Stay away from the Fried Rice Trap!

I’m a complete foodie and love to eat out, try a new restaurant or roadside joint. But most of my foodie adventures happen when I am alone. I have been too busy studying over the last couple of years to make time to catch up with friends and when we do meet, it tends to be at the most convenient place or coffee rather than a meal at a restaurant.

So most of my dining out has been the ‘feeding myself’ dining rather than fun dining. Naturally,watching the bill matters. Trying to figure out what and how to order when dining alone, is not easy. Should I give in to the taste buds and just order what seems interesting and pack the rest? Or should I stick to one dish that will keep the bill affordable? Most importantly, can I finish eating all that I’ve ordered without wasting food?

With Indian Food, one can always get it packed and reheat it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. But reheated and congealed ‘cornfloured’ Indian Chinese Food the next day? No Thank You! I usually end up just throwing it out unless it’s fried rice/noodles.

Very few Indian Chinese restaurants do a set meal or a meal combo that includes a starter, main course and rice/noodles. Here’s where I always used to get stuck into what I call the ‘fried rice’ trap. What is this, you ask? Well – fried rice is filling and cheap. You pay for just one dish. BUT later realise that while it’s filling all right, it’s too dry and too much to eat by itself and I end up struggling to finish it and craving a ‘gravy’ dish. Ordering a main course and fried rice is too much food for me at one go, since I have gotten used to eating smaller portions.

The South East Asians/ Chinese on the other hand as I’ve observed in Bangkok and Malaysia just do a large bowl with clear soup, noodles, vegetables, meat/fish – kinda like an ‘all in one’ meal for breakfast and lunch which is really healthy. But we Indians need our gravy and rice combinations!

After many hits and misses, I have learnt to hit on the right combination when ordering alone, keeping the bill low and enjoying my meal.

  1. If you don’t have a large appetite, pick a soup and starter combination. Ensure the starter is roasted and stir fried and not the crispy, fried or of the batter fried variety. Pick a clear soup with mushrooms and veggies so you get your protein and veggies balanced.
  2. Avoid ordering soft drinks esp fresh lime soda etc. I always feel soft drinks are a rip off and quite expensive. A clear soup is a wiser choice.
  3. Alternately, just order a dry stir fried main course with loads of veggies. You won’t need the rice and noodles. It’s healthier.
  4. If you really need your carb fix, order a main course with veggies and order plain steamed rice.
  5. Stay away from only ordering the fried rice/ noodles. There! I’ve said it again
  6. Look for ‘half’ portions and ‘set lunch or combo options’ on the menu. Very few restos have this option. It’s not good for business.
  7. If you are dying for something sweet, have a starter and dessert. Not very healthy but you’ll definitely be happier.

I’ve been following these tips (mostly), the last couple of weeks and find myself enjoying my meals with minimal waste.

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