Sesame Chicken Noodle Salad

By: Nikki Nies

I’ve always considered my initiation into the spicy palette world as starting during the fall of 2012, when I was living with an Italian family that only cooked with extra heat. However, now that I think about it, I’ve appreciated the kick that chili garlic sauce brings to dishes for quite some time. What was introduction to chili garlic sauce? My mother made me Sesame Chicken Noodle Salad in 2008 and I’ve been obsessed with these flavors ever since!

If you tend to opt for the non-spicy, buckle your seat and join the ride of flavors that include ginger, chili garlic sauce and snow peas! You won’t be able to resist these flavors!


  • 6 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 5 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons oriental sesame oil
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced green onions
  • 2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • optional, adds crunch if you like: diagonally thinly sliced raw pea pods and/or thin julienned water chestnuts
  • 1 pound box vermicelli

Prepare sauce from the first 6 ingredients in a jar. Shake well and let sit for at least a couple of hours at room temperature. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. While pasta is cooking, whisk the sauce in a very large bowl. Add hot pasta, green onions and chicken and toss well to coat. Add cilantro and optional pea pods and water chestnuts. Toss to blend. Will serve 4 dinner entrees or 6 lunch servings. IMG_9217

I recently made this recipe for another family that I’ve been graciously been staying with as I wrap up the chapter in my life in Illinois. They were surprised how healthy it was and had the right amount of vegetables and protein for them! While most of these ingredients can now be found in the local grocery store, it may be worth the investment to stop by your local Asian market and/or invest in the larger size bottles of oil or vinegar if you plan to experiment more with Asian flavors!

Health Tips When Traveling To China

China_table_settingBy: Nikki Nies

To truly immerse yourself in a culture, especially one that is far removed from your own is the true definition of traveling. Whether you travel to the exhilarating Machu Pichu or soak up the rays in Turks & Caicos, there’s one factor in vacation destinations that can be not be ignored, the food. Depending on one’s taste buds and food preferences, that can dictate travel excursions. No matter how much you   factor in food, China should be at the top of your list of travel destinations!

You should head to China with at few ideas of where you want to go and how to best enjoy the food. I have provided first hand tips of how to best eat in China.

With many carbohydrate sources, such as rice, noodles, steamed buns as entrées themselves or accompanying the entrees, it can be easy to carb overload. However,

  • Eat with chopsticks. Not only will it slow down intake, but locals will be more likely to give you menu and meal suggestions when they see you immersing in the culture
  • Try a bit of everything, but don’t eat everything. Having a couple bites can help limit overindulging while getting the exposure to different flavors
  • Cold beverages are deemed harmful to digestion of hot foods, so hot tea or hot water are served with meals. Tea is believed to help with the digestion of greasy foods
  • Food is often prepared and served on small plate, “family style”, be ready for direct pick up and communal eating

    Image by rayand
    Image by rayand
  • While China can be divided into 57 cuisine regions, below are some of the more popular regions:
    • Szechuan (Sichuan): known for spicy, hot flavor; uses a great mixture of poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, tofu in combination with pepper and chili; fast frying is most commonly used method
    • Cantonese: characterized by tender, slightly sweet taste; sauces are often light and mellow, including hoisin, oyster, plum and sweet and sour sauce; often see spring onions, sugar, salt, rice wine, corn starch, vinegar and sesame oil used; garlic can be heavily used; prefer stewing, sautéing or braising food, which helps to preserve the flavor
    • Hunan: “land of fish and rice”; fresh vegetables cooked “al dente”; favors steaming, stir frying, smoking and sautéing; special seasonings include soy sauce, tea seed oil, Chinese red pepper, fennel and cassia bark and spicy oil
    • Jiangsu: moderate saltiness and sweetness; places emphasis on the making of soups; abundant in freshwater fish and seafood from the Yangtze River and Yellow Sea
  • Desserts less common, with sweet foods introduced during meal. For example, basifruit, sizzling sugar syrup coated fruits are eaten with other savory foods
    • Beware, there are fried desserts that incorporate red bean paste
    • If dessert is served at the end of the meal, often times it is fresh fruit
  • Soup is often served at the end of the meal to satiate appetite

