The Singapore Restaurant Month takes on a healthier dining theme this year, with 46 restaurants serving 95 dishes that are low in calories and/or contain wholegrains.
When the second edition of the month-long event starts tomorrow, diners can tuck into a diverse range of nutritious dishes spanning more than 10 cuisines, ranging from Cantonese and Korean to Thai and Western.
Spanish restaurant Una at One Rochester in Rochester Park will roll out two new dishes ($26 each) created by its executive chef, Antonio Oviedo, 32. One of them is grilled sucrine lettuce with Idiazabal cheese, smoked anchovies and pomegranate.
Chef Oveido says: "Salads are usually a boring way to start a meal, but we have created an exciting starter that is rich in flavour from the smokiness of the char-grilled lettuce to umami anchovies that are rich in omega-3."
Vietnamese restaurant chain The Orange Lantern is offering three new dishes ($9.90 each), including Saigon Laksa, which is prepared with less coconut milk and more vegetables, such as mint leaves, carrots and pineapple.
The Singapore Restaurant Month is organised by the Restaurant Association of Singapore, which represents more than 300 restaurants here. It is held in conjunction with the Singapore Food Festival, which starts on July 15.
The association put out an open call in March this year for restaurants to submit their dishes that fit its theme.
It worked with nutritionists from the Health Promotion Board to verify that each of the dishes contains 500 or fewer calories, and/or have at least 8 per cent of its ingredients comprise wholegrains such as oatmeal, brown rice and wholemeal bread.
Ms Lim Rui Shan, 32, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Singapore, says the healthier dining theme was sparked by the global trend of eateries cooking with wholegrains.
She says: "We want to break the notion that healthy dining translates to bland food. It depends on the creativity of chefs to incorporate wholegrains to make dishes flavourful yet guilt-free."
She notes that it may be challenging for chefs, especially the older ones in heritage restaurants, to "think out of the box and have a forward-thinking mindset" of trying out wholegrain ingredients, as they are concerned about the taste and uptake of such dishes among customers. Of the 46 participating restaurants, 22 have come on board for the first time.
Cantonese restaurant Moi Lum in Maxwell Road has also jumped on the wholegrain bandwagon. It is offering two dishes, its signature braised Golden Coin Beancurd (from $12) and mixed brown rice fried with Taiwanese sausage, pig liver and dried shrimps ($12).
Its general manager and coowner, Mr Andrew Kong, 65, says that the fried brown rice dish, which was introduced two months ago, has become one of the more popular dishes in the restaurant.
He says: "Brown rice is not commonly found in Cantonese cooking, but with more customers being health-conscious, we decided to follow this trend and come up with new dishes."
• For more information on participating restaurants in the Singapore Restaurant Month, go to www.singaporerestaurantmonth.com