Katie's Healthy Bites: Have a Steamy Chinese New Year

Alton's Vegetarian Dumplings

This year, Chinese New Year begins on February 3 and goes on for 15 days. Why not celebrate by using one of my favorite healthy kitchen tools, the bamboo steamer?  Steaming is a gentle, healthy cooking process that preserves nutrients and locks in flavor, texture, color and moisture, and this traditional cooking technique is the perfect way to make dumplings, flavorful veggies and more. Here's how to use it, plus recipes to try.

How it Works

A bamboo steamer is circular with a slatted bottom. The use of bamboo and the design help it retain heat for evenly cooked food as well as absorb excess moisture to prevent soggy ingredients. They are designed to be used with a wok, though you can easily place the steamer over a pot with 2-3 inches of boiling water.  You can stack several steamers on top of one another to cook several foods at a time, which is convenient and fun.  Always place the ingredients with the longest cook times in the bottom steamer (example: fish) and the ingredients with shorter cook time (example: veggies) on the top layers.

Storing Your Steamer

Most steamers include information on proper storage, cleaning and cook times for ingredients but here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Before each use, gently rinse out the steamer with warm water to remove any debris, dust or dirt hanging out.
  • Vegetables can be placed directly on the bottom, but when cooking with meats, fish or messier items place them on a piece of parchment paper or something more creative and flavorful like a cabbage or kale leaf, a banana leaf or a corn husk to protect the bottom of the steamer.  You want to make sure the weave is protected, but the steam can still get to the ingredient.

So, I challenge you, in this, the Chinese New Year, to resolve to try steaming. You will be amazed at the immense flavor you can achieve without adding fats like oil and butter.  Want to get a bit more creative? Add aromatics like fresh herbs, citrus and robust vegetables to the layers to create dimensions of flavor in your meal.

Try your hand at some dim sum or a new fish recipe to celebrate the New Year and a healthier you!

Recipes to Try:
TELL US: Have you tried steaming?

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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