For any of you that have traveled to China, what other tips can you share? It’s hard to give specific “restaurant recommendations” as a lot of the great food is on the street kiosks and depending on what flavors you’re looking to try! Remember, when traveling, go in with an open mind and have fun! What regional cuisines are must eats for you


The Forgotten Health Benefits of Chinese Food

Sharon Quan’s Dim Sum

220px-Khinkali_cropBy: Nikki Nies

Many cultures have their own variation of dumplings.  The Polish have pierogis, those from Georgia-the country eat khinkali daily, while the Iraqi are more familiar with kubbeh.  Pierogis are made from unleavened dough and often stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese and/or fruit. Khinkali has different variations spreading across the Caucasus, with various filling composed of spiced meat, beef and/or lamb and include herbs, onions, garlic, mushrooms, potatoes or cheese. Kubbeh is made of burghul (cracked wheat), minced onions, goat, lamb, ground lean beef or camel meat.

While the “fillings” of these dumplings might differ from the regionally available products, do you see any similarities in these tasty foods? Pierogis, khankhali and kubbeh can all be classised as dumplings as they are made from dough and are either cooked alone or wrapped around a filling. Dumplings are great way to add in a variety of flavors from herbs, spices and vegetables! There’s not a “wrong” and “right” way to make dumplings–as evidenced by the thousands of variations across the world.

dim-sumFor me, dumplings are associated with a specific Chinese cook, Sharon Quan (pronounced Kwon).  Both my parents attended Sharon’s cooking classes before they adopted me.  Once I was old enough, I attended Sharon’s cooking classes with my dad.  Not only were these classes a way to better learn tradtional Chinese cooking methods, but a great way to understand “why” foods are prepared the way they are.  I have memories growing up helping my dad fold and make dumplings.  We’d make several batches, freezing at least half so we’d have some always on hand!

Today, I’ve shared Sharon Quan’s dim sum recipe.  Dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine that’s prepared as small bite sized pieces of food, often served in a small steamer basket or plate.

Sharon Quan’s Dim Sum

A.3/4 cup pork cut into small cubes

1 piece chinese sausage cut into small pieces

6 whole medium size dry mushrooms, soak til soft, cut small pieces

1 scallion cut into small pieces download

B. 1/4 cup fresh water chestnuts, peeled, crush with flat side of cleaver

C. 1 Tablespoon thin soy sauce

1 Tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons corn starch

dash pepper

D. 1 pound med size shrimp (about 40)

E. 40 thin won ton wrappers

F. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil for dipping

G. Wax paper to line steamer


Step 1:Shell shrimp but leave tail and last section intact.  Cut open shrimp from the back.  Wash and devein, pat dry, set aside for later use.

Step 2: Chop group A until very fine.  Add fresh water chestnut, mix together; add group C.  Mix in the chopped meat.  Mix well.

Step 3:Line steamer with wax paper and brush with oil.

Step 4:make the shui-mi, dumpling:  Place sheet of wonton ski on your palm; put about 1 teaspoon meat mixture in the middle of the skin.  Add 1 shrimp to the top of meat with the tail up.  Gather edges of the skin together around the tail of the shrimp.  Place shui-mmi into the steamer open the tail like a fan.  Steam all for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with group F

dumpling-house-005If you’re not familiar with Asian cooking, there’s a lot of chopping and prep that goes into a meal. So you’re forewarned! With that said, I hope you do venture and try this recipe and/or let me know your own version of dumplings. Do you have a favorite dipping sauce or way to prepare them? Please share!

