Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Temple Food

That is the name of an episode of Nigella Lawson's show that I love. Nigella describes Temple Food as the kind of thing you want after a night (or several weeks) of rich food and drink. So it's no wonder that my mind always comes back to this concept at the beginning of every year. Actually by Boxing Day (day after Christmas for my non-commonwealth readers) my mind was there. Hubby and I dropped the kids off with the grandparents and went shopping. Afterwards we hit a local Vietnamese place for some Pho.

Ahh, Pho. My idea of Temple Food perfection. A light but extremely flavourful and healthy broth, with tender filling noodles (yeah, they're a simple carb, but that's besides the point), thinly sliced onions and (as per my preference) rare beef. Then I get to doctor it up with things like hot sauce, lime juice, fresh Thai basil, sprouts and a little Hoisin sauce for balance. A small bowl is almost a meal for two. And nothing more is needed. It is warming. It is nourishing. It is Temple Food in such an approachable and simple form.

Thinking about it, I tend to gravitate towards Asian flavours when I think of Temple Foods. There is something about the balance of hot, salty, sour and sweet that makes Asian dishes very appealing. And the fact that so much flavour can be brought to a dish as simple and humble as soup or salad means that healthy can be tasty first and good for me as a bonus. Shredded cabbage and carrots, with thinly sliced shallots and cucumber, dressed simply with rice vinegar, grated ginger, garlic, a little sugar, soy, sesame oil and hot sauce can be a whole meal, especially if a little leftover shredded chicken finds its way into the bowl. Heck, the same dressing turns a simple bowl of sliced cucumber into a wonderful treat that feels so cleansing.

As the winter progresses, soups are still a favourite for me. I love pureed vegetable soups the most. Of course, once things like bacon and cream are added, they aren't quite as health conscious. But moderation makes such indulgence quite alright in my book.

I'm always looking for more ways to incorporate the idea of Temple Food into my diet. I'd love to hear what others turn to after holiday indulgence. What comforts you and clears your diet conscience?

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