Lighten Up With Chef Chai

Columns Veg'n Out

March 31, 2013

Story By: Terri Hefner | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

Vegetable Terrine with Thai Green Curry ($25)

Vegetable Terrine with Thai Green Curry ($25)

When it comes to food, sometimes it just hits you in the face.

No, not like a clown wielding a pie, but the reason we eat. We can go on and on about location, ambiance, service … but the reason we eat is quite simple: nourishment.

It would serve us well if cooks and chefs would keep that fact top of mind.

But, in order to make their dishes flavorful, many chefs add copious amounts of fat (most often in the form of butter) and salt to their dishes.

Of course, Chai Chaowasaree isn’t your typical chef. He puts a lot of thought into what he’s feeding his guests.

At his recently opened Chef Chai on Kapiolani Boulevard, it’s all about healthy eating with an emphasis on flavor (as well as ambiance and service), as evidenced by the menu, with dishes titled “Healthy Stir-fry” ($19), a combination of Brussels sprouts, asparagus, red bell peppers, baby corn and sweet potatoes, with your choice of lean chicken breast or tofu, and “Lower Your Blood Pressure” ($19), a mix of Swiss chard, crimini mushrooms, broccolini, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and potatoes (with choice of chicken breast or tofu).

Even the meat is low-fat, as the chef uses only boneless, skinless chicken and the leanest cuts of beef.

“We did studies and talked to a nutritionist,” says the chef. “You are what you eat.”

So how does he cut the fat and retain the flavor?

“We don’t use any butter,” proclaims the Hawaii Regional Cuisine chef. “We try to help customers lessen saturated fat. There are better ways. We use a lot of herbs and spices for flavor.”

Speaking of flavor, the chef recommends Vegetable Terrine with Thai Green Curry ($25).

“Curry is good for the metabolism and Alzheimer’s,” notes Chaowasaree.

We eat with our eyes, as well.

“There’s lots of color, in the terrine,” he adds. Those colors come from the layers of eggplant, red bell peppers, onions, portobello mushrooms and more settled in a pool of spicy green curry sauce. Talk about flavor.

Most of the dishes at Chef Chai can be prepared gluten-free with no meat products.

“Of course, we’re not vegan or vegetarian,” Chaowasaree notes. “You can eat whatever you want to eat. You just have to be careful.”

So, lighten up. With Chef Chai in charge, being careful never tasted so good.

Chef Chai

1009 Kapiolani Blvd.
Open 4-11 p.m. daily

Honolulu, HI 96814

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