By Wynter Holden
I know what you're thinking. A dieting column about going to a Chinese buffet? I must be crazy, especially after my abysmal failure at Chino Bandido a few weeks back. But that's exactly why I chose the dreaded Chinese buffet.
To serious dieters, the buffet restaurant is like committing seppuku with a pair of chopsticks -- because you'll inevitably blow your diet to hell the second you walk in and see fried doughnuts, sesame chicken and honey walnut shrimp piled in never ending steam trays.
Hong Kong Gourmet Buffet in Ahwatukee is one of the local "Grand Dames" of Chinese buffets. It's a bit pricier than standard buffets, but definitely worth the few extra bucks for the addition of low-cal seafood items like crab legs, chilled shrimp and sea bass (you have to ask for it the last one, but it's always available at dinnertime).
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See, my view is this: As a dieter, you should never choose to go to a Chinese buffet. BUT, at some point, your friends or co-workers will invite you along and somehow you'll have to survive without pigging out on hybridized Chino-American fried foodstuffs.
How? Sorry, guys, but this one takes a little willpower. Yes, I stood salivating over the honey walnut shrimp, intensely sniffing the flavor so I could almost taste it. And the dessert trays. Oh, God. The dessert trays. I won't reveal any more lest you hurry over to Hong Kong Gourmet Buffet and gorge yourself on chewy coconut macaroons and fluffy amaretto cream cake before finishing the rest of this blog.
But I didn't partake. Instead I started with a small cucumber and tomato salad from the chilled salad bar. For an appetizer, I filled a small ramekin-sized bowl with chilled shrimp and snacked slowly like it was a gourmet shrimp cocktail from a four-star restaurant. For the main course, I stuck to the 2+1+1 rule -- 2 servings of veggies (green beans), 1 serving meat (chicken with broccoli, a bonus veggie) and 1 serving starch (rice with veggies). By the time I finished all of that, I was so full the creamy, fried and chocolate-dipped desserts didn't look so appetizing anymore. I finished with a small bowl of orange jell-o.
It's not easy, but I proved it can be done. No, you're not going to have the healthiest meal at a Chinese buffet, no matter how much willpower you have. But the goal is to do as well as you possibly can. Just imagine how many calories I saved versus eating the plate below...which indecently belonged to my dining companion.