Chinese take-out may seem like a healthier choice than burgers, pasta or pizza.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org/nah/chinese.html), a watchdog consumer group that has been in the headlines for calling fettuccine Alfredo a heart attack on a plate, gives Chinese food a general thumbs-up.
Except when it comes to sodium.
The center’s independent lab analysis of dishes on a typical Chinese restaurant menu found the standard Hot and Sour Soup clocked in at a whopping 1,100 milligrams of sodium. That’s nearly the government’s recommended 1,500 milligrams a day.
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The Star’s Hot and Sour Soup uses a combination of low-sodium chicken broth and reduced-sodium soy sauce to whittle the sodium to a more moderate 310 milligrams. Yet there’s still plenty of flavor, thanks to the seasonings: ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, rice vinegar and sesame oil.
Tofu, which acts like a sponge and soaks up the flavorings of the soup, is naturally low in sodium, high in protein and cholesterol-free.
Mushrooms add texture and interest to the soup, as well as riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6. Mushrooms are also an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that maintains blood pressure, and they are one of the richest vegetable sources of selenium, which may protect against cancer and heart disease.
Storage tip: Tofu is highly perishable and should be refrigerated no more than a week.
Hot and sour soup
Makes 6 servings
2 (14.5-ounce) cans fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon minced gingerroot
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces reduced-fat firm tofu, drained well and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 green onions, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Combine chicken broth, 1 3/4 cups water, ginger and garlic in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Add mushrooms and reduce heat to a simmer; cook 5 minutes.
Add tofu, vinegar, red pepper flakes and soy sauce. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup water with cornstarch; blend well. Stir cornstarch mixture into soup and simmer 3 minutes or until soup thickens. Slowly pour egg whites into broth, stirring constantly. Add green onions and sesame oil. Heat through and ladle into serving bowls.
Per (1-cup) serving: 146 calories (14 percent from fat), 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 20 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 310 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.