In the months before my grandmother’s death, she was put on a strictly low (preferably no) sodium diet, as many people are. I quickly went through her fridge and discarded pretty much every ingredient she had: cottage cheese? Out. Cream cheese? Out. Chicken soup? Not on my watch. Everything, it seemed, was full of salt.
My grandma asked me to come over and help her develop a few low-sodium recipes so she didn’t have to eat plain pasta all the time. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter she ended up in the hospital for one final visit. Still, when I first got the call from Sodium Girl to participate in her second Love Your Heart Recipe Rally, I was totally on board. Besides, I’m not a salt-fiend in the kitchen. “How hard could this be?” I wondered, oh so naively.
Very, very hard, is the answer. Did you know that everything has sodium in it? Next time you’re in the supermarket, check out the nutrition facts on what you’re buying: you’ll discover, as I did, that literally everything is jam-packed with sodium. The challenge here was to take a favorite recipe, or one you make often, and swap out any ingredient with more than 40mg of sodium per serving.
I immediately figured I’d mess around with a stir fry: it’s delicious, a personal favorite, and it’s full of salty ingredients like soy sauce. But I wanted to take this challenge one step further. This entire recipe has about 40mg of sodium per serving (that is, if you eat Less-Meatarian as Mark Bittman suggests, or don’t need a lot of chicken). It’s even boyfriend-approved (and believe me, he’s honest)! I only wish I had had time to serve it to my grandmother—so I highly suggest you make it for yours, or anyone you know in need of some low-sodium loving.
Lily Bellow graduated in 2009 from Harvard University with a degree in English Literature. While in college, she bartended and cooked at the campus pub, and as a result has a difficult time eating chicken wings. She is the Managing Editor for Small Kitchen College.
Low-Sodium Chicken Stir Fry
Serves 4, if you don’t need a lot of chicken
1 teaspoon wasabi powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 + 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon salt-free onion powder
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped to smaller pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, sliced, plus more for garnish
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can water chestnuts
1 cup snap peas
1.5 cups green seedless grapes
2-3 teaspoons sesame seeds for garnish
Mix the wasabi powder with 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl or a glass measuring cup until it makes a paste, and set it aside to thicken.
After about 5 minutes, whisk the maple syrup, rice vinegar, sesame oil, onion powder, honey, pepper, ginger, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and cayenne pepper into the wasabi.
Place the chicken in a bowl with about half the marinade and some freshly ground black pepper and stir it up to coat the chicken. Set the chicken aside in the fridge for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to soak up the marinade.
When your chicken is ready, heat the olive oil in a wok to medium heat. Add in the garlic, scallions, onion, and mushrooms until the mushrooms begin to brown and the onions and garlic are fragrant but not browned. Add the water chestnuts and snap peas. At this point, add in the rest of the marinating liquid which should sizzle and become very fragrant in the wok.
Move the mushroom-onion mixture to the side and make a space in the wok for the chicken and its marinade. Let it cook in the pan for a couple minutes undisturbed, flipping it after a minute or so to make sure it cooks on all sides. Add in the grapes and toss them around in the marinade to warm them through. When the chicken is cooked through but still juicy and tender and the grapes are warm, turn the heat off. Serve over rice or greens, and garnish with sesame seeds.