Whether you're following a popular low-carb eating plan like the ketogenic (keto) diet, or you're just trying to reduce your carbohydrate intake to lose weight and feel better, it can be hard to eat at your local Chinese restaurant when high-carb sides like noodles and rice are off the menu.
Thankfully, there's a lot more to Chinese cuisine than high-carb sides. Here are three alternatives you can try next time you feel a craving for a delicious Chinese meal.
1. Vegetable Side Dishes
One of the healthiest side dishes you can opt for at your local Chinese restaurant is a vegetable-based side. Vegetables are staples in this cuisine, with options ranging from well-known varieties like green beans and cauliflower to uniquely Chinese veggies like water chestnuts and straw mushrooms. At most restaurants, you'll find a selection of these available as side dishes. What you choose will depend on your restaurant's menu and your specific taste, but look out for stir-fried dishes (like seasoned asparagus), raw vegetables and salads (like fresh spinach and edamame) or grilled options (like charred broccoli). While most vegetable dishes are low-carb, try to avoid veggies fried in tempura batter—the flour used is normally made from wheat, making it high in carbohydrates.
2. Egg Side Dishes
If you're more interested in switching carbs for protein, try egg-based side dishes. Eggs are at the heart of numerous Chinese dishes, often mixed into fried noodles or rice, but you can also find side dishes made mostly from eggs. One of the most common is chop suey, a Chinese-western fusion made from quickly-cooked eggs, vegetables, meat or fish and a thick sauce. Chop suey is usually eaten as a main meal, but many restaurants can serve a smaller portion as a side dish—or you can split a main-sized chop suey with your dinner guest. Another option which you may not have tried before is egg custard, a Cantonese side dish usually made with steamed pork. Or, if you like rice and noodles for their simplicity, you'll find the same uncomplicated flavour in a serving of scrambled eggs with chives and meat or seafood.
3. Soup Side Dishes
Another low-carb side dish every Chinese restaurant has on their menu is soup. You'll want to avoid the options that come with dumplings due to their flour content, but other soup offerings are fair game. For maximum flavour, try a hot and sour soup. Common in Szechuan cuisine, hot and sour soups are made with vinegar, chilli paste or sauce and soy sauce as well as stock to give them a unique tang. You can also combine soup and eggs by ordering an egg drop soup, a very popular Chinese dish made by drizzling eggs into hot broth.