A common, everyday greeting in Chinese is ‘ni chi fan le mei you?’, which translates to ‘have you had anything to eat?’ Food is central to Chinese culture, and at no point is it more apparent than during the Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year. Celebrated by mainland China as well as other Asian countries, this holiday is observed by approximately one sixth of the world’s population.
In nations such as China, Korea, and Vietnam, family-wide celebrations last from the eve of the New Year to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day after. Whether you are considering welcoming in the Year of the Dog with takeout or a dinner with your extended family, here are some tips to navigating Chinese food on a low carb or ketogenic diet during these festivities and beyond.
There are 34 provincial level administrative regions in China, and each arguably has its own cuisine. While Chinese American food typically features vegetables as a side dish and is laden with sugary sauces, more traditional Chinese cuisine highlights leafy, low-carbohydrate vegetables and makes use of a variety of techniques that go beyond sesame chicken. These 8 major cuisine types are ranked in order based on how keto-friendly their meat and vegetable dishes are.
Within a regional cuisine, there are many types of food
For example, take Cantonese cuisine, which is best known for dim sum and having a characteristically sweet taste from their popular sauces: hoisin, oyster, plum, and Sweet & Sour. While none of these sauces work for individuals trying to stick with a low carb diet, this region is also known for their variety of soups and roasted meats, which can work for those avoiding obvious and hidden carbohydrates.
To have more control over what is being put into your meal, consider preparing your meal at home if it works with your lifestyle. The other added benefit to this is that you can draw from all regional cuisines to create a keto-friendly menu.
For example, I personally love dumplings, but cannot find them prepared as an egg dumpling, which is a traditional alternative to wheat or rice-based wrappers found more commonly around China. Making these at home with my mother and grandmother is not just a part of a meal—it is time spent as a family.
Below are some suggested recipes for those that are interested in making Chinese food at home. If you are interested in doing your own search, use the ranked regional cuisines as a guide (who knows, you may just stumble upon your next favorite meal!). Be sure to include the dishes that hold particular significance during the Chinese New Year: oranges keep the sweetness of life, ducks represent fidelity and joy, and fish represent prosperity, wealth and regeneration!
*Recipes labelled with a * include some sugar and starch to achieve the silkiness often associated with Chinese sauces. While foregoing these ingredients when you cook does change the final result, it should not drastically affect the overall flavor of your dish.
Bok choy with shiitake (vegetarian/vegan)*
Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian/vegan)*
Cantonese Poached Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil
Stir-fried beef with broccoli and black pepper*