Monday, January 28, 2008

Chinatowns of the World - Authentic Chinese Meals

China has a long and rich history of exploration and migration around the world. In fact, according to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, at the end of 1999, there were 34,505,000 Chinese people living in countries around the world.

The word "Chinatown" in Chinese means "The Street of the Tang People", with Tang referring to the Tang Dynasty, a period of Chinese history regarded by many people as the pinnacle in the Chinese civilization.

For many Chinese people, the original Chinatowns around the world were not started out of choice, but because of racial segregation, and oppression. In other places, they were created to bring a sense of home and community to strangers in a new land.

Whatever their origins, you can find a Chinatown in almost every major city in the world. They vary in size -- from a couple of streets to large, thriving cities within a city.

Visit any Chinatown in the world and you'll be treated to a banquet for your senses -- vibrant, shimmering silks that are sensuously soft against your skin, exotic spices and culinary delights to tempt your astounds along with a kaleidoscope of sounds, fireworks and music. Wander along the crowded streets and you'll find large pagoda-style arches, paper lanterns, Chinese dragons, beautiful temples and commerce taking place at a dizzying pace.

Here is a list of some of the best Chinatowns in the world:

San Francisco, California: The largest Chinatown on the West Coast, Chinatown is one of San Francisco's biggest tourist attractions. It is world-renowned for its exotic ambience. The history of this Chinatown dates back to the gold rush days of the mid 1800s. Although they were not allowed in the mines, Chinese immigrants built laundries and restaurants to serve the growing city. Today the area is about eight blocks long, and the best time to visit is usually mid-day. Don't miss the small exotic shops that you'll find on the narrow streets, to look for the best bargains.

New York City, New York: Found in lower Manhattan, Chinatown in New York takes up two square miles. It is the largest Chinatown in the U.S. Founded by Chinese sailors and traders in the mid 18th century; the population was small and transient. It wasn't until the Californian Gold Rush that large numbers of Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. After racial tension created problems in the West, immigrants moved back east for safety and employment. Today its overcrowded and narrow streets are both a tourist attraction and home to the largest population of Chinese New Yorkers. You'll find restaurants, open air markets and shops selling everything from silks to herbal products to high fashion.

Singapore: In a city already predominated by Chinese people, an area named "Chinatown" may seem rather redundant. But Chinatown here is one of the most active and vibrant in the entire world. Here you'll enjoy a feast for your palette as well as your eyes. Enjoy exotic dining, brightly painted buildings, nightly cultural activities and shopping.

Melbourne, Australia: Chinatown Melbourne also dates back to a mid-19th century gold rush. It combines the best of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cultures in a busy, bustling environment full of history. The best time to visit Chinatown Melbourne is at night, when the decorative streetlights are ablaze, lanterns are lit in restaurant windows, and wind chimes and neon lights are dazzling. Your biggest problem will be deciding where to go first!

Toronto, Canada: Sam Ching's Chinese laundry, downtown, launched the oldest of the six Chinatowns in the metro area of Toronto. Begun in the 1870's, Chinatown Toronto is famous for over 500 Chinese restaurants, glazed porcelain tea sets, jade necklaces, pearls, and the latest in electronic gadgets. If you watch closely, you'll even see abacuses being used to figure totals and change.

Chinese festivals are celebrated in every Chinatown, and if you happen to find yourself in one of the world's Chinatowns during one, you can consider yourself lucky. Celebrations include lion dances, fireworks, parades, music and laughter. You'll enjoy seeing the true spirit of the Chinese people as they come together to celebrate and honor their history and culture.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Eat Out and Lose Weight -- 25 Easy & Healthy Tips for Dining Out

Diners have become more health-conscious the last few years, and now want healthy choices whether eating at home or at their favorite restaurants. Luckily, the restaurant industry has been quick to accommodate the demand, so you'll find you have many options to "eat healthy" these days.

Whether you're eating at home or dining out, the same rules for watching your weight apply. You need to eat more vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Choose smaller portions of lean meats, fish and poultry. Eat a variety of foods, and fresh, raw foods are better. Cut back on salt, sugar, saturated fats and alcohol. Drink plenty of water, and include exercise every day as part of your daily lifestyle choice.