Photo Credit:The Hungry Mouse, the Chinese Quest and that Economist 

AA’s Protective Body Against Osteoporosis

Image-10-21-13-at-4.30-PM-560x440By: Nikki Nies

Between 2012 and 2013, the growth of the Asian American (AA) community increased by 2.9%, making them the fasting growing ethnic group in the U.S.19 Representing 19.4 million of the American population, the AA bone biology and calcium and vitamin D intake deserve better understanding, as intake is often times lower than the recommended dietary guidelines.2  Many AA families have immigrated to the U.S., bringing not only physical possessions, but dietary and cultural practices as well.  AA tend to consume less dairy products due to perceived and/or actual lactose maldigestion and lack of culturally inundated use.7  Of the calcium rich foods consumed, AA tend to consume calcium more from orange  juice, soy and dark green leafy vegetables.5,18,19 Yet, there is a 47% prevalence of  vitamin D deficiency for Asian emigrants, with mean 25(OH)D 23.7-60.1 nmol/L for ethnic minorities in comparison to white at 65.4-79.6 nmol/L.13  vitamin D deficiency is  associated with female gender, dark skin, being covered while indoors and longer residency in host country (>2 years).13

AA women possess some of the same risk factors are associated with osteoporosis in Caucasians, even though rates of fragility fracture differs among groups.7,8 Additionally, AA hip fracture incidence is lower than Caucasians, which is hypothesized as due to shorter height, lower incidence or severity of falls, lower bone mass, better bone quality-including shorter femoral neck axis length (FNAL) and hip axis length (HAL) and/or differences in soft tissue thickness.3,6,12,15,16  The biological differences in Caucasians and AA body composition provide AA a protective layer, literally, against osteoporosis even with suboptimal calcium and vitamin D intakes. It has been surmised AA reach peak growth velocity sooner than other ethnicity groups, with earlier epiphyseal closure, which leads to shorter leg length and FNAL.3 Potential explanations of lower bone mineral density (BMD) may include AA skin pigmentation, reduced sun exposure, lower vitamin D intake, smaller bone size in hip geometry, with suggestions that AA have greater resistance to buckling, compressive and/or impact forces.3,6,8,16 Furthermore, use of imaging technology indicates the Chinese skeleton compensates for smaller bone size in trabecular and cortical bone compartments, which provides greater bone strength.3  Cortical bone has been found to be a protective barrier to fractures due to its thickness, cross sectional area, cortical porosity, mineralization, crystallinity and presence of microcracks.7calcium.figure2

During the menopause transition, a decline in ovarian function beginning about 2 years before the final menstrual period (FMP) is followed by an increase in bone resorption and then bone loss. The magnitude of the increase in bone resorption is inversely associated with body mass index (BMI).15  With a higher BMI, this may influence osteoporosis through increased weight bearing and increased adiposity, which is a source of leptin and estrone; they are known to positively affect the maintenance of BMD.15 AA tend to have lower BMIs than Caucasians, which may correspond in bone resorption, appearing to account for the ethnic variation in perimenopausal bone loss.15

With extensive research on postmenopausal women’s bone health, it is equally important to understand adolescent calcium needs as the growth period is crucial for optimal bone health due to the bone accumulation and as half of adult peak bone mass occurs at this time.2,19   A randomized crossover design studied 29 AA adolescents’ calcium intakes, ranging from 600-1600 mg/day, measuring bone turnover rate and calcium absorption using double stable calcium kinetic analysis.19 Both genders had low habitual mean intake, low mean serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, with true fractional calcium absorption inversely related with calcium load and calcium retention increased with increased calcium consumption.19  Calcium retention is dictated by calcium intake, with absorption efficiency increased within the  first year after spermatorrhea in boys, but decreased with menstrual cycle in girls.20  The most important factors of calcium absorption include sex–higher absorption rate for boys, age, pubertal development  and retention.10,20

With the minimal calcium intake at 1110 mg/day for Chinese American boys and 970 mg/day for girls, it leads to maximal retention, which is considerably lower than that for Caucasian girls.  The study suggests lower calcium recommendations for AA adolescents than for Caucasian adolescents. Although, AA adolescents habitually have lower calcium and vitamin D intake, bone gain is similar in comparison to Caucasians, which due to increased calcium absorption efficiency and renal calcium conservation and due to the inverse relationship of calcium load and true fractional calcium absorption.9,10,19  Boys retained significantly more calcium than girls as calcium intake increased through lower fecal excretion and higher net absorption.  As a controlled feeding crossover study, both genders were studied, providing insight into adolescent populations’ calcium intake, which has a limited amount of data.  However, by using Chinese American participants, it is hard to generalize results to the entire AA adolescent population.  Future research can and should compare Wu et al’s results using more ethnically diverse AA participants.19

