Inspired by Asian Box
Food inspiration can come from anywhere. A memory of eating steaming yellow pepper and squash soup in Munich during a brief hiatus from college Eurorail madness compelled me to find a similar recipe when my garden overflowed with squash last summer. A photo of a beautiful lunchbox assortment posted by Weelicious yesterday gave me the idea to put black beans in my kids’ lunches, breaking the monotony of sunbutter and carrot sticks. And recently, the simple boxes my family occasionally orders from Asian Box have inspired a new way to cook healthy weeknight meals.
Asian Box (photo above) is a new restaurant in Palo Alto that “bridges the gap between fast casual and your favorite neighborhood joint.” It’s the brainchild of a seasoned hospitality CEO and his executive chef, Grace Nguyen (whose cooking fame includes time at the Slanted Door in San Francisco). The concept is super simple and involves five steps: 1) choose a “base” (white rice, brown rice, rice noodles, vegetable salad), 2) choose a protein (six spice blend chicken, lemongrass marinated pork, garlic and soy glazed beef, coconut curry tofu, lime basil topped shrimp), 3) choose your vegetables (steamed or wok tossed), 4) choose your “toppers” (jalapeno, herbs, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables, crispy shallots, lime, scallion oil, peanuts, egg), and 5) choose from one of six sauces. The result: a delicious, healthy, satisfying, gluten-free, nutrient packed box that adults and kids alike love (the first few times my son kept raving about how delicious his “raisin box” was)!
If I had unlimited funds and didn’t value cooking with my family at home, I’d pick up a steaming, compostable box full of deliciousness a few times a week; but instead, I’ve adapted it into a simple weeknight dinner. Here’s how:
- Cook a “base” on the weekend for the week ahead (or buy the pre-cooked rice you can get at Trader Joe’s)
- Cook 1-2 kinds of meat on the weekend, or keep something marinated in the freezer to warm up at dinner time
- Cut (or buy pre-cut) veggies on the weekend (my favorites are broccoli, shaved carrots, bean sprouts, and spinach)
- Keep a few sauces on hand (I always have soy sauce that I can make into a marinade, a curry sauce, and sriracha sauce for some added kick)
With everything on hand and ready, a healthy meal takes about 10-15 minutes to prep, and allows from some spur-of-the-moment variation. In our household, so far, so good!
Where do you get inspiration for healthy, easy meals? Do you think restaurant meals are a good place to start? Do you have a favorite food blog that helps you keep mealtime interesting?