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May 4, 2013 05:08 PM

Reaction to oil at Sichuan restaurants? [split from China Village thread, San Francisco]

I wonder if they are considering changing the oils they use. Sischuan cuisine tends to use a lot of oil. My body has a reaction to food with a high saturated fat content. I get a certain feeling that is unpleasant. I find that at some Sischuan restaurants regardless of how much I eat I get this feeling but at others not. We were just in Hong Kong and had an enouous meal at a fantastic Sichuan restaurant and I did not get the saturated fat overload feeling. Nor do I get it at Z & Y. But I always would get it at CV. I wonder about the variation in cooking oils used in the different restaurants. I have wanted to mention it to the CV owner but don't feel comfortable doing so.

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  1. Unless they hear from you and others who may share your experience, they don't have much incentive to change oil.

    1. I'd encourage you to have that conversation. I once asked if CV uses peanut oil for frying. Mr Yao said that he uses rice bran oil to avoid allergy issues.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        That’s very interesting because rice brain oil is a very healthy cooking oil and lower in saturated fat. Perhaps they use different oils depending on the dish and the cooking technique. I will bring it up with him.

        1. re: Ridge

          Actually, rice bran oil has the highest percentage of saturated fat of any liquid vegetable oil.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I believe that cotton seed oil which is used in some Chinese restaurants is higher in saturated fat. Rice bran oil is high in nutrients, antioxidants and gamma oryzanol which has health benefits and this makes it a healthier cooking oil.

          2. re: Ridge

            because it has a higher temperature smoking point than the other widely used cooking oils, rice bran oil is ideal for searing and flash cooking in a wok. other oils might be easier to digest for some individuals, but if those oils get to their smoking point, other chemicals are created that are neither good tasting nor easy to digest nor particularly healthy. mi espousa querida has trouble digesting foods prepared in places that constantly heat their oils past the smoking point, not uncommon in lower end Indo-Pakistani places, for example.

        2. Ridge, I found the cooking-oils subtopic interesting and can relate to your reaction to some restaurant fats, even if not necessarily attributable to saturated lipid chains specifically. I notice some effects too.

          Consider that almost ALL of our ancestors got their dietary fats from vegetables (including nuts and olives) and animal sources including butter. Which is to say, they did NOT get their dietary fats from synthetically, catalytically saturated (aka "partially hydrogenated") oils, nor from oils kept at high temperature repeatedly in deep fryers, which tends to oxidize i.e. rancidify them -- same process that makes "oil paints" dry on the canvas and traditional "printers' ink" dry on the page. Fats of these kinds were already getting sharp criticism by molecular biologists as sources of allergy and other incompatibility effects decades ago, long before the buzz phrase "trans-fatty acid" appeared.

          So reaction to some cheap restaurant fats should not surprise you and it is hardly limited to Chinese kitchens.

          11 Replies
          1. re: eatzalot

            Yes I think it's really an interesting topic too. And not something people think about very much. I agree that oxidation products are bad (some are believed to be carcinogenic) and could be contributing to the effects I sometimes feel. And it's not just Chinese restaurants. I never felt physically worse than after a meal at the French Laundry. It was like I could feel the blood circulating in my body. In that case I attributed it to saturated fat which they sneak into everything there in copious amounts.

            1. re: Ridge

              I think French Laundry uses lots of butter and cream. I don't believe there's anything sneaky about it.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I didn't mean to suggest they were doing it in an underhanded way. Thats the Thomas Keller style of cooking, using lots of cream and butter. While I think using cream and butter is a good thing, I think Keller's cuisine goes overboard, but thats just my opionion and is off topic.

              2. re: Ridge

                I think the current spinoff topic title is too narrow since as you can see, we are reporting related issues at other local restaurants than Chinese.

                Moto added good additional issue of smoke points, a simmering (no pun!) public health topic and good candidate for food labeling. Fats vary widely in the temperature where they decompose to toxic byproducts.

                Butter and cream at TFL and other oldschool-inspired
                kitchens raise a yet further related issue, with interesting new science in recent years. I've aways had trouble metabolizing unfermented dairy fat (cream, ice cream, whipped cream), but no trouble with ferments (cheese, yogurt, buttermilk). Not talking about lactose intolerance here (a distinct issue I also have experience with).

                Few yrs ago at a wine-industry seminar, a medical expert interested in wine reported on developing understanding of the so-called French paradox wherein Mediterranean diets even with high sat. fats exhibit anomalously low circ. disease rates. He said it's now known that with fermented milk products, the Calcium component (a dietary congener or cofactor) has a different metabolic path with fermented milk products, and this is also connected to how the body handles the fats. And the French and other cultures get significantly more of their total dairy fat intakes from fermented forms compared to the US.

                Will post his specific link in appropriate place when I dig it up.

                1. re: eatzalot

                  Or maybe saturated fats are not the villain. It is no paradox at all if you ignore fat, and correlate that the French eat one-third as much sugar as Americans, and have one-third as much heart disease.

              3. re: eatzalot

                Agree there is nothing sneaky or underhanded about it, but it is interesting to consider that often these multi-hundred dollar and 10+ course meals actually make people feel sick afterwards if you are used to eating a healthy, normal diet. these days, to celebrate sometimes I prefer going to a really high-quality "mid-price" place for a meal that is special but won't leave me insanely full or feeling queasy... I read Bauer's reviews, for example, and sometimes wonder how he does it and whether he just craves a salad and soup once in a while...

                1. re: hungree

                  Some younger chefs are reacting against that. "... you need to feel good after you eat. I've gone out to many excellent places where you feel like shit after the meal. I don't want guests to feel that way."—Joshua Skenes

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Excellent quote! that about sums it up.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I think that's a welcomed trend. I would love to eat at Skenes restaurant someday. It will have to be for a very special occasion because of the price.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        awesome quote. if this differentiates saison from the other long tasting menu spots in SF right now it just went to the top of my list. wasn't before due to the price...

                        1. re: hungree

                          I didn't feel overfed at Saison at all despite having >20 courses. It was mostly vegetables and seafood.


                  2. <Sischuan cuisine tends to use a lot of oil. >


                    <I wonder about the variation in cooking oils used in the different restaurants.>

                    Oil can be one reason, but it could be many other things as well. Good luck.