Talk about bone health is not complete without looking into AA women’s lifestyle predictors of peak BMD.4 In a cross sectional study of 48 Mexican American (MA) and 58 AA women, participants were tested for BMD, body composition, aerobic fitness and muscle function.  Pearson’s correlations and multiple linear regressions found AA hip BMD was lower in MA when adjusted for age, BMI, income and physical activity.4  Lean body mass was the strongest predictor of BMD for both ethnicities, but stronger for AA.4  A potential explanation of this mechanism includes earlier plateau in AA BMD compared to other ethnic groups, lower rates of skeletal remodeling, differences in hormone concentrations and effects.4 Also, AA had significantly lower total, spine and hip BMD (P<0.05).4

Total BMD (g/cm2) 47/57 1.11 ± 0.008 1.05 ± 0.06**
Spine BMD  (g/cm2) 47/57 1.05 ± 0.13 1.00 ± 0.10*
Hip BMD (g/cm2) 47/57 0.98 ± 0.11 0.86 ±0.11**
Spine t score 47/57 -0.002 ± 1.14 -0.364 ± 0.90
Hip t score 47/57 0.130 ± 0.83 -0.741 ± 0.84**

*Significant at P <0.005, **significant at P <0.01

While these results are the first of its kind, dietary recall bias has to be noted and causal relationships can not be drawn from any variables and BMD.4 However, all questionnaires were given in the participants’ preferred language and questionnaire and lab assessments were performed by the same research team. Again, by using specific minority groups-MA and CA,  it is hard to generalize results to the entire AA population.4

Moreover, by observing CA cortical thickness and cortical volumetric BMD (Ct.BMD), it can help shed light on the microarchitectural differences between AA and Caucasian risk for fractures.1 In a cross sectional study, pre and postmenopausal women were observed, with CA having smaller bone area at radius and tibia, greater cortical volumetric bone density and thickness and greater trabecular thickness than white women, which provides additional resistance to fractures.1 In CA, lower cortical porosity and higher tissue mineral density contribute to higher mineral BMD, more dense, thicker cortices.1,9

Premenopausal white women (n=46) Premenopausal Chinese women (n=46) Postmenopausal white women (n=68) Postmenopausal Chinese women (n=29)
Height (cm) 165±7 162 ± 6** 162± 6 157± 5***
Weight (kg) 63± 17 56 ± 10* 66±12 58±8***
BMI (kg/m2) 23.1 ± 5.5 21.6±3.5 25.3± 4.9 23.6± 2.6±*
Calcium intake (mg/d) 1394 ± 1570 885 ± 557* 1557± 730 901± 544***
OCP duration (years) 7.4 ± 6.4± 3.7 ± 3.3* N/A N/A
Baecke sport index 1.6 ± 0.7 1.1 ± 0.6*** 1.2± 0.5 1.2± 0.7
PTH (pg/mL)b 31 ± 13 37 ± 13* 38± 12 37±11
25-hydroxyvitamin D (ng/mL)c 36 ± 14 25 ± 9*** 38± 14 31±10*

OCP=oral contraceptive use; PTH=serum intact parathyroid hormone  bData for 174/192 women  cData for 152/192 women

*p < 0.05 between race by menopausal status;**p <0.001 between race by menopausal status ***p < 0.001 between race by menopausal status

The above listed results show CA have thicker, denser cortices due to lower cortical porosity and higher tissue mineral density.1 Studies have shown a strong relationship between cortical porosity and bone strength, with each SD increase in cortical porosity increasing risk of fracture 22-55% depending on skeletal site.  However, with noninvasive assessment, this may have led to confounding errors in density assessment as thicker cortices may result in more beam hardening artifact of measurement.1image_(2)

