Chinese food need not be unhealthy, according to chefs and nutritionists in the United Kingdom who were responding to a report that claims the dishes are stuffed with unhealthy levels of salt.
Jeremy Pang, head chef and founder of the School of Wok, said Chinese dishes can be balanced and can certainly be healthy.
The pressure group Action on Salt had earlier released a report that said takeaway meals from Chinese restaurants and Chinese meals sold in British supermarkets contained dangerous levels of salt that are far higher than what is seen in comparable meals.
The report analyzed dishes from six restaurants in London’s Chinatown and found 97 percent of Chinese food dishes contained at least two grams of salt.
Topping the list of saltiest dishes in the report was beef in black bean sauce.
Action on Salt said that the addition of side dishes could mean people would exceed the daily 6-gram maximum that the UK government recommends for salt.
More than half Chinese food dishes — 58 percent — contained more than 3 grams of salt.
Pang said while some kitchens do not add salt to stir fry dishes, some chefs traditionally dip the base of their wok ladles into ingredients, such as pots of salt and sugar set up beside the wok burner, and then put them into the dishes.
“There is absolutely no measure of how much of any of these ingredients may or may not go into the finished product,” Pang said.
He said he teaches chefs to rarely add salt to dishes and he does not use monosodium glutamate (MSG) at all.
There are “ways and means of balancing flavors to lower the salt content and completely omit addition of flavor enhancers,” he said.
Action on Salt looked into the salt content of Chinese-style ready-meals sold in British supermarkets, many of which only bear a slight resemblance to the Chinese dishes they were inspired by.
Of the 141 meals analyzed, 43 percent were high in salt and should carry a red warning label on the front of the pack, the group said.
Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Salt, said: “Salt is the forgotten killer as it puts up our blood pressure, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heat attacks ever year.”
Eddie Chan, director of the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre near London’s Chinatown, said home-cooked Chinese food tends to be healthier, and excessive sugar, salt, and even coloring is not necessary.
The center worked with local councils in Northern Ireland to support around 40 Chinese takeaways in developing a healthy choice menu that uses natural stock and ingredients instead of MSG.
“We trained chefs and taught people about balancing diets,” Chan said. “How to improve on their most popular dishes, such as spare ribs, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and also what woks and utensils they can use to produce a special health menu.”