I admit, I do get in a rut with meal preparation sometimes. Another night of chicken and greens – how many more ways can I cook chicken? We focus on checking where the protein, carbohydrate, vegetables and fats are. But what can really set up a memorable meal can be touching it up with little side dishes and garnish.
Lately we may not see as much of those crinkly parsley stems or kale quietly sitting at the corner of the plate. But many traditional dishes do come along with little plates or sides of color. It may be served as a digestive aid to support a high fat meal. It may be there to balance the flavors. They may have started off for the purpose of survival (prevent spoilage) and preservation, however I think many have quite an intriguing health potential.
Let’s take a peek at some.
Kimchi: A Korean blend of cultured radishes or other greens with hot spices, garlic and ginger. A little serving can add heat to your meals. Aside from the abundant vitamins in the vegetables, it contributes plenty to your good bacteria in your gut, helping digestion and improving immune function.
Chutney: The south Asian paste of mustard seeds and other spices, herbs such as mint and coriander. Just having a jar on the table, adding a spoonful to a dish will deepen flavor. The mouth watering spices (literally) can also start stimulate and soothe your digestive tract. It is also prepared to compliment the whole taste bud experience with its flavor combination.
Daikon radish, shiso leaves with fish – Perilla (shiso) leaves are antibacterial, the Japanese cuisine wrapped it around fish to protect against spoilage. Daikon radish when grated, release abundant enzymes that are similar to the digestive enzymes we have in our gut, and you’ll see daikon in all forms in Japanese dishes.
Salsa –Cilantro, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, a wonderful combination provide digestion support, antibacterial properties, source of phytonutrients like lycopene, and potassium. By using raw salsa as a flavorful seasoning, you can cut down on salt and excess fats.
Greens – Microgreens are appearing not only at fancy restaurants anymore! The various young greens are ready to burst with rich minerals and antioxidants. Also the savory green onions, parsley and herbs like basil and rosemary contribute its antibacterial and detoxifying power.
Nuts – Each nut has unique fatty acid, mineral, and protein content. Containing fiber, it also assists satiety and stable blood sugar. Raw nuts preserve its nutrients best, however if you want a stronger nutty flavor, you can toast it on a pan in the oven.
Kimchi does not have to be paired with Korean food. Same goes for the others. They stay in the refrigerator on standby for any occasion when you feel you want to add one more thing. And you don’t need much. They can be mixed in a stir-fry. You can add to your oil and vinegar as a creative salad dressing or marinade, or added to your meats or fish in a stew. It can be a topping over anything from vegetables to pizza.
The small addition of a simple garnish can make a meal pleasant to the eye and the body!
Mami Sorajo, MS RDN CD
Mami is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, obtained her Masters in Nutrition at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Her common counseling topics are weight management, diabetes, improving digestion, tackling food allergies, overcoming eating anxiety, and taking charge of chronic disease. She is passionate about working together with each individual in cultivating personal and practical ways to become confident with your relationship with food.