Chinese takeaways
Chinese takeaways
Adapting your menu to create
healthier alternatives
Helping you to promote healthier options to existing customers and attract new
ones, increasing business, sales and profits
2015 Version 3
Chinese Takeaways
Healthy catering is not about removing lots of existing dishes from the menu and
replacing them with healthier alternatives. Although you may decide to introduce some
totally new dishes, the main emphasis is on making small changes to existing dishes.
This may mean changing some of the ingredients used, the amounts of ingredients used
or how the food is prepared and cooked. Healthy catering is also about promoting the
healthier options so customers are more aware of the choices available.
The following sections provide further guidance as to how to make these small changes in
relation to Chinese style cooking.
Prawn crackers are high in fat. Use monounsaturated/polyunsaturated oil e.g.
rapeseed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil and drain thoroughly before serving. You could
let customers order prawn crackers if they would like them, rather than provide
them for free with meals. If they are provided free with a meal, reduce the
portion size; you could offer healthier appetisers free instead.
Rice, noodles and potatoes
A meal should be based around starchy foods, which in Chinese style cooking would
mainly be rice and noodles.
Offer boiled rice and noodles as alternative to fried.
Try offering noodle dishes such as chow mein with boiled noodles instead of fried.
To make boiled rice more appealing, offer variations with added fruit or
vegetables e.g. Chinese/straw mushrooms, peas, pineapple.
Try offering brown rice, or half brown and half white rice mixed together. If
dumplings are on the menu, steam rather than fry.
If chips are on the menu, use thick, straight
cut chips as these absorb less fat than thin
chips/fries. Only put salt on chips if
requested by customer.
Fruit, vegetables and salads
A balanced diet should contain lots of fruit and vegetables, so have plenty of options on
the menu. Make sure that vegetables make up a substantial part of the dish.
There are a range of different fruits and vegetables that are used in Chinese style cooking peppers, onion, pineapple, broccoli, Chinese greens/Pak Choi, straw mushrooms, bamboo
shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn, bean sprouts.
Add extra fruit and vegetables into soups, starters, main dishes, rice and noodles.
Have non-fried vegetable main and side dishes on the menu.
Encourage customers to buy a side order of vegetables, or have a ‘special’ vegetable
dish of the week.
Where possible, steam vegetables or stir-fry in a minimal amount of oil.
Where possible, add extra beans or pulses into a dish e.g. black bean sauce.
Try offering a salad starter or main dish e.g. mixed seafood salad. Serve without
dressing, or offer a reduced fat dressing in a separate container.
Red meat
Use lean meat where possible and cut visible fat off meat, such as pork and lamb.
Grill, oven bake or stir-fry in minimal amount of monounsaturated/
polyunsaturated oil.
When roasting meat, use a roasting rack to drain excess fat away.
Pork ribs/spare ribs are generally high in fat. If on the menu, grill/char-grill or roast
on a rack to allow fat to drain away. The coating (e.g. BBQ sauce) may also be high
in fat, salt +/or sugar (see ‘Sauces, stocks and dips’ section).
Skim fat off meat soups/curries.
Poultry and eggs
Where possible, remove the skin and fat from poultry, such as chicken and duck.
Grill, oven bake, boil or stir-fry poultry in small amounts of monounsaturated/
polyunsaturated oil.
When roasting poultry, use a roasting rack to drain excess fat away.
If omelettes/foo -yeung are included in the menu, try to include some vegetables. If
milk is added, use semi skimmed milk instead of whole milk or cream.
Fry in a non-stick pan with a small amount of monounsaturated/polyunsaturated oil.
Reducing fat, salt and sugar
Tips on how to reduce fat, salt and sugar can be found in most sections of this guide.
Further tips and general reminders for adapting recipes and cooking methods are as
Offer dishes that are steamed, poached, boiled or stir-fried in minimal oil.
When stir-frying, use small amounts of Monounsaturated /polyunsaturated oils e.g.
rapeseed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil.
Do not double/re-fry food as it increases fat absorption further.
Battered and deep fried dishes contain lots of fat. Only offer a limited number of
these dishes and use a monounsaturated/polyunsaturated oil that is suitable for deep
frying (e.g. rapeseed/canola, corn). Use the right frying temperatures (look at the
recipe/packet or fryer instructions, but usually 1750C is ideal), as a reduced
temperature can lead to increased fat absorption.
Some dishes have high levels of salt or sugar (e.g. salted chilli chicken, honey lemon
chicken). Only offer a limited number of these dishes and try to reduce the amount of
salt or sugar/honey used. Do not add salt to vegetables, rice,
noodles or chips.
