While it is commonly believed that healthy eating comes with a hefty price tag, hawker food defies those expectations. Hawker food, known for its diverse range of affordable and delicious options, also presents a surprisingly healthy alternative to expensive meals. These humble food stalls offer a plethora of choices that cater to various dietary preferences and nutritional needs. If you’re in search of healthy hawker food, we’ve got six recommendations for you:
- Roast Duck: Pass on the char siew (barbecued pork) and sio bak (crispy roast pork belly) and choose roast duck the next time you’re at the roast meat stall! Compared to roast pork, duck meat is lower in fat but higher in iron. Iron helps the body generate red blood cells, improves concentration levels, and is packed with good-quality protein that helps in daily cell renewal. Roast duck is better than the braised version because the braising process retains more fat. To reduce the fat, just remove the skin.
- Yong Tau Foo: If you’re looking for a flavorsome, healthy meal, look no further than Yong Tau Foo (stuffed bean curd). This delightful dish lets you take control of your meal by selecting your own ingredients and assembling a bowl of goodness. You can handpick from an array of vegetables and tofu items stuffed with either fish paste or a ground meat mixture. These ingredients can be prepared by boiling or frying, and you even have the choice of adding rice or noodles for some carbs. To create a truly nourishing Yong Tau Foo bowl, it’s essential to make informed choices. Steer clear of anything fried and processed meats such as hotdogs. Opting for the soup version of Yong Tau Foo is a wise move as it requires minimal oil for preparation. However, if you have high blood pressure, be mindful of your soup consumption as it may contain higher levels of sodium.
- Soto Ayam: Craving a soupy, comforting dish on a rainy day? A healthy yet flavorful option is Soto Ayam. It’s one of the few low-calorie Malay noodle dishes that you can easily find at hawker stalls. Other crowd favorites like Mee Rebus and Mee Siam add up to more than 500 calories each! In contrast, Soto Ayam is a well-balanced meal that offers carbohydrates from the ketupat (rice cubes), protein from the chicken, and fiber from the bean sprouts — a healthy bowl indeed!
- Chapati: This traditional Indian flatbread is an excellent choice for those seeking a healthier and fiber-rich option. It is made with wholemeal flour, which offers more nutritional benefits compared to white flour. The best part? Each serving of chapati is remarkably low in calories, containing only 143 calories and 5g of fat! To reduce calories, opt for chapati without ghee. Typically served with dhal (pulse) or lentil soup — this dish, packed with plant-based protein, provides a well-balanced meal.
- Economy Rice: A beloved staple of hawker food, this dish is not only popular but is also a healthier choice. The dish is usually served on a plate filled with rice and an assortment of vegetables. For a well-rounded and nutritious meal, you can request half of the plate be filled with lightly cooked, non-fried vegetables. These veggies offer essential nutrients and dietary fiber. Additionally, a quarter of the platter should be allocated a non-fried meat for your protein intake.
- Popiah: Popiah, derived from the Teochew language meaning “thin snack” or “pancake,” is a delectable spring roll made with a thin flour skin enveloping a delightful mixture of finely chopped vegetables and meat. Each roll is filled with jicama (crunchy root vegetable), bean sprouts, Chinese sausage slices, various grated vegetables, thinly sliced fried tofu, fried shallots, and shredded omelette, served with a sweet sauce, and sprinkled with peanut bits for added flavor. This popular snack can be eaten on its own or as an appetizer.
Last year, the Singapore Health Promotion Board (HDB) extended its Healthier Dining Program and since then, more than 2,700 food and beverage stalls across more than 60 hawker centers and 450 coffee shops have come on board – offering at least one healthier option on their menus. Some of our everyday hawker fare are not only affordable, but are also lower in calories and healthier. HPB has identified about 65 types of dishes among our everyday hawker fare that are already lower in calories. Through the “lower in calories” visual identifiers tagged at the stalls, consumers can easily identify dishes that are healthier. Meals that are 500 calories or less need not be smaller in portion. Dishes that qualify as healthier meals are based on the ingredients used, the way the food is prepared, the recipe and the portions offered, which will help Singaporeans keep to the daily recommended calorie intake.