel seed and boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties as well as supports glycemic control and cardiovascular health. Chinese cuisine can also be a great source of veggies with popular dishes including vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and sweet bell peppers.

This week’s recipe, Chinese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Spring Onions, incorporates ginger and scallions as the base ingredients for this flavorful dish. The white fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids to promote cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation. Try serving it with long grain brown rice and a side of bok choy for additional fiber and to promote satiety. This dish offers an array of ingredients with unique health benefits and is both satisfying and flavorful!

Save the Date!

Join us for a free LIVE virtual cooking class on March 24 at 5pm where Torrance Memorial’s Executive Chef Sam Sellona will teach you to cook a healthy, tasty recipe from the comfort of your own kitchen!

Be sure to obtain ingredients prior to event. Spice packets and recipe cards available for purchase at TMMC cafes.

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Chinese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Spring Onions

Chinese Steamed FishServings: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 fillets fresh white fish (~7 oz each)
  • 2 spring onions/scallions, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 1 in. fresh ginger, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing wine (may substitute mirin or dry sherry)
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Roughly separate the green and white parts of the thinly sliced spring onions/scallions matchsticks. Set aside.
  2. With a sharp knife, gently make 2-3 slanted incisions into the flesh of the fish fillets. Skin side up, about ¼ inch deep. Be careful not to slice all the way through.
  3. Lightly season the fish with salt, about a small pinch per side of each fillet. Gently rub fish fillets all over with the Shaoxing wine. Place the fillets into the refrigerator to allow the seasoning to seep into the fish for about 10 minutes.
  4. Boil water in a deep pot for steaming over the stove.
  5. Remove the fish from the refrigerator. Drizzle 1 tbsp. oil over the plate (that will be used to hold the fish when steaming). Sprinkle half the ginger and half the white parts of the spring onions/scallions on the empty plate. Place fish on top of the ginger and spring onion bed, skin side up.
  6. Drizzle soy sauce over the fish fillets and rub evenly.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining ginger and white parts of spring onions over the fish fillets. Drizzle the remaining oil over the fish.
  8. Place into steamer and steam on high for 1 minute or until the fish is cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
  9. To serve, top freshly steamed fish with green parts of spring onions/scallions and serve while warm.

If you are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program to schedule a consultation! Located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707. Visit our Nutrition Blog for our monthly recipes and posts: https://www.torrancememorial.org/Nutrition