Tempting and Thai

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 16 March 2009.
Tagged: fast food, healthy eating, take-away

Tempting and Thai

Spicy and aromatic, Thai food is fast becoming as popular as Chinese food with its fragrant aroma of coriander, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and purple basil. It can be one of the best choices to buy if you're after healthy and light, but it pays to scrutinise the menu list first.

I have to admit here that I'm not a big consumer of Thai take-away but I know many of my friends just adore it. Maybe it's because I've had bad Thai fare that's been "adapted" from the bad Chinese. Maybe it's all that chilli they load it up with which "nukes" my mouth so I taste nothing more for the rest of the meal. My bad experiences!

But I know when you find a good Thai place where they cook while you wait (well mostly) and they use lots of fresh coridander, fresh Thai basil and good ingredients, it's worth becoming a regular there. When it's good, Thai has lots to recommend it on the nutrition front. When it's bad, it reminds me of that awful same-ness of Aussified Asian fast food. Too much oil, not enough vegetables or horrible cheap "filler" vegetables (like when they fill up your vegetables with too much onion, cabbage, carrot and not much as capsicum, snow peas or bok choy) and gristly bits of chicken or tough pork.

Best bets

From a health perspective, the best bets are:

  • grilled satay skewers with peanut sauce,
  • dry stir-fries such as ginger chicken stir-fry
  • aromatic salads like chicken salad (lap gai) and Thai beef salad.

Like most Asian meals, no meal is complete without rice. Expect lots of it - it's the perfect foil to all that hotness and flavour belt in your mouth. It's the cheap staple of Thailand and most of Asia. Plenty of steaming fragrant rice is taken with small serves of curries, fish or vegetables. They can't afford big serves of the protein so the rice "spreads" the delicious flavours of the other ingredients further,

Steer clear

The worst offender is the deep-fried vermicelli dish (mee grob) with prawns, egg and vegetables which is swimming in fat. Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles with prawns, eggs and bean sprouts) is also a trap. Better to choose plain noodles and rice to accompany meals.

Take care with the curries. Many come swimming in coconut milk which is not only high in kilojoules, but high in saturated fat. While it adds its own unique flavour, it is unhealthy, so lift the meat or vegetables out off the sauce and pile your plate high with vegetables and rice.

Steer clear of fried finger food like fish cakes and crab parcels. Instead, order hot spicy prawn soup (tom yam goong) or grilled satay skewers. Finish off a meal with fresh fruit, which refreshes and cleanses the mouth after the spiciness of the main dishes.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.