Repeatedly, Asian women are found to have lower areal BMD, which is the amount of bone mineral divided by the bone scanned area, and lower wrist, arm and hip fracture rates than Caucasians.1,9,17 Using high resolution technology, a study led by Walker et al., 2010 aimed to better understand this paradox, assessing cortical and trabecular bone noninvasively.17 32 white and 31 Chinese American women’s 25-hydroxyvitamin D, serum calcium, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase activity, intact PTH and thyroid stimulating hormone were measured.  Biochemical data was analysed using two sided t test and Pearson’s correlation for BMD and microarchitectural variables.17

Results showed CA were shorter, at lower weights, higher parathyroid hormone and a trend of less sun exposure than Caucasians.17 At the radius and tibia, CA women’s trabecular BMD was 22% and 15% higher respectively.17  Although, CA have smaller bone size, cortical thickness was 22.5% greater in CA than white.  When weight and physical activity factors were adjusted, differences in bone size decreased in radius and tibia, which suggests protective effects.2,17 In this study, the physical difference between CA and Caucasian women provide AA lower rates of hip fractures: greater trabecular and cortical thickness at radius and tibia, at tibia, trabecular number is greater, trabecular separation and inhomogeneity are lower.11,17 Participants were obtained as a convenience sample, which may instill selection bias–with healthy premenopausal, not postmenopausal women used and it can not be discerned if the results are applicable to postmenopausal.  This variation in menarche may skew the results and considerations must be made in regards in FMP.

The AA population’s body composition has a lowered risk for osteoporosis and fractures, with  body composition changes that accelerate bone loss within the FMP. In a eight year cohort study, 3302 Japanese and African American women spanning premenopausal age and beyond, estradiol, FSH and urine N-telopeptide (NTX) was measured.14 Results showed that in postmenopausal women, urinary and serum type I collagen NTX, a marker of bone resorption, levels were higher in perimenopausal women due to decreased estrogen production in perimenopausal and postmenopausal ovaries.14 The mean increase in urinary NTX was most markedly see in those with BMI >25 kg/m2, with increases greatest in Japanese Americans.  The study concluded ethnic variation in BMI helped explain the variation in perimenopausal bone loss as there was a decline in ovarian functioning starting 2 years before FMP with an increase in bone resorption and bone loss.14  Limitations of the study included the sole use of Japanese Americans as the AA experimental population and the obtainment of hormone levels on basis of single annual sample, which may not provide the best portrayal of hormone levels as menstrual cycles are irregular and the timing of blood sampling could have impacted the hormone levels.14 Causal relationships can not be determined from the results, with BMI as a measure of obesity, but not an indicator of contribution to increased fat mass, lean mass or both.

While AA are classified at increased risk of osteoporosis due to their lower calcium intake, their bone biology and metabolism show protective effects against osteoporosis in comparison to Caucasians.  Future research should expand on past studies’ findings, including using additional sample sizes when feasible and more consistent use of the type of ethnic participants.  While CA are the largest sub-minority group of AA, if future research states study’s are looking at AA, ethnic groups beyond CA should be used to elevate studies’ findings.  In addition, longitudinal studies may provide greater insight in the long term effects of AA calcium intake, bone health and risk of fractures.

From this extensive research, it is understandable and reasonable to lower calcium and/or vitamin D recommendations for AA in comparison to Caucasians due to AA’s increased calcium absorption efficiency at lower intakse, while continuing to promote the importance of bone health education.   By explaining the AA physical differences– lower bone mass, bone quality-including shorter femoral neck axis length (FNAL) and hip axis length (HAL) and/or differences in soft tissue thickness, this may curb fears about suboptimal calcium intake.3,6, 12,15Additionally, it would be helpful to recommend additional dairy rich calcium products as many AA obtain calcium from orange juice, soy products and dark leafy green vegetables..19 These recommendations would be appropriate to enhance the AA diet.  While the AA bone biology and cultural differences physically provide a protective layer against osteoporosis even at lower calcium intakes than other ethnic groups, adequate bone health education should be provided to this particular population.


