Are Asian Eating Habits Healthier?

Healthy Asian

In most Asian families, as in many cultures, food is very much central to their lives. Many special occasions, for example, use food as the centerpiece of the occasion.  Even everyday cooking gives great comfort to the typical Asian family.  There are several differences, however, between the typical Asian diet and the western diet and these differences may contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

One of the differences between the typical Asian diet and the western diet is the lack of processed food and cheap calories. I am sure this contributes to better diet control.  Another key to the Asian diet is balance.  Asians tend to eat a variety of foods to maintain health and do not try to exist on a single type of food.  One of the ways they do this is by choosing foods of different colors.  Red tomatoes, purple eggplant, green spinach and white garlic are examples.

Some Asians will maintain a proper body temperature with food. If they are cold they will eat warm foods and spices such as chili peppers, ginger and green onions.  If they are warm they will eat foods to cool down such as a mint beverage, citrus, cucumber and tomato. You may notice that there are not a lot of Western-style salads in the traditional Chinese diet.  This may be because traditional Chinese medicine teaches that cold raw food such as a salad is hard on the digestion and should be eaten in moderation.

Moderation is recommended in the Asian culture regarding the types of food that should be eaten as well as the amount of food that should be consumed. Eating in moderation is felt to lead to a longer life.  My Chinese father-in-law always told me he would only eat until he is 70 percent full.  The last time he told me that he was 90 years old.  As with my father-in-law, many Asians believe eating too much food will unnecessarily stress the body.

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Proper Asian Cooking Tools

Asian Cooking

There is currently a great deal of interest among Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans in preparing Asian cuisine. For some people it is a way to maintain their culture. For others it is part of a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For many, however, preparing and serving Asian cuisine is simply a way to add interesting variety to the dining table. Regardless of your reason for preparing Asian cuisine you will do a better job of this if you use the proper Asian cooking tools. Asian cooking can be made much simpler with a proper set of utensils.

Naturally the wok is a central tool for a lot of Asian cooking. All woks, however, are not the same. Some heat quickly and evenly and others develop hot spots. A carbon steel wok with a flat bottom is a good choice for most applications. If you are planning to do cooking that requires a lot of tossing the food you might want to consider a wok with a wood handle. In addition to a good spatula, there are a number of other tools I would suggest to properly equip your kitchen for Asian cooking. These include a stainless steel wok ladle with a wooden handle, a bamboo-handled coarse skimmer, a large perforated ladle and a plastic, bamboo or stainless steel rice paddle. You may also want a stainless steel serving spoon and a hammered shovel. There are a number of good knives specifically designed for Asian cooking such as the Usuba vegetable knife often used to cut vegetables for Japanese cuisine.

As rice is a basic ingredient for a lot of Asian cooking a good rice cooker is a good addition to your Asian cooking tools. I would also suggest a bamboo steamer because it allows you to make multiple dishes at once by stacking layers of bamboo racks. For the non-purest there are also metal steamers that are easier to clean than a bamboo steamer. A clay pot is great for stews, soups and bubbling dishes. You may want to use a wok lid for things that need a longer cooking time. A wok ring is also useful to keep your wok from sliding around. A fine mesh strainer can be used during deep frying to remove fine food bits. Many Asian cooks use a metal steam rack to go in the bottom of a deep pot to use for steamed fish, buns or shumai. They also typically use a good set of togs or long bamboo chopsticks for lifting a hot plate or other items from the steamer.

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Beef Chow Fun Noodles – A Hard To Find Delight

Beef Chow Fun

Although beef chow fun is a favorite among many Chinese food lovers, it is not widely available. In most cases you will have to prepare it at home if you have a craving for this wonderful dish.  Yesterday, however, to my delight I finally found a restaurant in Connecticut that serves beef chow fun noodles.  The restaurant, Kampei II in the Newfield Shopping Center in Stamford, has a chef that really knows how to prepare this Cantonese dish.  You may also be able to find beef chow fun in a Cantonese restaurant near you if you look for one that serves dim sum.  Basically beef chow fun is made from stir-frying beef, wide rice noodles, scallions, ginger, bean sprouts and dark soy.

