Hungry for Asian? Make fast, fresh DIY versions of delivery classics

Odds are, that Mr Delivery guy is bringing trouble to your doorstep. Inside that innocuous bag, he carries unhealthy versions of virtuous, protein-packed Asian dishes like salmon teriyaki and shrimp pad thai. Loaded with gloppy, neon-colored sauces, limp vegetables, MSG and excess oil, the food may blunt your hunger, but it won’t be doing your waistline any favors, either.

A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that people who eat takeout just once a week may significantly increase their body fat as well as other risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Time to reclaim takeout.

Where to start?

From scratch.

In less time than it takes the delivery dude to reach your doorstep, you can create vibrant homemade versions of your go-to Asian orders. Just deploy lean protein, produce for fiber and disease-fighting phyto-nutrients, and fresh aromatics like garlic and ginger. Stock up on a few Asian pantry staples and prep can be even easier. The only thing that’ll make your meals better? A strategic dose of zesty chilli.

Thai Red Curry with Beef

UPGRADE: swapping sweet potatoes for the classic white variety gives this curry a beta-carotene boost.

2 tbsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
500g steak (your choice of cut), cut into 1½ centimetre strips
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 can of light coconut milk
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup unsalted roasted cashews (optional)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Cooked brown rice, for serving
Chopped coriander, for serving

1 Heat a wok or frying pan on medium high. When it’s hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the beef and sear it until browned, tossing occasionally for two to three minutes. Transfer the beef and its juices to a plate.
2 Return the wok to medium heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the shallot and ginger; stir-fry for three minutes. Stir in the curry paste and heat for 30 seconds. Stir in the coconut milk, lime zest, and fish sauce; heat for two minutes.
3 Add the sweet potatoes to the wok and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and the beef and heat through. Serve over rice and garnish with coriander and cashews.
Makes 4 servings

Salmon Teriyaki with Asparagus

UPGRADE: a helping of asparagus adds potassium and folate to this Japanese stir-fry.

2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp chilli sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
500g skinless salmon, cut into 1½ centimetre cubes
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
Cooked brown rice, for serving
1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

1 In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, honey, sriracha, cornstarch, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Set the mixture aside.
2 Heat a wok or large frying pan on medium high. When it’s hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the salmon pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to turn opaque, for about two minutes. Transfer them to a plate.
3 Add the asparagus to the wok and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Return the salmon to the wok and stir in the soy sauce mixture. Heat, stirring, for 1 minute. If the sauce seems too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Serve over brown rice and garnish with sesame seeds.
Makes 4 servings

General Tso’s Chicken with Broccoli

UPGRADE: why weigh down chicken chunks with bland, oil-logged batter? Bake them instead to cut kilojoules without sacrificing taste. Then pile on the fresh vegetables.

500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½ centrimetre cubes
2 tbsp and 2tsp cornstarch
2 tsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice-wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp chilli sauce, such as sriracha
4 cups steamed broccoli, for serving
Cooked brown rice, for serving

1 Preheat the oven to 190°C. On a foil lined baking tray, toss the chicken chunks with 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Spread the cubes out and bake until they’re cooked through, about
12 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the oil, garlic and ginger on medium for two minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, soy sauce, hoisin, vinegar, honey, and sriracha; simmer for three minutes. Whisk the remaining cornstarch into 2 tablespoons water; add that and heat until the mixture has thickened, for about 30 seconds.
3 Add the cooked chicken to the pan with the sauce and toss together. Serve alongside the broccoli and over brown rice.
Makes 4 servings

Soba Shrimp Pad Thai

UPGRADE: Pad Thai typically uses nutritionally void rice noodles. Go unorthodox and use Japanese soba noodles instead for a bonus dose of fiber and extra nutty flavor.

2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted peanut butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha chili sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
½ kg of peeled large raw prawns (thawed and drained if frozen)
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
170g soba (or buckwheat) noodles cooked, rinsed and drained
3 spring onions, sliced
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 limes, cut into quarters, for serving

1 In a blender, combine the first seven ingredients and 1/4 cup water; puree until smooth and set aside.
2 Heat a wok or large frying pan on medium high. When it’s hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan. Then add the prawns and cook until they just turn pink, about two minutes. Transfer them to a plate.
3 Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and swirl. Add the peppers and mushrooms; stir-fry for two minutes. Return the prawns to the pan along with the peanut sauce, cooked noodles and spring onions. Stir-fry for one minute.
4 Serve with peanuts and lime wedges.
Makes 4 servings

Tools of the Trade

Keep a few basic weapons in your arsenal to ensure stir-fry success. Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, recommends these three key items.

A Large Carbon Steel Flat-Bottom Wok
Inexpensive carbon steel helps meats and vegetables sear superbly. Just season the pan
before its first use. See asiarecipe.com/woks.html

Slotted Metal Spatula
A wide, flexible metal spatula can follow the sides of a wok and easily slips under food that have a tendency to stick. Try the Gourmet Slotted Spatula for R745, wantitall.co.za.

Peanut Oil
A high smoke point makes peanut oil popular in Asian kitchens. Grapeseed oil and canola oil are other options that can take the heat. Grapeseed oil and sesame oil, both R42.95 are available from woolworths.co.za. Check out your local Asian supply store for a bigger selection.