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Steamed Vegetables with Garlic Sauce

During my child psychiatry fellowship I had an attending physician I greatly admired. Dr. G. was one of the smartest people I had ever met. She was compassionate and caring, choosing to work with needy adolescents in a municipal hospital rather than make money in a private institution. Dr. G. exposed me to great books, films and classic studies about child psychopathology. I aspired to be like her. When she would leave me in charge of the entire ward or assign me the toughest patients, I knew that meant Dr. G. believed in me and my abilities.

She always had words of wisdom for those times when I felt unsure that I was making a difference in the lives of children I only treated for a few months and then never saw again. She said, “You can’t know. You can only hope that one day, years later, they will be speaking to someone about something and say ‘I knew this doctor who once gave me good advice or taught me something or helped me.’

Dr. G also taught me another great piece of advice: when you get Chinese food, always get the sauce on the side. Yes, I realize this bit of wisdom has nothing to do with the mental health of children but it made a great impact on my own physical health. Dr. G. was also beautiful, vibrant and fit. We would order Chinese food for lunch and instead of sitting down to a plate of soggy vegetables drowning in sauce, we would pick up a piece of broccoli with a fork and dip it into the garlic sauce.

And guess what? Not only did we save hundreds of calories, we could actually taste the vegetables! Imagine that.

From then on whenever I got Chinese food, I ordered the sauce on the side. And when my diet was in serious mode, I always got steamed vegetables with garlic sauce on the side.

My favorite Chinese restaurant in the Bronx was next door to my apartment building. When I got home very late from work, they were still open and they knew exactly what I wanted. It became a tradition that I would get home on Tuesday nights, order my food and watch “The Biggest Loser” while eating my steamed veggies with garlic sauce on the side.

When I began making my own Chinese food so I could remain gluten-free, I started falling into my old habit of putting the sauce directly into the dish. That led to eating too much sauce. So lately I’ve gone back to the wisdom of Dr. G and have my steamed vegetables with garlic sauce on the side.

Dr. G may not ever know the difference she made in my life but here I am years later, telling someone that there was a doctor I knew who gave me good advice, who taught me something and who helped me. Enjoy!

Steamed Vegetables with Garlic Sauce

3 Tbs. brown rice vinegar

1 Tbs. agave nectar

3 Tbs. gluten-free tamari

3 tsp. mirin

1-2 tsp. chili sauce

½ tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) + 1 ½ Tbs. water

1 Tbs. peanut oil

4 cloves garlic, minced
Steamed vegetables of your choice
Brown rice


Combine the vinegar, agave, tamari, mirin, chili sauce and sesame oil in a bowl. Whisk well.

Combine the arrowroot and water in another bowl or cup and mix well.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to become fragrant.

Add the sauce mixture into the saucepan and let it come to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and cook on low to medium heat until the sauce thickens.

Serve with steamed vegetables and brown rice.

The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.

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2 Responses to Steamed Vegetables with Garlic Sauce

  1. Lisa September 8, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    I just made this! It was really good, but I cut the amount of arrowroot in half, and it was still thick. I might even decrease it more. The flavors were great though! Thanks!

    • Rhea September 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Hi Lisa, yes, you can use less arrowroot. I wrote that a while ago and I use less now. Thanks for writing. xoxo

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