Cuisine, Chinese Cooking Food Health, Chinese Medicine

Lose Weight and Save Money by Switching to an Asian Diet

Ron's Blog

My friend told me a joke the other day: “Have you heard obesity in America has hit a plateau? Yeah, we’ve gotten as fat as we can possibly get!” Not so funny, huh? My friend weighs over 300 lbs.

The other alarming trend – and this is no joke – the rate of poverty is also on the rise. The latest statistic I read is 1 out 7 Americans lives at or below poverty level. And there’s certainly a lot more of us struggling to make ends meet.

How can this be? Wouldn’t you think if so many of us are just scraping by, there would be a lot more skinny Americans? It can’t be just lack of exercise. Something else must be going on. My guess is that we are eating the wrong things in the wrong way.

Here are some steps to help you take control of your…

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Happy Thanksgiving – Don’t Forget the Pie Plant!

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie
Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Consider the humble pie-plant. That’s what rhubarb is sometimes called.  Like tomatoes, it belongs to a small group of identity-challenged fruits, I mean vegetables, I mean fruits. Apparently rhubarb got into some legal difficulties in New York back in 1947 and had to go to court to prove its fruitishness.

Rhubarb is a card-carrying member of the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. Now doesn’t that make your mouth water? It’s leaves are toxic and it’s roots are perennial. It’s green-to-reddish stalks, however, are the stuff of childhood memories. At least the stuff of my childhood memories.

My grandpa on my mother’s side was an insurance salesman. But he spent all his free time in his beloved garden. Now when I say garden I mean backyard farm. He was a beekeeper and organic hippie without the beads and long hair. He was cool and didn’t even know it. Nor did I at the time. Rhubarb reminds me of him.

Apparently there is something called the Rhubarb Triangle in Jolly Olde England. If you have nothing better to do, look it up. No ships have been reported missing, however local residents apparently harvest rhubarb stalks by candlelight. Are they Rhubarbarians? Nobody knows for sure.

My sister-in-law compiled a family cookbook a few years ago. On page 47 is a recipe for Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie. The recipe actually came from an old newspaper clipping my mother found. Although it calls for a cup and a half of sugar, it’s not a big deal because the recipe was written back in the days when sugar was good for you.


2 cups diced rhubarb (more or less)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 ½ cup sugar


Put rhubarb in unbaked pie shell. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over rhubarb. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and 40 additional minutes at 375 degrees. Pie will begin to set up as it finishes baking.

Sister-in-law Becky adds this note: This easy recipe makes a very rich dessert. I have often used other fruit such as blackberries, raspberries or peaches. It’s especially good when made with the first rhubarb from the garden in early Spring.

Spring is still a long way off, but don’t let that stop you. Rhubarb, with it’s cheerful shades of red and green is also a Christmas fruit. Or vegetable.

Cuisine, Chinese Cooking General Rongwei Health, Chinese Medicine Humor Travel, Culture

Got Hot Pot?

Hot Pot is especially popular in China during the winter months.

China Bride Blog

Tsingtao Beer Tsingtao Beer

The other day I was reading something called a “book.” While reading this book, I stumbled across an interesting factoid. (All I have time for anymore-just the factoids, ma’am.) The author was of the opinion that Peking Man was the first hominid to use fire. We know this because we have his left molar in a box somewhere.

Which got me to thinking. If there is a Peking Man, shouldn’t there also be a Peking Woman? I wonder what kind of recipes she has to share? I’m pretty sure Peking Man was too busy at the hunting and gathering office to actually cook.

So I got a copy of the Chinese Telephone Book and started looking. It took a long time as you can well imagine. I did find a listing for Peking Tom, but the number was disconnected.

I searched and searched. But alas, could not find…

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Cuisine, Chinese Cooking

Woks and Stir-fry Pans

Unnamed QQ Screenshot20141018110150
Looking for a wok or a stir-fry pan? Find just what you need here.

Health, Chinese Medicine

How to Lose Weight and Save Money with an Asian Diet

My friend told me a joke the other day: “Have you heard obesity in America has hit a plateau? Yeah, we’ve gotten as fat as we can possibly get!” Not so funny, huh? My friend weighs over 300 lbs.

Chinglish Movie Poster
Chinglish Movie Poster

The other alarming trend – and this is no joke – the rate of poverty is also on the rise. The latest statistic I read is 1 out 7 Americans lives at or below poverty level. And there’s certainly a lot more of us struggling to make ends meet.

How can this be? Wouldn’t you think if so many of us are just scraping by, there would be a lot more skinny Americans? It can’t be just lack of exercise. Something else must be going on. My guess is that we are eating the wrong things in the wrong way.

Here are some steps to help you take control of your food budget, weight and health by switching (slowly) to an Asian Diet.

Step 1
Drink iced tea instead of soda. You can sweeten the tea naturally with fresh fruit. Green tea also has fat-burning properties. For more on this, see my article How to Lose Weight with Green Tea.

