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Carrying on a wholesome tradition

This article was first published in Mind Your Body on Jan 30, 2014.

Published on Feb 1, 2014 9:00 AM
The Soup Restaurant chain of outlets will offer new dishes for Chinese New Year and they include (clockwise from left) Teochew-style steamed fish, stewed pork trotters which is steamed first to get rid of the oil, ginseng roots with abalone soup and braised golden mushroom with emerald sprouts. Both Crystal Jade and Soup Restaurants outlets are closed on the first two days of Chinese New Year. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Patrons enjoying the Chinese New Year dishes at Soup Restaurant might not be able to tell the difference, but their meals will be healthier than last year's.

The raw fish salad, or yusheng, may look the same but this year, there is less sugar in the plum sauce and there are fewer pickled ingredients, said the management.

Also, instead of palm oil, which is heavy in saturated fats, a mixture of mostly corn oil and less of it, is now used to toss the dish.

A taste test found the salad light and pleasant (with salmon, $28.90 for six and $48.90 for 10; with tuna, $32.90 and $52.90).

"We use 20 per cent less sugar in the sauce and put fried shallots in the oil to enhance the taste," said chief operating officer Ivan Ng.

The restaurant has also cut the portion of the plum sauce in the dish, from one rice bowl, or 100g, to a smaller soup bowl of 70g.

However, in order not to disappoint the purists, there are still candied winter melon strips and the deep-fried batter that makes up a traditional yusheng.

This year, the restaurant chain wanted to get serious about coming up with new festive dishes and making these healthier to appeal to customers, who are "more health-conscious these days", said Mr Ng.

Said its executive director, Mr Wong Chi Keong: "If you look at our history, we have always thought healthy. We started out selling soups and steamed dishes. But, as we grew, we had to add other dishes to cater to a wider group of people."

Not surprisingly, the ginseng roots with abalone soup is a highlight of its festive sets (from $83 for two). The soup, without the abalone, is on the regular menu and one of the dishes certified by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) as a healthier choice.

The Chinese New Year dishes are not part of the certified list as they have not been submitted and may not qualify.

One dish that may not find its way to the HPB list is stewed pork trotters, but Soup Restaurant said it has tried to create a healthier version.

"Instead of the hind leg of the pig, we use the front leg, which is leaner," said Mr Ng.

"We marinate it and then steam the pork knuckle first to get rid of the oil."

Other healthier dishes on the festive menu include a Teochew-style steamed fish which is steamed with a light broth (part of a set menu, starting from $158 for four).

"The saltiness comes from the salted vegetable and the tomatoes," said Mr Ng.

There is also a spinach and enoki mushroom dish called braised golden mushroom with emerald sprouts that sits in a light, tasty broth and is the perfect accompaniment to the richer dishes.

Joyce Teo

Mind Your Body paid for the meal.