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The Gossiping Gourmet: Healthy Chinese food at California Wok

January 25, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Filet of fish with black bean sauce, onions and green bell peppers at California Wok in Costa Mesa on Tuesday.
Filet of fish with black bean sauce, onions and green bell… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

T'was the season to be jolly but now tis the season of our discontent. We are unhappy with the size of our bank accounts and even more dismayed by the size of our waistlines.

Yet don't despair, we have discovered a sweet little place in a strip mall in Costa Mesa called California Wok that offers very healthy Chinese food for a very good price. It's located in a little Asian enclave on South Bristol Street near the big Mitsuwa Japanese market. The same strip mall is home to a Korean barbecue place, a Japanese restaurant, a pan Asian spot and Orchid, an Iranian restaurant.

California Wok's menu includes calorie, net carb and saturated fat counts for the majority of their dishes. The ones without these numbers are not considered low calorie but are still lighter with less intense flavors than traditional fare. All the food could be called Chinese-lite, with seasonings more delicate and everything less oily.

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What distinguishes the food here is that they seem to use only the best and freshest quality produce and proteins. They specifically mention that they use a much higher quality of beef than most Chinese restaurants.

Sitting in this modest but clean and pleasant storefront locale, we perused the menu and were surprised by the variety of choices. Among the many categories are steamed and low-carb entrées.

You go up to the counter to order but your food is delivered to the table. Beverages and condiments are self-serve. Our advice is to order one or two dishes at a time or they will all come out in rapid succession and cool down before you can eat them. All dishes can be ordered spicy on request.

We started out with steamed chicken dumplings that were chock-full of lightly seasoned minced chicken. These were clearly made fresh in-house. They are served with white vinegar but concocting a sauce is up to you. The condiment table has hot chili, hoisin, mustard, sweet and sour sauces, and soy sauce also is on the table.

A very delicious broth made for some excellent wonton soup. The large bowl was filled with tender shrimp and chicken breast as well as a generous amount of whole white mushrooms and sweet snow peas, just warmed in the broth so that they tasted fresh and crunchy.

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