Healthier Deepavali fare

Restaurants are introducing healthier treats by lowering sugar levels and baking snacks instead of deep-frying them

Last year, Mr Chetan Kapoor introduced lower-sugar laddoos, or sphere-shaped sweets, at his restaurant as a healthier option for his customers celebrating Deepavali.

This year, the 50-year-old owner of Yantra by Hemant Oberoi has gone even healthier - by baking instead of frying the laddoos.

The restaurant at Tanglin Mall has also come up with a new besan laddoo made using organic chickpea flour and organic brown sugar.

Based on feedback from more health-conscious customers, the restaurant has made changes to the preparation and selection of ingredients for several dishes in its Deepavali buffet.

For example, the chefs are using dairy-free, coconut-based yogurt in the marinade for the Badami Chicken Tikka.

More Indian restaurants like Yantra are offering healthier options for Deepavali, which falls on Nov 6, to cater to more health-conscious customers.

Mr Kapoor says it was his wife who suggested that the restaurant offer healthier options for Deepavali sweets last year.

Concerned that their two daughters, aged seven and 14, were consuming too much sugar during Deepavali celebrations, she had learnt to make her own mithai at home two years ago, using less sugar and selecting better ingredients. Mithai are Indian sweets that are traditionally eaten during Deepavali.

Last year, she gave her recipes to the chefs at Yantra, who developed them and came up with a new selection of mithai.

Over at Shahi Maharani at Raffles City Shopping Centre, co-owner and director Chitra Mirpuri, 42, says the restaurant has kept the sugar content of its sweets lower since it began making its Deepavali sweets in-house in 2003.

The restaurant's selection of traditional sweets are mostly nut-based as nuts have nutritional value in terms of proteins, fats and antioxidants.

There is also a new sweet this year - the Almond Blueberry Roll, which derives most of its sweetness from the blueberries and took the chef a month to develop.

"Although blueberries are not common in India, we have chosen this as it pairs so well with almonds. And we can lower the sugar content in the almond roll and rely more on the natural sweetness of the blueberries," says Ms Mirpuri.

Superfoods is the theme for the mithai at Rang Mahal, as well as seasonal specials inspired by Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine with origins in India.

The restaurant began planning its Deepavali menu and mithai selection nine months ago.

Mrs Ritu Jhunjhnuwala, 54, managing director of Rang Mahal says that mithai, which are traditionally made using rich ingredients such as sugar, butter and ghee, are definitely not shy on calories.

To cater to more health-conscious diners, Rang Mahal created a mithai collection featuring ingredients such as oats, goji berry, sunflower seeds, blueberries and pistachio nuts.

Guests can also enjoy a festive meal with healthier and less greasy options at Rang Mahal, which has three a la carte dishes inspired by ingredients used in Ayurveda.

These ingredients include shatavari (asparagus racemosus), believed to be beneficial to the immune system and is incorporated in a dressing for a lotus root and avocado kebab.

Also using superfoods is The Song of India in Scotts Road.

Its director of cuisine, Mr Manjunath Mural, 45, says the restaurant has always advocated healthier sweets and has cut the use of sugar in them by 30 per cent by using naturally sweet figs and dates.

The restaurant's mithai, which are made in-house, feature ingredients such as blueberries, butterfly pea flower and saffron.

Mr Mural says: "People have always had this perception that Indian sweets are sweeter and heavier, so I think restaurants these days have been trying hard to change that perception.

"However, as chefs, the challenge is always coming up with dishes that are healthier but still delicious."

Banking professional Sudeesh Narayan, 37, is a regular at Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands, which has made its mithai with more dried fruit, nuts and less sugar.

He has noticed more restaurants offering Deepavali sweets with lower sugar content and more interesting ingredients in the last three years.

He welcomes restaurants putting a healthier spin on Deepavali sweets and dishes.

"When the sweets are less sugary, they don't taste as cloying and you can enjoy a few more," he says.

"Consumers will appreciate a variety of healthier options which do not compromise on taste and flavour."


Where to go

THE SONG OF INDIA

The restaurant has created mithai themed on superfoods. New limited-edition flavours include the pink hibiscus, wild raspberry and pistachio extravagance, in which crunchy pistachios and almonds are complemented with floral and fruity notes from the hibiscus and raspberry. The Butterfly Pea Flower & Organic Coconut Blueberry Sensation features the butterfly pea flower mixed with blueberries and macadamia nuts.

The mithai selections are available in gift boxes starting at $45++ for 15 pieces in three varieties.

A four-course Deepavali tasting menu ($79++ a person), with a vegetarian option, is available for lunch and dinner from Saturday to Nov 10.

The menu will showcase different regional dishes of India prepared using claypots and outdoor wood-fired stoves.

They include Nagaland bamboo shoot chicken, spinach with pressed cottage cheese, served with kasundi (a mustard and cashew sauce popular in Bengali cuisine); and Coorg Mangalorean fish, a creamy dish with turmeric, tamarind and chillies.

Where: 33 Scotts Road

Info: www.thesongofindia.com

ZAFFRON KITCHEN


PHOTO: ZAFFRON KITCHEN

For the first time, the restaurant is launching a Deepavali special set meal for two ($55++, above), which will be available until Nov 23.