So whether you're having lunch with the gang, or enjoying a romantic dinner for two, you can enjoy delicious-tasting foods that are low-in calories and good for you, with just a little forethought and planning.

Here are some easy tips to remember when ordering out that will help you to lose weight even when eating at your favorite restaurants:

1. If you know the menu from the restaurant you're going to, plan what you're going to have ahead of time. This will help save you from making a last minute decision that could result in high-calorie choices.

2. Drink at least one full-glass of water or iced tea before eating your meal. This helps your digestive process, and, because you'll feel full sooner, you will eat less.

3. Don't be afraid to ask for the "senior citizen" special or kid's-sized portions. Most restaurants will accommodate you -- and often you'll pay less as well!

4. Order first. That way you're much less likely to be influenced by the choices of your companions.

5. If you're not sure how something is prepared, don't be afraid to ask. And if the dish is cooked in oil or butter, you can always ask if they have a "fat free" option.

6. If everything on the menu is high in fat or calories, ask if the chef could prepare a plate of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many restaurants offer a vegetarian selection, so if you don't see it on the menu, ask.

7. When ordering meat or fish, ask that it be grilled or broiled, and prepared without oil or butter. (When you eat it, use lemon or herbs and spices to give it flavor rather than heavy sauces).

8. Order an appetizer and a salad as your meal. Or a soup and salad. For dessert, choose fresh fruit.

9. When choosing soup, remember that cream-based soups have many more calories than broth-based ones.

10. If you're having a full meal, split the appetizer and desert with your companion.

11. If you decide to order pasta, tomato sauce has fewer calories than cream-based sauces, just like soup.

12. Choose breadsticks over bread, or if you eat bread, don't add butter. Stay away from muffins and croissants, and choose whole grain over white.

13. Choose steamed vegetables instead of baked potatoes or other starches. Again, use lemon and herbs and spices rather than butter to flavor them with.

14. Whenever possible, eat like the Europeans do, and have your biggest meal at lunchtime. Not only will you save money, but you'll cut down on calories at the same time!

15. Take the time to enjoy your meal. Savor the flavors and textures of your food, and enjoy the company you're with. When you eat slowly, you give your body's internal clock the time it needs to know when you've had enough. When you're full, stop eating. Ask your server to remove your plate so you're not tempted to keep eating while you wait for your companion to finish.

16. Ask for salsa on your baked potatoes, rather than sour cream and butter. Not only is salsa much lower in calories, but it adds a "spicy" flavor to potatoes.

17. Order salad dressings and sauces "on the side." This gives you more control of how much to use. Another tip for salad dressing -- rather than pouring the salad dressing on your salad, dip your fork into the dressing first, and then into the salad. You'll get the same amount of flavor, without all the added calories!

18. Choose brown rice over white rice (or french fries), whole grain breads and rolls over white. Not only are they lower in calories, but they are better for you.

19. Stay away from "all you can eat" buffets and salad bars. It's too easy to lose track of the amount of food you're eating, even when it's salads. If that's your only choice, then stay away from the pasta, marinated salads, cheeses and fruit salads with whipped cream. Stick to soups, raw vegetables and fresh fruits.

20. Have your soup first. It will help to fill you up, and most soups have fewer calories.

21. If you're craving something sweet, and don't want fresh fruit, choose sorbet. If you absolutely HAVE to have the chocolate sauce, use the same trick as you did with the salad dressing -- dip your fork into it first, then your dessert.

22. Split your dessert with your companion. You'll still feel like you got to be indulgent, and you'll only have to exercise half as long to burn off the extra calories!

23. When ordering sandwiches, order them with mustard only, rather than mayonnaise. Not only does mustard have almost no calories, but you won't miss the mayo!

24. If the portion you were served is large, only eat half of it. Take the other half home. Not only will you get two meals for the price of one, but you'll cut the calories in half as well!

25. Go for a walk after eating. Stroll along the beach, walk through a park, visit a zoo. You'll burn calories and get your exercise at the same time!