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From the White House Kitchen: Healthy and Traditional Asian American and Pacific Islander Cuisine

Cristeta Comerford, the White House Executive Chef, shares health and traditional Asian American and Pacific Islander cuisine recipes.

Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Let's Move Blog

Growing up in the Philippines, my mother was my main source of inspiration for cooking. I came from a family of eleven kids, and as a child, I would constantly volunteer to help her in the kitchen. My mother would prepare such amazing authentic Filipino food, and cooking for her was almost second nature. She didn’t think about it, she just knew what ingredients to use, how much of each to use, and how to combine their flavors in ways that would satisfy everyone in the family. So Filipino food for me is much more than just adobo, longganisa, or tocino and fried rice – it represents a huge part of my culture, and most importantly, it is what connects me with my family. And that’s why it’s so important to me that we think about Filipino food not just in terms of what’s delicious, but in terms of what’s healthy and nourishing for our families.

That’s why I’ve teamed up with Chef Ming Tsai, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help promote healthy and traditional Asian American and Pacific Islander cuisine. Following a healthy cooking and eating lifestyle has always been important for me as a chef and a mom, and with the USDA’s MyPlate food icon, we have a powerful visual reminder about how to build healthy meals for our families.

But no matter where you’re from, there’s no reason to have to sacrifice the food you love, or sacrifice the food that expresses your culture, in order to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet. I hope that after watching Chef Ming Tsai and I prepare healthy and delicious AAPI recipes in the White House kitchen, you too will be inspired to try your own take at making healthy, ethnic food for your own families to eat.

Shrimp, Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 3 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 6 oz chicken breast, julienned
  • 1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, medium, halved length wise
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced, 2 tbs green part saved for garnish
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 oz shiitake mushroom, sliced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup julliened napa cabbage
  • 2 small bokchoy, washed and julliened
  • 4 cups house rice (50/50 brown/white rice combo)
  • 3 tbsp light tamari, wheat free soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste (Note: Rice vinegar can be used in place of salt)


Pre heat a large skillet or wok on a medium heat. Turn the heat up on high and add 2 tablespoons oil. Add the chicken and brown for a 1 minute, add the shrimp, cook another minute, season and set aside. Add remaining tablespoon of oil. Then add the onion, garlic and shiitake mushroom. Stir fry quickly being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetables and toss for a couple times. Then add the rice, chicken and shrimp back, the tamari and veggie oyster sauce. Heat through and serve family style. Garnish with scallion greens and drizzle with sesame oil.

Halo-Halo (from Tagalog word halo, “mix”) (serves 4):


  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 ripe bananas, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup young coconut, fresh or canned
  • 1 cup ripe jackfruit, poached in light syrup, (available canned)
  • 1 cup, cooked beans in syrup, (available canned)
  • 1 cup, cooked tapioca pearls
  • 4 cups shaved ice
  • 2 cups, lowfat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 scoops frozen yogurt, (flavor of your choice)(Note: non-frozen yogurt can be used as well)
  • 2 tbsp toasted “pinipig” (rice crispies)


In four tall glasses, place a quarter each first six ingredients. Top with a cup of shaved ice. Combine milk with vanilla extract. Pour 1/2 cup of milk on each and top with a scoop of frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with the rice crispies.

Note: Fruits could be substituted with any good seasonal or tropical fruits, such as steamed edamame or fresh pineapple.