Photo Credit:Vegan American Princess, Asian American Business Expo and Pointe Med


  1. Boutroy S, Walker MD, Liu XS, et al. Lower cortical porosity and higher tissue mineral density in chinese american versus white women. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2014;29(3):551-561.
  2. Burrows M, Jones A, Mirwald R, Macdonald H, McKay H. Bone mineral accrual across growth in a mixed-ethnic group of children: Are asian children disadvantaged from an early age? Calcified Tissue International. 2009;84(5):366-378.
  3. Cong E, Walker M. The chinese skeleton: Insights into microstructure that help to explain the epidemiology of fracture. Bone Research. 2014;2.
  4. Crespo N, Yoo E, Hawkins S. Anthropometric and lifestyle associations of bone mass in healthy pre-menopausal Mexican and Asian American women. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 2011;13(1):74-80.
  5. CROSS NA, KIM KK, YU ESH, CHEN EH, KIM J. Assessment of the diet quality of middle-aged and older adult korean americans living in chicago. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(4):552-554.
  6. Finkelstein J, Lee M, Sowers M, et al. Ethnic variation in bone density in premenopausal and early perimenopausal women: Effects of anthropometric and lifestyle factors. J Clin Endocrinol Metab,. 2002;87(7):3057-3067.
  7. Jackson K, Savaiano D. Lactose maldigestion, calcium intake and osteoporosis in african-, asian-, and hispanic-americans. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2001;20(2):198S-207S.
  8. Khandewal S, Chandra M, Lo JC. Clinical characteristics, bone mineral density and non-vertebral osteoporotic fracture outcomes among post-menopausal U.S. south asian women. Bone. 2012;51(6):1025-1028.
  9. Nam H, Shin H, Zmuda J, et al. Race/ethnic differences in bone mineral densities in older men. Osteoporos Int. 2010;21:2115-2123.
  10. Opotowsky S. Dietary calcium intake, fractional calcium absorption, urinary calcium excretion, and levels of calcitropic hormones and bone markers in young, healthy chinese-american and caucasian women .DORIS DUKE MEDICAL STUDENTS’ JOURNAL. 2001-2002;I:44-50
  11. Renzaho AMN, Halliday JA, Nowson C. Vitamin D, obesity, and obesity-related chronic disease among ethnic minorities: A systematic review. Nutrition. 2011;27(9):868-879.
  12. Sowers M, Zheng H, Greendale G, et al. Changes in bone resorption across the menopause transition: Effects of reproductive hormones, body size, and Ethnicity. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. ;98(7):2854-2863.
  13. Thomas P. Racial and Ethnic differences in osteoporosis J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007;15(1):S26-S30.
  14. Tung W. Osteoporosis among asian american women. Home Health Care Management & Practice. 2012;24(4):205-207.
  15. Walker MD, Liu XS, Zhou B, et al. Premenopausal and postmenopausal differences in bone microstructure and mechanical competence in Chinese-American and white women. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2013;28(6):1308-1318.
  16. WIECHA JM, FINK AK, WIECHA J, HEBERT J. Differences in dietary patterns of vietnamese, white, african-american, and hispanic adolescents in worcester, mass. J Am Diet Assoc. 2001;101(2):248-251.
  17. Wu L, Martin BR, Braun MM, et al. Calcium requirements and metabolism in chinese-american boys and girls. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2010;25(8):1842-1849.
  18. Yin J, Zhang Q, Liu A, et al. Factors affecting calcium balance in Chinese adolescents. Bone. 2010;46:162-166.

Vibrant Neighborhoods of Chicago

Original Image by Brent Payne via Flickr
Original Image by Brent Payne via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Along with other surrounding area Chicago dietetic internships, my internship participated in an “Ethnic Tour” of Chicago.   I love exploring and being exposed to different cultures and as the first time that I really got to see a larger chunk of Chicago, I was grateful that the tour stopped in some of the ethnic communities that we were able to visit.

With different cultures and practices, trying to educate someone with a different ethnic background than what the RD may might be familiar with can be a barrier to providing the most help.  Foods that people have grown up with can shape favorite foods and dictate the cooking methods often used.  Browsing through the grocery stores, bakeries and through the streets of the ethnic neighborhoods gave us a better idea of where a lot of ethnic groups are coming from.