Avoid adding, or at least reduce adding Monosodium Glutamate
(MSG) to food as it contains large amounts of sodium.
When buying readymade sauces, look for ones that don’t contain MSG (also labelled
as ‘E621’ on food packaging). If you do, be aware that these foods already contain
sodium. Use other ways to enhance the flavour of the food (e.g. garlic, herbs, spices,
chilli, black pepper, lemon/lime), instead of salt or MSG.
Sauces and stocks
Some sauces contain high levels of salt, sugar and/or fat (e.g. Soy sauce, hoi sin, plum,
black bean, sweet & sour, oyster sauce, fish sauce). Ready-made/bought-in sauces and
stocks can contain particularly high levels.
Try to make sauces and stocks in-house and reduce the amount of salt or sugar added.
BBQ sauce can be high in sugar, salt and/or fat. If BBQ dishes are on the menu (e.g. BBQ
chicken or ribs), try to coat the food lightly, rather than cover the food in lots of sauce.
Limit the amount of sauce added to a dish and, where possible, offer the sauce
separately so the customer can use as little or as much as they like.
Less Healthy menu Items
Healthier alternatives
Battered and deep fried products (e.g.
Chop suey
sweet and sour pork/chicken/prawn
Vegetable stir-fries
Stir-fried beef strips/chicken strips
Deep fried crispy beef
Curries with reduced fat coconut milk
Curries based on creamed coconut
instead of creamed coconut
Fried fish and shellfish
Steamed/boiled fish/shellfish
Dishes with a high salt/sugar sauce (e.g.
Boiled rice/noodles
plum, hoi sin, black bean, sweet & sour,
Chunky, thick cut chips
oyster, fish sauce, soy sauce)
Steamed dumplings
Honey coated dishes (e.g. honey lemon
Stir-fried bean curd (tofu)
chicken, honey roast pork)
Vegetable dishes (e.g. broccoli, pak choi,
straw mushrooms, baby corn)
Salted dishes (e.g. salted chilli chicken/
Fried rice, fried/crispy noodles
Thin cut chips/fries
Drinks – cold/chilled
Soft ‘fizzy’ drinks are high in sugar, diet versions are better but still contain sugar; always
have healthier options available; e.g, unsweetened fruit juice, NOT “Fruit juice drinks” as
they usually contain added sugar, so should be avoided. Have bottled mineral water
(still/sparkling) and artificially sweetened ‘diet’ soft drinks available.
Children’s/smaller meals
Have smaller portions available (at a reduced price) for children and people with a
smaller appetite. This can help prevent people over-eating and food being wasted.
Make sure there healthier options available. Package children’s meals in a fun way.
If there is a dedicated children’s menu, make sure it contains healthier options and not
just options with chips. Examples could include:
Chicken and noodles
mild curry sauce
chicken stir-fry
Half size portions of regular menu items, with no added salt or sugar
Display, pricing and marketing
Include some of the healthier options in the set menus.
Try promoting the healthier dishes as ‘specials’ or ’dish of the day’, but do not increase
the price as this may put customers off.
Offer reduced-size lunchtime specials (a container with half rice and half meat)
Try highlighting the healthier options on your menu, using a logo or symbol next to the
healthier dishes. Make sure staff are aware of the healthier options and promote them
to customers. Consider using some price promotions for the healthier options (e.g.
offer a portion of Chinese greens half price with every order, or free with every order
over £10).
Some customers aren’t afraid to ask for what they want, but most are too shy to ask
for something that isn’t on the menu. Highlight on your menus or train staff to tell
customers that they can ask for food to be steamed, boiled or grilled instead of fried,
giving your customers that authentic, tasty option.
List healthier options higher up on the menu.
Promote adding more vegetables to meals, and show photographs of them.
“We get lots of requests for dishes with less fat so we started
serving dishes like boiled chicken satay - it tastes really good
and is very popular!”
(Hwee L Goh, Forum House Chinese Restaurant, South Cambridgeshire)
Tips on Frying
Use best practice and increase
your profits
Following these tips when you are deep frying can help you:
• save money
• make your fried foods crispier and tastier
• lower the amounts of saturated fat and salt in a portion
Where you see this symbol £ this means the tip could save you money. A poster with these tips on is
available at:
1. Use thick, straight-cut chips
These absorb less fat, so you use less oil and it’s healthier for your customers. £ Make your chips using a
cutter with at least a 14mm (just over ½ an inch) cross section.