Step 2
Learn the art of stir-fry. Use little slices of meat to complement the vegetables. You’ll be surprised at the flavors you can get out of meat scraps, bits of fat and even bones! Check out my article, How to be a Stir-Fry Hero.

Step 3
Learn how to eat with chopsticks. It’s a fun way to make yourself take small bites and slow down while eating.

Step 4
Purchase a bamboo steamer and use it. Vegetables retain more nutrients when they are steamed.

Step 5
Plant a vegetable garden. You can even grow vegetables indoors in the wintertime.

Step 6
Learn how to sprout beans and seeds. Use them in salads and other dishes.

Step 7
You don’t have to stop eating potatoes; after all, they’re cheap and nutritious. Try substituting rice, noodles or pasta for a change of pace.

Step 8
The number 8 is lucky in China. So, good luck and good fortune to you! If you want to learn more about cooking Asian food, see my article on How to Cook Chinese Style.

Cuisine, Chinese Cooking

How to Be a Stir Fry Hero

Man at Wok
Man at Wok
How to Make Chinese Stir Fry and Be a Stir-fry Hero

If you’ve fallen into the rut of turning on the stove and opening the ‘fridge to see what’s for dinner, then mastering the art of stir-fry may be just the thing you need to snap out of it! No time to check e-mails or answer the phone when the heat’s on, but you may find yourself eating better, losing weight, saving money and taking bows with this delightful Oriental cooking style. Here are the basic steps.

Step 1

Being fresh is a good thing. Every chef knows the tastiest dishes begin with the freshest ingredients. Head for the produce aisle of your store or, better yet, your backyard garden. In a pinch you can rely on frozen, but it’s just not the same.

Step 2

Be prepared. It’s not only the Boy Scout motto, it also applies in the Asian kitchen. The basic tools are a Chinese knife (cleaver), one or two cutting blocks or boards, and an assortment of dishes to hold the prepared ingredients. Cut all of your ingredients into bite-size bits; try to make the pieces uniform. Have fun experimenting with different ways of slicing up each item. This is an art form all by itself.

Step 3

Several basic seasonings and spices are mainstays of stir-fry cooking. They are salt, ginger, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and chili. Speaking of chili, did you know in America we have only four “tastes” whereas the Chinese traditionally have five? That’s right: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and HOT! (Don’t even get me started on “umami!”)

Step 4

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Once all your ingredients are prepared, take a deep breath and get cooking! You’ll need a wok, but you can also use a flat-bottom pan while you’re learning. You’ll also need a spatula for stirring. There are other utensils you can acquire later. These include long-handled forks, strainers and ladles.

Put the wok on the stove and turn it on high. Pour a little oil into the pan and watch for it to start to ripple with the heat. Toss in your densest ingredients first because they take the longest to cook. You’ll learn how to judge which ingredients take longer than others.

Step 5

Although the Asian diet is probably more healthful than the standard American diet, chances are your family may object to radical changes at suppertime. So, try a few simple recipes at first. There are lots of recipes, videos and tips on the Internet to help you get started.

Step 6

If you are interested in learning more about the Asian diet, check out my article on How to Lose Weight and Save Money with an Asian Diet.

Tips and warnings:

Most Asian cooks use vegetable or peanut oil. And they probably use too much at a time. Try switching to olive oil for health and flavor reasons. Some people use teflon pans for cooking, which further reduces the amount of oil you need.

High cooking temperature helps preserve vitamins and minerals in fresh food, but also increases the chance of a nasty burn. Be careful!

Cuisine, Chinese Cooking

Cantonese Fat Noodle

Health, Chinese Medicine Travel, Culture

Free the Glutens!

Note: This article was begun nearly two months ago as I was en route to China. I will recount my exploits and attempt to explain my temporary absence from the Blogosphere in my next post.

Pop Quiz!

Glutens are:
A. an up-and-coming punk rock accordion band.
B. the oppressed citizens of Glutonia.
C. a protein composite in foods processed from wheat and other grains.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.

Easy, huh? Everybody knows Glutonia became an independent state following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Duh.

This week I’m in Portland. The one on the Left Coast. I am mooching off my offspring while I wait for my return flight to China. I feel I have a right to do this because (A.) I am their father and (B.) I am a Portlander by birth.

Portlanders are, uh, a quirky people. As my future son-in-law says, “Portlanders are like a bunch of kindergarteners whose mother allowed them to pick out their own wardrobes for the day.” You can take the Portlander out of Portland, but you can’t take the Portland out of the Portlander. I wear my Portlanderishness proudly wherever I wander.

On this particular trip I’ve managed to pick up two new food buzz phrases: agave syrup and gluten-free baking. I was already familiar with agave for different reasons. If you don’t know already, it’s a vital ingredient in the production of Tequila. Which is a vital ingredient in the production of many Country and Western ballads, both in the writing and the singing thereof.

Agave syrup, or nectar is sweeter than honey (I feel a song coming on) and a popular alternative to sugar or honey, especially in Vegan diets. It’s not as thick as honey and will dissolve easily in cold beverages such as iced tea.

