Singapore is known as a foodie’s paradise, because you can find almost any culture cuisine on this 718.3 sq km island. You name it, we have it. Malay, Indian, Mainland Chinese, Peranakan (a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine), Korean, Japanese, Okinawan, Russian, Italian, German, Turkish, Greek, American, Arab, Vietnamese and many more!
We are spoilt for choices. Not only that, you can find food at every corner. It’s definitely a place where you won’t go hungry. Instead, you may find yourself putting on that extra weight with all the good food around.
In this post, our focus will just be on local foods found in Singapore. Know the calories of these sinful foods and take them in moderation!
13. Rice Dumpling
Rice dumplings are usually eaten during the Dumpling Festival, which falls on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Lunar calendar (somewhere in June). These are glutinous rice with meat, chestnut, mushroom wrapped in leaves and steamed.
Some people can gobble 2 to 3 pieces in one setting.
Uh, bad idea.
1 rice dumpling has 486 mg of sodium and counts toward approx. 30% of an average adult recommended intake. If you eat 2 to 3 pieces…you count the Math…they would already fulfill 60-90% of your daily sodium intake!
However if you cannot resist, you can opt for a healthier choice with Hong Kee Delights’ brown rice dumplings. Or your next best choice is to make rice dumplings yourself, so you can control the amount of salt – here’s the recipe for the Nyonya (Peranakan) version
12. Kueh Lapis & Etc.
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s infographic says it all. Little snacks pack a punch (in a wrong way, of course). You won’t just eat one. 🙂
11. Nasi Lemak
Singaporeans can eat anything at any time of the day, like a plate of nasi lemak or a bowl of noodle soup in the morning. Nasi Lemak originates from Malay culture and its rice is cooked with coconut milk to give that aromatic fragrance.
Credit: Sham Hardy
Together with fried chicken wing, ikan bilis (fried anchovy fish) and fried egg, a plate of this combination gives 802 calories, taking up 40% of your daily intake!
10. Chicken Rice (Roasted)
If you have not tried chicken rice, it feels like you have not been to Singapore. My Australian ex-colleague who adores the dish so much that he must eat chicken rice at every lunch.
Chicken rice is a good source of protein, but watch that sodium and saturated fat level (8.7 g). It is a close contender in the sodium department at 1,287 mg, not losing to our next dish.
09. Fried Carrot Cake
Americans may scratch their heads and wonder what is a fried carrot cake. It’s not a cake. What this dish is it’s fried radish with egg and sweet sauce. It is a common dish found at our hawker centres and it is best consumed occasionally.
Credit: Kyle Lam
Meanwhile, this fried carrot cake packs 1,289 mg of sodium and 14.1 g of saturated fat.
You know what you need to do. Eat sparingly.
08. Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Did this dish originate from the Hokkien people? Apparently, its origins are uncertain. Some say it was originally known as Rochor Mee, another says it’s popularised by 4 Teochews so it is also called Teochew Hokkien Mee.
Whatever it is, you can now find Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee in air-conditioned food courts, not just at hawker centres, coffee shops or food centres. You can also eat this in Malaysia, though their version is different.
Ours is noodles stirred fried in oil and lard…throw in some fried pork fat, you get one wicked dish. What’s the damage?
Sodium (1,433 mg) : 70% of daily intake (95% if you are aged above 51)
Calories (617) : Moderate energy level
Cholesterol (289 mg) : 96% of daily intake
07. Kambing Soup
Kambing soup is mutton soup, usually cooked by the Indians. Sometimes, the Malay and Chinese also prepares this dish. Low in calories and fat, high in protein and fibre – this dish also deals a large amount of sodium (1,658 mg). You can still reap the benefits; just leave the soup behind!
06. Mee Rebus
Getting into 6th spot is a Malay food favourite. High in sodium (2,164 mg) and cholesterol (206 mg), this dish exceeds the daily sodium intake and accounts for close to 70% in daily cholesterol intake.
Credit: Jeremy Fulton
I don’t think you can separate its thick gravy cleanly from its noodle with every bite, unless you wash the noodle in a bowl of clean water before you eat. Eating sounds like a hassle now, or you can indulge it once in a blue moon and try to leave as much gravy behind as possible to reduce the salt intake.
People with high cholesterol and blood pressure, take good care!
