Little Kitchen — the fast, tasty pan-Asian restaurant in Compo Shopping Center — has been around more than 2 decades. (It started in an actual “little kitchen” — the old Soup’s On — on Main Street.)
Nearly every item is made in house. Cuisine includes Thai, Japanese and Chinese. In the latest installment of our continuing series, Westport nutritionist Heather Bauer serves up her top healthy picks for the popular spot.
Healthy choice appetizers
- Small hot-and-sour (100 calories per cup), egg-drop soup (66 calories per cup) or Thai tom yum soup. NOTE: Soups are high in sodium, so if you’re salt-sensitive, pay attention.
- 1-2 spare ribs (no more than that! — they’re 80 to 100 calories per rib). Enjoy, then pair with one of the steamed recommendations below.
- Because Little Kitchen has a fusion menu, you can also order a house salad or edamame. Both are very healthy appetizer options.
Healthy choice entrees
- Any dish with a steamed protein and veggies. Ask for sauce on the side; no cornstarch. Shrimp and veggies with sauce on the side is one of my favorites.
- Moo shu chicken. If you order this steamed, mix in a little Hoisin sauce, and add light soy sauce. Request lettuce wraps instead of regular wraps if you do not order it steamed. If you ordered hot and sour soup as your appetizer, this also works as a nice sauce on the steamed moo shoo.
- Moo goo gai pan. To order a dish that is not steamed, this is a great option. It comes with stir-fried chicken, mushrooms and lots of other veggies, but is lighter on the sauce.
- Chicken lettuce wraps (on the menu under Appetizers): chicken, lettuce, protein/veggies, perfection. This is another top choice for a non-steamed option. Remember, no rice or other carbs in the meal; the sauce is the carb.
- Sauteed asparagus with chicken or shrimp. Request sauce on the side; you can ask for this to be steamed.
- Order extra side of steamed bok choy or any steamed veggies to help fill you up.
- Appetizer: house salad, seaweed salad or edamame.
- Entree: 1 naruto roll (yellowtail, salmon, tuna wrapped in cucumber) and 4-6 pieces of sashimi (ask for light soy sauce; at home, use coconut secret sauce).
- Avoid sweet-and-sour protein choices; they are often deep-fried. Avoid egg rolls and crunchy noodles, and skip the sesame/General Tso’s/lo mein options.
- Watch out for eggplant dishes. They seem innocent, but the eggplant acts like a sponge and absorbs way more oil than you would expect. Skip all Szechuan-style dishes; they’re cooked in a lot of oil at a very high temperature.
Additional tips, notes and tricks
- Eat with chopsticks. It slows you down.
- When ordering with a group, request one steamed dish.
- Skip the rice/noodle dishes; the sauces will count as your carb.
- When eating family-style, fill your plate with 50-75% veggies, and the rest protein. If you need to fill your plate for seconds, try to stick to only vegetables.
- In general, order sauce on the side. Mix in the sauce served with low-sodium soy sauce.
- If you order in, keep good condiments at home: sriracha and Coconut Secret coconut amino soy sauce as a replacement instead of soy sauce.
- Brown or white rice? Remember that when you order dishes that come with the sauce in it, often the sauce is made with sugar and corn starch — so you don’t need the sauce and the rice. But if you choose a steamed dish and want to eat the rice, both have 200 or so calories per cup. However, brown rice has triple the fiber (about 3.5 grams per cup) and a lower glycemic index than white, meaning it takes more time to digest and will stick with you longer.
- Try to drink 2 liters of water by 3 p.m. on days when you go out for Chinese. Your body will handle the sodium more easily.