As if being a neurology resident at MCV didn’t keep him busy enough, Richmonder Dr. Ben Alwood has a following of almost 5,000 on Instagram (@doctorflavor). We became immediate fans of his page and were fortunate enough to sit down with him recently and learn why he started educating people about food choices.

Ben, what made you start your Instagram profile, @doctorflavor?

In neurology, we focus on treating strokes, mitigating disabilities and relieving neuropathic pain. I have seen firsthand preventable illness that evolved into irreversible conditions…many of which stemmed from poor diet and self-care. My goal with my “Doctor Flavor” moniker is to put an end to self-destructive lifestyles and learn to enjoy food again by inspiring others to cook dishes packed with flavor, loaded with vegetables and fresh ingredients that will help you through your day. Cooking itself is proven to be hugely therapeutic and incredibly stress-reducing. Cooking allows you to pick what exactly you are putting into your body. What you put into your body is what you get out, and by eating better, it just may prevent you from encountering ME in the stroke ward.

You focus on healthy recipes. How do you flavor your food in a way so healthy means delicious? 

I try to use ingredients found in the produce aisle to instill natural, unrefined flavor. Instead of using salt, I substitute it with an item that naturally has salt in it such as limes, carrots, or beets. Make a dish spicy instead of just adding extra oil; add an avocado or mushrooms to your dish to get a savory taste. I have found that after eating more diverse food I am better able to identify what a dish is missing. For the most flavor, I try to incorporate the four S’s naturally: salt, savory, sweet, sour.   

What is your favorite ingredient you use in your cooking?

This is hard to say…in general, each recipe I try to use a little of every taste. I think my favorite ingredient lately has been fresh lime juice. It really blends all the flavors together and provides this natural sour and salty taste. It’s the perfect tie-in for meat and vegetable dishes. My favorite herb is definitely basil.

What is one tip for people to eat healthier they can easily incorporate into their lives? 

Eat more vegetables! There are so many delicious ones out there and can be cooked and flavored in so many different ways. They will satisfy your appetite without making you feel bloated and lethargic. Butternut squash can be cut into cubes and roasted with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese; cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon mixed together with lime juice is delicious; pickling vegetables is one of my favorites.  

What recipe are you going to share with us?  

Vietnamese Bún thịt nướng, grilled meat atop a salad of rice noodles and veggies. This dish is the conductor on the train to Flavortown by its combination of all the S’s (savory, salty, sweet, spicy, sour) and amazing texture with its combination of hot and chilled items.

Vietnamese Bún thịt nướng

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 chicken breasts

1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lime juice 

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Marinate the above ingredients together for one hour.

8 ounces vermicelli noodles

4 carrots, thinly sliced

2-4 cups lettuce, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 ounce mint, thinly sliced

1 ounce basil, thinly sliced

1 ounce cilantro, thinly sliced

Sweet Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons lime juice

Directions

Grill marinated chicken until blackened and cooked throughout. Cook noodles according to package directions. In a large bowl, add in this order: drained noodles first, chopped lettuce, herbs and vegetables and grilled chicken. Pour sweet sauce over the dish and toss together.  

Optional: Bean sprouts and crushed peanuts to taste