2. Fry at 175°C
Getting oil to 175°C (350°F) before you start frying gives you crispier, more appealing food that absorbs less
fat. That means you use less oil. £
Each time you fry a new batch, let the oil come back up to 175°C before you start.
Overloading your fryer, or adding too much food when you’re frying, makes the temperature of the oil drop.
That makes the food greasier and uses more oil. If you use baskets, they shouldn’t look more than half full.
3. Check the temperature
Make sure the temperature on your range is accurate. You can do this by heating the oil and testing the
temperature in the middle of the oil with a probe thermometer. If you have a range with a thermostat,
make sure the probe is clean when you drain the fryer. You should have the thermostat checked as part of a
regular service of your equipment.
4. Cook for 5-6 minutes
The cooking time for chips will depend on the type of potato you use, but for thick-cut fresh potatoes
cooked at 175°C it’s about 5-6 minutes, until the chips are a pale, golden colour. If you cook them straight
through and take them out of the oil as soon as they are cooked, they will absorb less fat. And you will use
less oil. £
If you decide to blanch some chips to help with a busy service, then you should blanch at 175°C, allowing
the oil to come back up to temperature between batches. This will reduce the fat absorption and help
prevent greasy chips.
5. Bang, shake and drain food
By shaking the food and banging the wire scoop several times, you can reduce fat absorption by 20% and
make your foods crisper. This is because foods can carry on absorbing fat after they come out of the fryer. If
you bang and shake you’ll use less oil, need to top up less often, and need to empty the drain less often. £
6. Look after your oil
Try to change your oil before it foams, froths or smokes. It will also change colour, smell rancid or fishy
when you heat it and will affect the flavour of the food.
Follow these tips to keep your oil fresh for longer. Then you will use less oil. £
• Don’t heat your oil above 175°C.
• Dry fresh chips for as long as possible after soaking. If you use a potato preparation you will be able to dry
your chips for longer.
• Keep fryer topped up with oil.
• Don’t ‘idle’ a fryer at high temperatures, let it cool to 100°C and cover it.
• Sieve the oil every time you fry a batch and throw the scraps away.
• Filter your oil often, ideally once a day.
For information on changing oil safely, see
7. Fry chips on their own
If you fry foods like sausages, chicken and anything in breadcrumbs, don’t fry these in the same oil you use
for chips as they will affect your oil quality. Gently shake any food in breadcrumbs before you fry it to knock
off any loose bits – this will help keep your oil fresh.
8. Use a liquid oil
The more saturated fat in your oil, the more saturated fat there will be in your food.
Liquid oils such as sunflower and rapeseed have about 10% saturated fat. Solid oils such as palm oil or beef
fat have about 50%. Some suppliers provide palm oil blends (a mix of palm and other oils) that have about
30% saturated fat. If you choose sunflower or rapeseed oil, you need to use a ‘high oleic’ version, as these
are more stable (provided you look after your oil well).
Whichever oil you choose, always make sure it is not hydrogenated.
But what about the taste?...
Worried your customers won’t like the taste? Winners of the Perfect
Portion Awards, voted for by customers, fry with rapeseed oil!
Further information
The Public Health Responsibility Deal
Public health is everyone’s responsibility and there is a role for all of us, working in
partnership, to tackle these challenges.
Too many of us are eating too much, drinking too much and not doing enough physical
activity. Creating the right environment can empower and support people to make
informed, balanced choices that will help them lead healthier lives.
The Public Health Responsibility Deal aims to tap into the potential for businesses and
other influential organisations to make a significant contribution to improving public
health by helping us to create this environment.
Further information on how to get involved or to just get access to lots more advice can
log onto or search on online for ‘responsibility deal.’
Change 4 Life – What is it?
These days, ’modern life’ can mean that we’re a lot less active. With so many
opportunities to watch TV or play computer games, and with so much convenience and
fast food available, we don’t move about as much, or eat as well as we used to.
The change for life website contains a wealth of information aimed initially at individuals
and families however the principles and guidance contained within the site can be very
useful and include topic such as:
Meal mixer
Try our tips to make your weekly shop healthier.
What's on the label?
Be calorie smart
More about calories
Lunch boxes
Packed lunch ideas
Cooking terms
Log onto or simply search
online for Change4life
If you would like further information regarding Eat Well Wirral please contact:
[email protected] OR visit
The guidance in this booklet was compiled by Wirral Borough Council from multiple sources including
The Department of Health and the Director of Public Health Wales.
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