The popular documentary series "A Bite of China", which has entered its second season, is again making millions of viewers at home and abroad salivate. But behind all the savoury images, one question lingers: is Chinese food healthy?
Some claim Chinese food is among the worst, often doused in oil and stir-fried to the point of losing all nutrients. Others argue that the Chinese have traditionally paid special attention to a balanced diet, and have much to teach the rest of the world about healthy eating.
Amidst constant comparisons between Chinese and Western cuisine, focus shifts to the amount of oil used in Chinese cooking. Some say therefore, it is unhealthy. But a chef for 32 years, Lee Man Sing, simply doesn’t agree.
"Actually our Cantonese cooking is very healthy, especially in Hong Kong. Like what I did just now, I used the egg white and lobster. I filtered out the oil, so it’s very healthy," Lee said.
Experienced German chef Uwe Opocensky, at Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, says what matters most is the ingredients used in cooking, and not so much the style of cooking from any particular country.
"What I do is very healthy, because I use organic food, or natural grown products. It doesn’t matter whichever cooking you do," Opocensky said.
East or West, in culinary terms, it’s not just about tasting good and looking good. More importantly, it needs to be nutritious. But does Chinese cooking, as some say, pack in more calories and less nutrition than Western cooking?
I bought two of people’s favorite and commonest lunch boxes in Hong Kong, one is steamed rice with stir-fried vegetables and beef, and the other is burger and chips.
Sally Poon is a UK-registered dietitian, and she will analyze the dishes according to a report released by Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene department.
"So, comparatively you can see that by picking the Chinese dish like that you can save 217 calories and save about 24 grams of fat," Sally said.
Sally says that the food people eat everyday should fit in a pyramid: 50% of the energy should be from carbohydrates, like grains and cereals, followed by vegetables and fruits and lastly, there should be fats and oils.
As for the cuisine from the east or the west, steamed or roasted, it’s not just food, it’s years of history that it represents.