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The magazine Health Which? Examined the nutritional content of typical meals from Chinese, Indian, Thai, Italian and Tex-Mex menus.

Recommended daily guidelines (men/women)

These are the daily recommended amounts for men and women

Fat 95g/70g, Saturates 30g/20g, Calories 2,500/2,000, Sodium 2.5g/2g, Fibre 18g, Sugar 70g/50g.

In particular they looked at levels of fat (including saturated fat), sugar, fibre and sodium - all of which can be bad for health in high quantity.

The researchers found that certain dishes from each type of cuisine contained worryingly high levels of fat and sugar that is one way they make them so tasty.

Some Chinese dishes were particularly unhealthy again due to fat and sugar in them. A portion of battered sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice contained 60g of fat and 44g of sugar that means far too much the recommended dose. Even in frying rice they add fat, thinking they are making them very tasty. And the popular dish crispy duck had around 31g of fat per portion.

Indian takeaways

The popular Indian dish chicken tikka masala with pilau rice - recently described by former foreign secretary Robin Cook as Britain's new national dish - contained around 47g of fat. Would you think that is a healthy amount to be there in one person’s portion of food? Vegetable biryani contained around 43g of fat, and lamb passanda with pilau rice had around 24g of saturated fat. All these have plenty of fat in them, actually added while cooking.

Some of the Italian food tested was healthier. The dish pasta with arrabiata sauce contained only 12g of fat, 6g of sugar, and 0.5g of sodium. However, the highly popular dish lasagne contained around 45g of fat - more than a McDonald's Quarter pounder with cheese and small fries. This really puts me off eating these kinds of food because they are unhealthy but may be tasty. The researchers found that many of the accompaniments that go with Tex-Mex food were laden with fat and calories, such as sour cream and cheese. Not only that dishes such as chicken enchiladas and chilli con carne are also high in fat.

Thai food

Traditional Thai dishes tend to be relatively healthy, as many are based on steamed rice and vegetables, fish, lemon and garlic.

For instance, stir fried chicken with plain steamed rice (phad khing hai) has 13g of fat, only 3g of which is saturated fat that is a small amount when compared to others.

But there were some unhealthier Thai options, for instance, green curry with sticky rice has around 29g of fat - largely down to coconut cream.

I think there's nothing wrong with eating out or having the odd takeaway but not eating them on regular basis. If you want to reduce your fat intake in particular, go for plain rice, stir-fried or steamed food. In making rice, they fry in far too much fat that is where the problem start.

Claire Mac Evilly, a nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, said it was perfectly okay to eat takeaway food, such as a curry, once a week - provided a person's diet was otherwise balanced and healthy.

But she admitted: "As a nation of curry eaters, I don't suppose this type of research is going to do very much to deter people."

New research from the food industry think tank, the Institute of Grocery Distribution, predicts people are going to want much more convenience food in future. Here is a list of curries then you have to decide if they are healthy to eat or not.

What is a Balti Curry?

The name for this mixed meat/vegetable curry means “bucket” in Hindi, and likely refers to the flat-bottomed wok-type pan it is usually cooked in. The dish could have originated in northern Pakistan, but the British city of Birmingham claims it was first cooked there in the 1970s, and they’re sticking to the story.

Balti has served Birmingham well – it’s “Balti Triangle” boasts dozens of restaurants specialising in the dish. Balti is, though, a firm favourite right across the British Isles and beyond as a takeout or dine in.

Balti comes in a variety of versions. Marinated meat (usually chicken or beef, fish or prawns) are stir-fried quickly in the wok-type pan along with vegetables like onions, spinach, potato, mushrooms or aubergines and selected spices. The result is a fairly dry rather than saucy curry, which is served with rice.

The secret, of course, in the spice mix used, and it’s a pretty long list, including Garam Masala, curry leaves, coriander, cumin, cloves, cardamom and others (more about spices further on too), all forming a marinade/cook in sauce in a base of stock with tomato puree and peanut oil. Remember to some people peanut oil is allergic so you need to be careful.

Balti is usually listed on the menu (especially in a specialist Balti House) in different heat strengths of mild, medium or hot. Generally those who can’t take too much spicy heat even find the mild version hot! The traditional way to eat Balti is scooping it up with chunks of a sweetish-flavoured Naan (flat) bread. Other good accompaniments are a cucumber and yogurt raita and/or a fruity chutney.

What is a Bhuna Curry?

Bhuna is actually an Asian cooking method, rather than a dish, so it applies to any lean meat cooked in that style, usually chicken, lamb or beef. The cooking process requires simmering the meat in a spicy sauce for an hour or two, allowing the sauce to reduce until it is thick and coats the meat, which is very tender. This results in a rich, pungent flavour, concentrating the spices. The dish is usually garnished with green capsicum and shredded onions, and served with rice and naan bread. The basic sauce for the bhuna generally contains varying proportions of cumin, coriander, mustard seed, chilli, fennel, shallots, ginger, garlic, tomato and curry leaves.

What is a Biryani Curry?

This was originally a simple Persian (Iranian) dish, where rice and meat was baked together in the oven. Over time spices and other ingredients were added. Nowadays in the Indian takeaway a biryani is usually a stir-fry of pilau rice with chicken or lamb (cooked up in the bhuna way), usually with almonds, sultanas and various vegetables.

What is a Korma Curry?

The origins of creamy korma curry date back to the 16th century in northern India and Pakistan.  Traditionally it involved meat being marinated in yoghurt, then braised on low heat until marinade and juices reduce down to a thick sauce. Nowadays the takeaway chef speeds things up a little, and the ingredients have been adapted, often including almonds, cashews and coconut milk along with thick cream and the requisite spices, but the delectable flavour remains the same. A good korma is mild, but should never be bland.

Chicken Biryani

   Soak the rice in warm water, then wash in cold until the water runs clear. Heat butter in a saucepan and cook the onions with the bay leaf and other whole spices for 10 mins. Sprinkle in the turmeric, then add chicken and curry paste and cook until aromatic. Stir the rice into the pan with the raisins, then pour over the stock. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and bring to a hard boil, then lower the heat to a minimum and cook the rice for another 5 mins. Turn off the heat and leave for 10 mins. Stir well, mixing through half the coriander. To serve, scatter over the rest of the coriander and the almonds.

   Chicken biryani in Sri Lanka

  In Sri Lanka one of the favourite things is chicken biryani. If they are freshly made then safe to eat but in some five star hotels they store them in the freezer or fridge until any customers request chicken biryani. This is where the trouble starts because the germ bacillus cereus on rice grow and multiply. When someone eaten them even after reheating that some of germs still thrive and multiply causing trouble. I can safely say this because it happened to me so be careful. Your comments are welcomed This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.     

Dr Hector Perera


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