The key to making beef chow fun is a cooking technique that uses very high heat to create a wok sear to create its own unique flavor. This is not always easy to do in the average home range but it is possible. The other key to making great beef chow fun is tossing the food in the wok without using a spatula. Make sure you use a wok with a wooden handle. You want a continuous movement of the noodles in the hot wok without using a spatula because this keeps the rice noodles whole. Make sure you get fresh rice noodles at your local Asian market. I found a good recipe for beef chow fun on the website The Woks of Life. See: http://tinyurl.com/nts6jfe

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Japan and China Have World’s Oldest Populations

Old Japanese Man

In China the number of citizens age 65 or older is growing 4% a year. This makes China the most rapidly graying population in world history.  It is predicted that China’s working-age population will contract by about 100 million by 2035.  This is significant because China is the world’s most populous country and the second largest economy.  A decrease in the number of working-age people could result in a decline of China’s economic rise.  This is happening as the long-term effects of China’s one-child policy kick in and as healthcare advances reduce mortality rates.

Japan currently has the world’s oldest population. The average age in Japan is 46.  This is mostly due to low fertility rates and long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy in Japan is 84. Japan’s total population fell by a record amount last year, and the pace of decline is expected to accelerate until 2060. As with China, Japan’s working-age population has been declining and is expected to shrink by more than a third by 2035.  The reason for this is a combination of a low birth rate and a lack of immigration.  This also has economic implications because Japan is the world’s third largest economy and a lower number of workers could have a negative on their economic growth.

In contrast to Japan and China, the United States is projected to have modest overall population and working age population growth over the next 20 years. The United States has a higher fertility rate than Japan or China and the population is augmented by continued immigration.  Many of those immigrating to the United States are highly educated.  The growth and quality of the working age population in the United States  will likely have positive economic implications as the United States is the world’s largest economy and the third most populous country.

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How to Determine Your Chinese Zodiac Year

Zodiac Animal Chart

The Chinese zodiac is different than the zodiac in the western world. The traditional western zodiac is on a 12-month cycle, with the 12 ruling birth signs corresponding to the 12 months of the traditional Gregorian calendar.  The Chinese Zodiac, however, runs on a twelve-year, rather than a twelve-month cycle.  Each of the Chinese Zodiac signs rules a full calendar year.  The other major difference is that the Chinese zodiac is based on the traditional Chinese calendar and not the western calendar.  Because the Chinese New Year begins anywhere from late-January to mid-February, those whose birthdates fall within January or February are affected by the difference in calendar cycles.

The above chart depicts the Chinese zodiac animals and their corresponding years from 1912 – 2019. If your birthday is in January or February you will have to consider the date of the Chinese New Year in the year of your birth to determine your animal sign.  You can see Chinese New Year dates listed with their corresponding years on the website www.zodiacals.com.  You will notice, for example, that if you were born in 1972 the above chart indicates that you were born in the Year of the Rat.  If you were born in January, however, Chinese New Year was on February 15 in 1972.  Because of this the Year of the Pig continued up until February 14, 1972.  Therefore you were really born in the Year of the Pig.

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Ride Hailing Company Uber Competes with Didi in China

Beijing Traffic

If you have been to China recently you know that there is a major demand for transportation services. Ride-hailing smartphone apps from Internet-based transportation service companies Uber and Didi have moved in big time to help fill this demand.  Uber is not as popular in China as Didi but it is growing fast.  Uber is now available in 22 mainland Chinese cities and will soon expand to 55 cities. Didi is now in 400 cities and completes more than 11 million rides a day.  Didi completed a total of 1.4 billion rides in 2015.  As with Uber, Didi connects rides in private cars.  Didi also connects riders with taxis and shuttle buses.  In addition, Didi provides a carpooling option which allows riders to share a car with a random person to reduce the cost of the fare.

Didi has been so successful in China it is now planning global expansion. The Chinese company has plans to expand its transportation services by investing in Uber’s rivals in markets ranging from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and India to even in the United States.  Didi is very well capitalized to fund its expansion plans.  It is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba and social network firm Tencent Holdings Ltd.  In addition, Apple has just invested a billion dollars in Didi. Whether you are going somewhere local or to the Beijing international airport Uber or Didi can connect you with a reliable ride.  In minutes, a few clicks on your cell phone will bring a car directly to you and your driver will know exactly where to take you.  The payment is completely cashless.

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