I want to share where we went for anyone wanting some guidance in the Chicago area.  The tour was broken up into 4 parts categorized by the area of Chicago.

Stop #1: Corner of Kedzie and Lawrence–Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern and East European IMG_4205

  • Middle Eastern: Jafeer Sweets–4825 Kedzie; Sahar International Super Market–4851 N. Kedzie; Nazareth Sweets–4610 N. Kedzie; Al Khyan Market: 4738 N. Kedzie
  • Mexican: Super Mercado Lindo Michoacan–3142 W. Lawrence
  • East European: La Baguette Bakery–4134 N. Kedzie; Andies Fruits and Vegetables–4725 N. Kedzie

Stop #2: Devon Avenue–Indian, Russian and Kosher

  • Indian: Kamdar Plaz–2646 W. Devon; Fresh Farms Porduce 2626 W. Devon; Patel’s Indian Groceries 2610 W. Devon; Patel’s Cafe, Sweets and Savories–2600 W. Devon

Stop #3: Clark and Foster–Swedish, Persian and Middle Eastern

  • Swedish: Swedish Bakery–5348 N. Clark; Erickson’s Swedish Deli–5250 N. Clark; Ann Sathers 5207 N. Clark
  • Middle Eastern: Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery–1512 W. Foster
  • Persian: Pars Persian Store–5260 N. Clark

Stop #4: African and Asian  IMG_4210

  • W. African–Old World Grocery–5129 N. Broadway
  • Vietnamese–Bale Bakery and Take Out–5014 N. Broadway; Dai Nam Grocery–4925 N. Broadway; Mien Hoa Grocery–1108-1110 W. Argyle; Viet Hoa Grocery–1051 W. Argyle
  • Chinese–Chiu Quon Bakery–1127 W. Argyle

I’m looking forward to heading back to these neighborhoods to pick up ingredients. I feel more confident being able to peruse the aisles as I have a sense of familiarity of what the food products are used for.  All the neighborhoods were gracious enough to allow us into their communities and were eager to help with any questions.

Where ever you’re living I’m sure there’s an ethnic community’s cuisine and culture you haven’t experienced.  It doesn’t have to be large area, but experiencing a different culture can open your eyes to other’s customs and show you how similar we all really are.  I challenge you to check out neighborhoods in your background.  You might find a new cuisine you really love.

Skip the Fork, Use Chopsticks

Original Image by THOR via Flickr
Original Image by THOR via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Did you know it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register you’re full?  Staying healthy isn’t only about eating the right kind of foods, but how much one eats as well.  If you’ve been struggling with portions or just want to regain your love of food without it controlling you, why not try your hand with chopsticks.

The use of chopsticks also improves hand eye coordination, brain development, improving self confidence and awareness and brings an added element to the dinner table.

For those not as skilled in the chopsticks department, it requires smaller bites and more time in between spoonfuls.  Need to brush up on your chopstick skills? Play around and give it a try!

 So, don’t limit the use of chopsticks to eating Asian cuisine.  Yes, you might get a few stares, but so what?  You’re not only mindfully eating you’re food, but you’re enjoying every bite!


Chinese Take Out Healthy Style!

Original Image by MissMessie via Flickr
Original Image by MissMessie via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Expecting people to never eat take out would be unrealistic.  However, knowing what to choose on the menu can be a struggle for some when the nutrition facts isn’t visually provided.  Opting for the “healthy” menu can help steer you in the right direction and dishes that blatantly list the entrees with veggies.

