KARACHI: The ‘health’ tag on meals has been used and abused recently. Add salad at the end of any dish and people delude themselves into thinking healthy thoughts with fat-free futures. Anything in a nest of leafy greens sells because green is the magical colour that will hide the deep fried croutons and neutralise the unwanted tones of refined carbohydrates. But as soon as the platefuls of lettuce drowning in creamy mayo-based dressings begin to show on the belly, we retaliate with extra treadmill minutes and crunches instead of cleaning up our act.
Healthy living is possible, and also pain-free (just the food aspect of it, at least) is what Health Act tries to pedal. The lifestyle brand started out by opening up a health studio and now they’re heading towards a personalised meal programme and food delivery for all.
Health Act treats food like a friend. It brings out the best in a dish by replacing the bad with the good without undermining the overall flavour. Their Zoodles and Meat Sauce (Rs430) is a classic example of this. By eliminating starch from the meal with zucchini noodles and coupling that with a carefully portioned out meat sauce, the dish amounts to a fraction of the fat and calories (174 calories, only). Although the zoodles I tried were tragically watery, it did not compromise on taste.
While Health Act deploys the same sneaky salad method in some instances, it does this on the back of sound health knowledge. Honey Chicken sets off fat alarms when you read it on a regular menu but Health Act has tamed the dish and remodelled it to retain the appealingly sweet notes of the traditional dish with an amplified health quotient. Their Chicken Honey Salad (Rs495), comprising gently sautéed chicken strips coated in a mild honey dressing sitting atop vibrant rocket leaves, crispy iceberg lettuce and fresh bean sprouts, is particularly moreish.
Their hefty Grilled Beef Salad (Rs445), which is a whopping 439 calories, is based on a popular marriage of beef and kidney beans with fresh elements introduced in the form of iceberg lettuce, julienned tomatoes and carrots and sliced onions in an olive oil and soy dressing. The ‘salad’ is literally a meal in itself with complimentary flavours but nothing to bind them all together.
Those alien to chicken and eggplant pairing can ease into this earthy flavour by giving Health Act’s Chicken and Eggplant wrap (Rs295) a go. It’s light, it’s meaty and it’s definitely filling. I opted for all whole wheat wraps, including the Chicken and Mushroom wrap (Rs345), and the tortilla was refreshingly soft with an unobtrusive taste. On their own, however, the wraps can be dry, but that’s where the sauces step in. Their Orange Chili Garlic (Rs55) and Apple Mustard Thyme (Rs55) sauces deserve a special mention here. While the two savoury sauces are hardly innovative – mustard-thyme and chilli-garlic are all classic combinations – it’s the execution and light-handed addition of fruity flavours that elevates each dish to the next level.
Similar to the wraps, their sandwiches are delivered on a choice of focaccia, as a panini or in a lettuce wrap, but unlike their plump predecessor, they are mostly flat with scanty filling. One can’t complain when they are closely counting calories, but when you get a palm-sized sandwich, you expect it to blow your socks off. Their Chicken Fajita sandwich (Rs330) had a bitter aftertaste – that could be because of the mustard or capsicum or both – and the Grilled Cuban sandwich (Rs345), comprising roast beef, pickles, tomatoes and low-fat cheddar, was uninspiring. Both sandwiches were in focaccia, which has a nasty reputation for being too dry, but the clever addition of tomatoes eliminated that risk.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2016.