Tony Lin's Kitchen on Rockville Pike has been pioneering healthful Chinese food since owner Lenny Poryles introduced his brown rice and no-MSG menu a few years ago. "Lo-fat" cuisine, its latest wrinkle, is food cooked with little or no oil.
Inspired by diet-conscious customers, the chef and Poryles' wife, Mary Coleman, a physician specializing in the nutritional treatment of neurologically impaired children, developed the new menu. After two months, they estimate, at least half the customers are ordering these special dishes.
Unlike the traditional version of steamed fish with ginger and scallion, which calls for the vegetables to be fried in very hot oil, the vegetables at Tony Lin's go right into the steamer with the fish. In the Spicy Tai Cheng Chicken with slivers of celery, the lack of oil goes unnoticed because of the peppery seasoning. Heightened seasoning also accounts for the tastiness of Chicken with Orange Flavor even though it lacks the usual crisp-fried exterior. For Shrimp in Lobster Sauce, the shrimp is steamed, not saute'ed, and the sauce is prepared with egg white. Shredded Beef Sichuan-Style is "stir-fried" in a little water before the hot sauce is mixed in. Spicy Tofu is seasoned with herbs. The lo-mein and the Dry Saute'ed String Beans with Spicy Sichuan Vegetable have only a touch of oil to make the sauces stick.
Chinese seafood houses offer another approach to healthful eating. China Harbor Seafood House, first in the Washington area, stocks an abundance of exciting fresh seafood, including, on occasion, snails, eels, head-on shrimp, buffalo fish and, occasionally, live turtles. China Coral in Bethesda, Seven Seas in Rockville, Ocean Garden in Silver Spring, China Pearl in Washington and Ocean Seafood in Falls Church are some others specializing in fruits of the sea.
A related approach is taken at the just-opened House of Chinese Chicken on Twinbrook Parkway in Rockville, where chicken takes center stage with specialty chicken dishes such as beggar's chicken, chicken breast stuffed with minced shrimp, steamed chicken with wood ears, lotus leaf-wrapped steamed chicken with black beans and minced chicken in lettuce wrapper. The peking chicken is a lower-fat version of the classic duck dish. Live poultry is used because it yields a crisper, leaner skin, according to owner Joe Shao. And another option is the "mix-and-match" menu -- chicken cooked with the customer's choice of vegetables or fruit such as pears, pineapple or litchis.
Still another approach is a vegetarian menu such as the one at the House of Chinese Gourmet in Rockville. A chef specializing in the ancient art of Chinese vegetarian cuisine prepares mock meat dishes in the buddhist tradition. Sweet and Sour Mock Spareribs are really jumbo fried noodles with taro root doubling as "bone." Mock Lion's Head is made with wheat gluten in place of ground beef, steamed "fish" is really tofu and mock duck is created from layers of bean curd skin and vegetables.
CHINA HARBOR SEAFOOD RESTAURANT'S TOFU CASSEROLE (2 servings)
4 dried mushrooms
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and sugar to taste
1 bean sheet noodle, cut in 1/4-inch strips
1/2 tablespoon dried shrimp
1/4 pound Chinese cabbage
1 teaspoon dry sherry
Soak mushrooms in hot water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes. Discard stems and cut mushrooms in quarters. Heat oil in a large wok or saucepan. Add ginger and stir-fry 2 seconds. Add chicken broth and season with salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and add mushrooms, bean noodle, shrimp and cabbage. Simmer until cabbage is wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in sherry.
CHICKEN STEAMED WITH MUSHROOMSSTART NOTEcq-twsEND NOTE (2 servings)
1/4 cup wood ear mushrooms
4 dried black mushrooms
2 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and cut into strips
1 tablespoon rice flour
3 drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Pepper and sugar to taste
3 slices ginger, shredded
1 scallion, chopped
Soak wood ears and black mushrooms in hot water 20 minutes. Discard tough parts and slice. Coat chicken with a mixture made of rice flour, oils, soy sauce, wine, pepper, sugar, ginger and scallion. Place on a plate in a steamer and steam 20 minutes.
KAREN LEE'S GINGER TEA (1 serving)
In her latest book, "Nouvelle Chinese Cooking" (Macmillan, 1987; $19.95), Karen Lee blends East-West flavors to produce low-fat, low-salt dishes for health-conscious cooks.
1 1/2 cups water
2 to 3 slices ( 1/4-inch thick) ginger
Dash lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add ginger and boil, uncovered, 5 minutes. Strain into a cup. Add lemon and honey.
KEN HOM'S STEAMED SEAFOOD PACKAGES (18 packages)
Television cook Ken Hom draws on his background as a Chinese American to "redefine" Chinese cooking with an emphasis on health in his newest book, "East Meets West Cuisine" (Simon and Schuster, 1987; $19.95).
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8 ounces sea scallops, cut into 18 slices
9 large shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
16-ounce package Banh Trang edible Vietnamese rice paper rounds
Zest of 1 lemon
2 fresh hot red peppers, sliced into 18 pieces
18 small fresh basil leaves (or substitute fresh parsley, chives or marjoram)
Combine lemon juice, wine, soy sauce, pepper and cumin. Add scallops and shrimp and marinate, covered, 1 hour in the refrigerator. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip each rice paper round in the water and allow to soften a few seconds. Remove and drain on a linen towel. Drain scallops and shrimp and blot with paper towels. In the center of a rice paper round, place 1 of each ingredient in the following order: lemon zest, hot pepper shred, scallop slice, basil leaf, shrimp piece. Make an envelope by folding the edge of the rice paper nearest you over the ingredients and two-thirds of the way to the opposite side. Fold the 2 sides toward the center so they meet. Fold the bottom edge over halfway to the top. Fold the top edge over and tuck it underneath the top layer of rice paper. Put about 2 inches of hot water and a trivet in the bottom of a steamer. Place the packages on a plate on the trivet and steam for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
STIR-FRIED LEAN PORK WITH CHINESE VEGETABLES (4 servings)
Beginning with the premise that people want to eat meat, for "Eating Meat and Staying Healthy" (Barron's, 1987; $19.95), Josephine Bacon developed recipes that minimize fat as a "positive step in the direction of healthier living."
8 ounces lean pork, trimmed of all visible fat, sliced into matchstick strips
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup wood ear mushrooms or other dried mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes
1 cup cauliflower flowerets
1 tablespoon oil, or only as much as is needed to grease skillet
2 scallions, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup bean sprouts
3/4 cup sliced water chestnuts
Combine pork, soy sauce, wine and half the cornstarch. Use the remaining cornstarch to make a paste with 3 tablespoons water and reserve. Drain mushrooms and discard hard parts. Cut cauliflower flowerets into small pieces. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add pork in its marinade and stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add scallions and cauliflower and stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and mushrooms. Stir-fry 1 minute. Return pork to skillet and add cornstarch paste. Cook until thickened. Serve hot.
EGG DROP SOUP (4 servings)
Jeanne Jones' experience developing spa cuisine makes her emphasize calorie, fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar control while encouraging increased fiber and calcium intake in her new book, "Cook It Light" (Macmillan, 1987; $19.95). Here is her version of a perennial favorite.
3 cups defatted chicken stock
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or scallion tops
Bring stock to a boil. Beat egg whites with a fork until frothy. Pour into boiling stock while stirring constantly with a wire whisk until eggs are shredded and look like long strings. Add soy sauce and mix well. Ladle into cups and sprinkle with chives.