Great choices:

  • Beef with Broccoli or chicken with broccoli –Order more vegetable dishes or dishes that have a high proportion of vegetable
  • Egg drop, miso, wonton, or hot & sour soup
  • Stir-fried, steamed, roasted or broiled entrees (shrimp chow mein, chop suey)
  • Steamed or baked tofu
  • Sauces such as ponzu, rice-wine vinegar, wasabi, ginger, and low-sodium soy sauce
  • Steamed brown rice

Fun tip: Using chopsticks will allow extra sauce to remain at the bottom of the dish when eating or serving onto a plate (a fork will also help). Chopsticks will slow you down, which will allow your body to respond to feeling full and satisfied and hopefully reduce the amount of food you take

Stay away from:

  • dishes with nuts—i.e. Kung Pao and General Tso’s Chicken
  • Fried egg rolls, spare ribs, tempura
  • Battered or deep-fried dishes (sweet and sour pork, General Tso’s chicken
  • Deep-fried tofu
  • Coconut milk, sweet and sour sauce, regular soy sauce
  • Fried rice
  • Salads with fried or crispy noodles


You can enjoy the take out without taking out the fun! Seeing what a serving of your favorite pork fried rice can sound daunting, but you don’t have to eliminate rice from your meal all together.  As you can see, brown rice is still 218 calories and has numerous health benefits.  Now go grab a pair of chopsticks and call up your local Chinese takeout restaurant!

Meet Zhanglin Kong, MS, RD


By: Nikki Nies

The number of accomplishments Ms. Kong,MS, RD has made within her short dietetic career as a Registered Dietitian at the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center are an inspiration and deserves recognition from fellow colleagues and dietetic students. Registered Dietitian (RD),Ms. Kong juggles multiple obligations at the Great Boston Chinese Golden Age Center: individual nutrition counseling and group nutrition education, monthly menu planning, recipe analysis and program outreach by writing bilingual nutrition articles for the local newspaper. However, she states her primary role is in quality control and monitoring for the meal and nutrition counseling and education.

Ms. Kong started studying nutrition in 2008. After completion of undergraduate work, she received her master’s degree from Tufts University. Ms. Kong has made quick strides, graduating from the Sodexo/Southcoast Hospital Group internship in New Bedford, Massachusetts last May and made the transition from intern to influential RD. Her youth gives her an advantage, with the ability to stay on top of evolving trends and her passion to give the utmost service to the Boston community is evident.

As a newly recognized RD, receiving her credential in September, Ms. Kong has been able to utilize her role in the workplace–“…the job provides me a great variety and balance of different roles-recipe developing, nutrition analysis, public speaking, individual counseling, writing, managing, outreaching and networking.”


Working at the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center gives Ms. Kong first hand experience working with Chinese Americans who could benefit from nutrition education. The most common diet restrictions that Ms. Kong works with are heart healthy and diabetic diets. Although, many elders have restrictions or certain dietary needs, the reward and satisfaction outweighs the necessary hard work. For example, Ms. Kong tries to balance the high consumption of sodium in relation to the lack of dairy in many Chinese American elders diet. She also finds herself educating and debunking health myths that may stem from a language barrier.


Ms. Kong expressed the importance and usefulness of analyzing client’s comments and complaints. To stay relevant and to best cater to client’s needs, there is an annual survey distributed and Ms. Zhang asks for client feedback during nutrition counseling sessions. To stay relevant on health information, Ms. Kong reads local newspapers and browses major Chinese websites for health news. Whenever clients bring in information she does not know, she takes it upon herself to learn more about that topic.

It is great to have an advocate not only for great nutrition, but one that caters to Chinese American needs. Sometimes Ms. Kong has to do her own translating of nutrition education materials from Chinese as she receives information from the Hong Kong and Taiwan Dietetic Association. Most of the relevant information she finds is in regards to traditional food, such as Yu Choy, turnip cake and Chinese sausage.

Ms. Kong credits her excellent communication skills, which include active listening and her interpersonal skills that have helped her get to where she is today. She is in no danger of becoming complacent, reading all mediums of relevant health information. Current dietetic students can learn a great deal from Ms. Kong. Ms. Kong sees a place for RD’s in the job market, especially to guide elders to credible sources of health information, since there’s a vast amount of unverifiable information. Ms. Kong reiterates the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggestions to improve chances of matching to a dietetic internship—great GPA and getting as much experience as possible. Various experiences not only makes an applicant a well rounded candidate, but allows one to see what opportunities and concentrations one would like to pursue.

Thank you Ms. Kong for your sharing your story!