The nutrition label on a popular brand of agave nectar indicates 60 calories in a serving size of 21 grams. It also indicates 5 per cent of the daily value of carbohydrates and 4 per cent of dietary fiber based on a 2000 calorie diet. Thank you, Mr. Science.

In the evolution of our civilization (such as it is) a key turning point was when some guy (or girl) realized plants come from seeds. Which meant that he or she could finally settle down and stop his or her wandering ways.

Development of agriculture led to the science of plant breeding and domestication and refinement of cereal grains. As with any advancement, there is a down side. Celiac disease is one example. Celiac disease is the result of an intolerance to gluten present in grains such as wheat and barley. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 22 people is a potential celiac sufferer.

Here are a couple of links to Wikipedia:

Cuisine, Chinese Cooking

Christmas or Thanksgiving: Which One Do You Like Best?

This article also appeared on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website:

Is it just me, or are there others out there who rank Thanksgiving at the top of the holiday list? What would your top five look like? Here’s mine:

1.   Thanksgiving
2.   Christmas
3.   Mother’s Day
4.   Chinese New Year
5.   Mid-Autumn Festival

Okay, maybe some explanation is in order. I chose numbers four and five because I get paid vacation with time to wander around China. Number three I chose because, well, because she’s my Mother. And I put Christmas as number two because it seems the thing to do. I actually have a rough time with Christmas, but that is grist for another article.

Thanksgiving is definitely number one, though. It’s short and sweet with good things to eat. And it’s family time without a lot of pressure. Unless you’re the cook. My normal assignment is to bring the relish tray, because my family has tasted  some of my creations. How hard can it be to cut up vegetables?

Speaking of cutting up vegetables, how about a Chinese recipe for leftovers? Good luck finding a turkey if you’re actually in China. They’re scarce as hen’s teeth. Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Chinese LOVE duck. But then they also prefer tofu to cheese.

Anyway, here’s a Turkey Chow Mein Recipe. Pair it with a nice white wine from the Walla Walla Valley where I grew up.


Vegetables: celery, carrots, red onion, garlic, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bell pepper, any other fresh vegetables you have left over and need to get rid of!

Sauce: 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

Leftover turkey, chow mein noodles, cooking oil.


Step 1
Wash the vegetables and cut them into fairly uniform, bite-size pieces. Not too big, not too small. Set them aside.

Step 2
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, cornstarch last. Set aside.

Step 3
If you’ve never cooked stir fry before, here’s the secret: Everything is stir-fried separately and then mixed together at the last moment. Okay, the other secret is you need to use good judgment about which ingredients take longer to cook.

Step 4
Put your wok on medium to high heat and add a little oil. If you don’t have a wok, use a large pan. When the oil starts to ripple, toss in your aromatics. That’s your chopped onion and garlic. Start with them because it makes the kitchen smell like you know what you’re doing.

Step 5
Toss in your peppers with the aromatics, stir fry and then set aside. Stir fry the rest of your vegetables in some sort of logical order and set them aside. It’s better to have the vegetables on the slightly crisp side, so taste as you go along. Hold back your bean sprouts for later, though.

Step 6
Wipe out your pan if it is dirty and then add a little more oil. Next, it’s time for your turkey. I hope you cut it into small enough bits. Big chunks won’t do. Heat it up in the oil and then add back in your vegetables.

Step 7
Let the meat and vegetables get friendly, but not mushy. Add in the sprouts and sauce and heat to a boil.

Step 8
Toss in the cooked chow mein noodles, mix it all up and then serve while it’s hot.

Some people like soft noodles, some like those crunchy kind. For soft noodles, cook until al dente. For crispy noodles, don’t stir fry, just serve out of the package. You can lay down a bed of crispy noodles or sprinkle over the top. If you’re having a hard time finding chow mein noodles, you can boil up some Top Ramen noodles and use them.

Chow mein is a great way to use up leftovers. Make small batches until you’re ready to try it out on your family. Other possible ingredients include water chestnuts and almond slivers. Hey, what about fresh cranberries? I wonder…

Travel, Culture

Stinky Tofu Anyone?

The university in China where I first taught built five new dorms. During construction, the nearest gate was left open for construction traffic. As soon as students started to occupy the first few dorms, a steady stream of foot traffic began to beat a path to nearby shops and restaurants.

It wasn’t long until street cart vendors spotted an opportunity and lined each side of the pathway. All of this came to a screeching halt once construction ended. The gate was padlocked shut.

Free enterprise cannot be denied, however. Someone “discovered” a loose bar in the eight foot wrought-iron fence and bent it back. The school administration chose to look the other way, and the local street cart economy was thriving once again.

I would pass this way on a daily basis, but would always cross over to the other side of the street. Not because of the crowd, however. It was the smell. I was absolutely certain there was a busted sewer pipe somewhere underneath the street carts.

One day I made this observation to one of my students. When he finally stopped laughing, he began to tell me about the Chinese delicacy, stinky tofu:

Vegan’s Worst Nightmare