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Less Fat, Still Ono

By Barbara Burke
and Joannie Dobbs

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Fresh, light choices
on Ba-Le menu

CONTINUING our quest for restaurants that offer menu choices that meet the federal guidelines for the nutritional claims "healthy" and "lowfat," this column features Ba-Le, a local Vietnamese restaurant chain.

The first two words that come to mind after a recent trip to Ba-Le are "fresh" and "colorful." Sprigs of basil, mint and Chinese parsley, crunchy cucumber slices, juicy red tomato wedges, and lacy carrot strips adorn many of Ba-Le's plate lunches and sandwiches.

There are approximately 20 Ba-Le restaurants on Oahu, and the menu varies among locations. What seems to be most consistent is the Ba-Le sandwich. Ba-Le's vegetarian sandwich typically consists of pickled carrots and daikon, onion, cucumber, Chinese parsley, mayonnaise and soy sauce on a French roll or croissant. Other fillings include chicken, ham, roast beef, pate, tofu and tuna.

To minimize fat and calories, select the French roll, not the croissant. A croissant will typically contain six to eight times the fat in a similar quantity of French bread. Ask that little or no mayonnaise be used; the vegetables will keep it moist. Opt for lower-fat fillings, such as skinless turkey, chicken or vegetarian.

The shrimp summer roll is another popular menu item that is low in fat and calories. At some Ba-Le restaurants, summer rolls are also available with teriyaki chicken or tofu.

Another lowfat item on the menu is saimin when made with fresh noodles rather than high-fat, dried ramen noodles (check with restaurant manager). Vegetable manapua and green papaya salad are other lowfat options

Don't be afraid to ask for special accommodations. The Ba-Le at the Mililani Shopping Center offers soups prepared with no added oil and a minimum of monosodium glutamate (MSG), says manager Linda Lam. However, the restaurant is happy to prepare any of their soups without MSG if a request is made one or two days ahead.

Since no two summer rolls seem to be prepared exactly the same, modify the following recipe to suit your taste. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. A soft-leaf lettuce, such as Manoa or butter, is preferred. Rolling is easier when vegetables are grated or julienned in small pieces and the filling is not too tightly packed.


1 rice paper wrapper
1 lettuce leaf
2 teaspoons chopped green onion
2 slices cucumber
2 tablespoons mung bean sprouts
2 tablespoons grated carrots
3 leaves each of fresh basil and fresh mint
1/3 cup cooked long rice noodles (mung bean)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
4 small shelled and deveined shrimp, steamed

Toss vegetables and long rice with soy and oyster sauces.

Soak wrapper in water until pliable; drain. Top with lettuce, vegetable-noodle mixture and shrimp. Roll up burrito-style.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with an oil-free dipping sauce, like sweetened red wine vinegar. Makes 1 serving.

Approximate nutritional analysis per roll (not including sauce): 90 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol and 400 mg sodium.*

Health Events

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who has been teaching
and writing about food and nutrition since 1975.

Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a food and nutrition consultant
and owner of Exploring New Concepts, a nutritional consulting firm.
She is also responsible for the nutritional analyses
indicated by an asterisk in this section.

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