05. Chili Crab
In the cook-off challenge of local Singaporean hawkers vs Michelin-star chef Gordon Ramsay, one of the dishes was chili crab. Chili crab is a national favourite and you can’t miss it if you are in Singapore.
Credit: Steel Wool
In 1 plate serving (which I assume would be 1 crab), you will be chomping down 565 calories, 587 mg cholesterol and 2,139 mg of sodium. It exceeds your daily cholesterol and sodium intake.
Chinese has a saying, “有福同享，有难同当” (you fu tong xiang, you nan tong dang), which means sharing both the good and bad. Although we don’t usually hog 1 crab by ourselves, just saying here so you know this is meant to be shared. You know…the bad :p
04. Fishball Noodle (Soup)
What is scarier than knowing your carrot cake is fried now?
I rated this higher because it looks so unassuming. Balls made from fish must be healthier right? (sounds a little wrong but how do you say it in a nicer-sounding way). On the contrary, they can be pretty salty.
Although this dish is low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, its sodium content at 2,913 mg strikes through the daily limit of an average adult. One good advice is to not to drink the soup.
In fact, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital recommends the same for other soup noodle dishes like prawn noodle, wonton noodle, minced pork noodle, laksa and lor mee (yellow noodle with bean sprouts, egg and pork in starchy dark gravy) due to their high sodium content.
If you are living in oriental lands, you will have heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese and Vietnamese people. The moon is a symbol of harmony and unity, and this festival popularly relates to the moon with a few legends and folktales.
Credit: Ulterior Epicure
I call it the humans’ ‘Fattening Season’. We have mooncakes of various kinds – baked mooncakes with and without salted egg yolks, snowskin mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes, flaky mooncakes, and some interesting ones like durian mooncakes.
Mooncakes look pretty harmless, but they pack some evil calories.
Imagine durian + mooncake, woah…that’s one nasty combination!
Do you know a ¼ slice of mooncake with double yolks account (approx. 120 mg of cholesterol) for 40% of your daily cholesterol limit? Mooncakes have some sinful ingredients combinations like lard, oil, sugar and flour. Some contains more fat than the rest.
Now you know, you can limit your weekly intake to no more than 1 regular-sized mooncake.
It sucks but if you want to go ahead to spike your cholesterol, do it at your own risk.
Famous for its “pungent” smell (or fragrance, you decide), most Singaporeans love to indulge in the king of fruits. May to July is the durian season and Singapore imports a whole lot of durians from Malaysia and Thailand.
Credit: Mohd Hafizuddin Husin
We will even cross the causeway to Malaysia to have durian buffets! I went too *sheepish* and the Malaysian tour guide said they can have up to 50 coaches entering Malaysia during weekends in the durian season. Wow.
Well, contrary to popular beliefs, durian does not have cholesterol.
Did I hear a gasp in Internet land?
Instead, what you should watch out for is its high calories. 1 durian seed has 54 calories. An average adult needs approx. 2,000 calories daily and yet, when you eat the whole fruit (1 kg) which has close to 1,350 calories, you are already fulfilling 68% of your recommended intake!
Due to its high sugar content, people, especially those with diabetes, will also need to control their intake.
01. Kway Chap
This is one scary dish, which may give you the shivers. It’s number one on the list.
Not only you are eating pig’s innards like the large intestines and skin (In the olden days we even have pig’s blood, until the Singapore government puts a ban on it), knowing about its high cholesterol and sodium will probably make you want to puke it all out, or maybe make you think twice of eating it.
Credit: Irving Liaw
Although it’s one of my favourite delicious hawker dishes, it really broke my heart.
Kway Chap exceeds the daily recommended intake for cholesterol (2,303 mg; 7x more) and sodium (11.6 g; 2x more) for an adult. Recommended level of cholesterol and sodium is 300 mg and 5 g a day respectively. It’s also high in fat.
Calories count? 650 calories.
In Singapore if you want to eat healthily, you may need a lot of willpower to make that happen. Luckily we have all year round hot weather. It’s free, natural sauna. Slap on some sunscreen, get active and perspire.
If you are quite a homebody like me, a 30 min cardio or core workout even at home gets the heart pumping and perspiration dripping. We have such high humidity. Get those calories down and salt out!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this on Twitter:
— Sharon Lee (@sharonleesg) August 5, 2015