A champion of healthy Chinese cooking, food writer and TV chef Ching-He Huang shares her family secrets for easy Asian dishes
My childhood diet was healthy and balanced. Everything was about fresh ingredients, which is important for Chinese cookery. If the vegetables aren’t fresh, they’ll go limp in a stir-fry instead of staying crisp.
My go-to flavour enhancers include dried Chinese mushrooms, spring onions, carrots and celery for soups and stocks, or organic vegetable bouillon stock powder for speed. I use miso and organic fermented bean curd in stir-fries and marinades.
I am in awe of my mother’s cooking. She uses a combination of dried and fresh Chinese ingredients to bring out the best in a dish. I’m experimenting more with dried Chinese ingredients. It makes sense – less waste and more taste!
Get your wok hot. You want it at the point of smoking (we call it ‘wok hei’) as it gives your dish extra flavour.
Don’t use too much oil. Keep Chinese cooking light by measuring out the oil you use in stir-fries. Steam more and add lots of vegetables to your dishes. My new Lotus wok, created for JML Direct, has a clever hydrophobic coating, meaning you only need a teaspoon of oil. It also comes with a steamer rack for vegetables, fish and meat.
I plan my meals for the week ahead, to avoid waste. I always keep a supply of fresh produce (garlic, ginger, chilli, mushrooms, miso, seaweed, tofu and spring onions) to use with storecupboard staples, so making a meal from scratch is a breeze. I create simple meals, either soup or salad and a main dish, or sometimes just a one-pot recipe.
My biggest source of inspiration is travel. I love cooking with local chefs and learning about different cultures. I also enjoy reading restaurant menus, especially those with simple one-word ingredients! I like to imagine how I would pair those ingredients and it gives me new ideas for dishes of my own.
Use meat and fish in small amounts to ‘pepper’ your dishes. In China, meat was scarce back in the day and was used sparingly, or for special occasions such as Chinese New Year or at festival time.
We seem to have the ratio of veg-meat all wrong. My ethos is to have 90% vegetables/grains and 10% meat or fish on a plate. We should eat the way our grandparents did, with plenty of whole foods. I like to use fresh, local and organic ingredients, cooked simply.
Three things I love
RICE I’m Chinese, after all… I can’t live without it!
KEEPING FIT I like going for walks with my husband, and swimming. I also practise five rejuvenating Tibetan yoga poses every morning – it keeps me moving!
MY WOK It’s a one-pot wonder for making soups, stews, curries and stir-fries. I also have a rice cooker, which is a lifesaver, plus a really good cleaver.
*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.