The restaurant serves meat, but the Deepavali set will be vegetarian, with items such as tomato shorba, a tomato soup with spices, and main courses such as vegetarian dum biryani; shaam savera kofta, spinach dumplings with a cottage cheese filling; and a fibre-rich dish of dal panchratna, cooked using five types of lentils.

Where: Zaffron Kitchen East Coast, 135/137 East Coast Road

Info: www.zaffronkitchen.com

SHAHI MAHARANI

Sweets are freshly made using quality ingredients and without added preservatives here. They have a shelf life of five days unless refrigerated or frozen.

The restaurant has been making its own Deepavali sweets since 2003 and has made conscious efforts to keep the sugar content lower and use healthier ingredients. The kaju pista roll (stuffed cashew pistachio roll) is made with less sugar and the pistachios are sourced from Delhi, India.

The sweets are mostly nut-based for protein. The almond blueberry roll is made using dried blueberry stuffed in a ground almond roll.


PHOTO: SHAHI MAHARANI

The mithai collection includes the Royal Celebration Sweet Box ($50+), comprising 15 pieces of mithai in five flavours; and the Royal Treasures Sweet Box ($88+, above), which contains the chef's selection of 30 pieces of mithai in six flavours.

Orders have to be placed two days in advance. Collection is available until Nov 6.

The restaurant will also have a Diwali Eve Buffet Lunch ($38++ a person) on Nov 5 (noon to 2.30pm).

The Diwali Buffet Dinner ($68++ a person), which features live stations, will be available on Nov 6 (6.30 to 10.30pm). The tawa (iron griddle) stations will feature vegetarian and non-vegetarian items such as tikki chole chaat, keema pav, tandoori chicken skewers and other kebabs.

Reservations are recommended for the buffets.

Where: 03-21B Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road

Info: www.shahimaharani.com

YANTRA BY HEMANT OBEROI

Deepavali offerings range from $39+ for a 12-piece sweets box to $99+ for a box of four types of nuts and a 12-piece sweets box.


PHOTO: YANTRA BY HEMANT OBEROI

The selection of housemade sweets includes pistachio baked laddoo and organic besan laddoo. Laddoo (above) are made from flour, ghee and sugar. The organic besan laddoo is made using organic sugar and organic chickpea flour.

The restaurant's dates and nuts burfi and anjeer (figs) burfi are baked and made without sugar. Traditionally, burfi are milk-based confections, but Yantra uses milk only in the burfi made with cashew.

From Nov 5 to 7, the restaurant will also serve the Grand Diwali Buffet ($58++ a person), with more than 50 dishes to choose from.

The lunch buffet is from noon to 3pm, while the dinner buffet is from 6.30 to 9.30pm.

The buffet will include salads such as quinoa raw papaya salad.

There will also be live stations serving tawa subzi bhaji (fried vegetables), cooked using small amounts of olive oil or corn oil, and chaat, a savoury snack that is cooked oil-free.

Other dishes include Badami Chicken Tikka marinated in coconut-based, dairy-free yogurt.

Where: 01-28 Tanglin Mall, 163 Tanglin Road

Info: www.yantra.com.sg

THE COURTYARD


PHOTO: THE FULLERTON HOTEL

The Fullerton Hotel restaurant will offer a Deepavali-themed lunch buffet (above) on Nov 5, 7 and 8 (noon to 2.30pm), priced at $43++ an adult and $22++ a child (aged six to 11).

Its chefs have created sweets that use less sugar. Healthier options include the tandoori Colorado lamb shoulder and tandoori tumeric and cumin Temasek sea bass.

Lamb shoulder is a leaner cut, but it is infused with a spice and yogurt marinade and slow-roasted in the tandoor oven for tenderness. Reservations are recommended.

Where: The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, 1 Fullerton Square

Info: www.fullertonhotels.com/the-fullerton-hotel/the-courtyard.html

RANG MAHAL

The healthier selection of mithai features superfood ingredients and seasonal specials inspired by Ayurveda.

The Jubilee Box ($68+) comprises 18 pieces of assorted sweets, including oats and white chocolate barfi, Himalayan goji berry and dried fruit and pistachio barfi.

The Royal Box ($128+) has 30 pieces of assorted sweets, including the limited-edition pumpkin seeds and lentil mithai, as well as sunflower and melon seeds brittle, Madras curry almonds, Kerala pepper cashew nuts, and flaked rice and brown onion chivda.

The restaurant also has three healthier a la carte specials on its "Diwali Seasonal Menu".


PHOTO: RANG MAHAL

The lotus root and avocado kebab ($20++, above) is dressed in shatavari kalpa dressing. Shatavari is a type of asparagus called asparagus racemosus and it is regarded in Ayurveda as beneficial to the immune system.

The soya paneer and edamame stir-fried in ginger and kerala pepper ($36++) is a main course that comes with brown rice pulao and chilli garlic chutney. Round off the meal with wheat germ and barley kheer pudding ($20++).

The sweets and a la carte specials are available until Nov 7.

Where: Level 3 Pan Pacific Singapore, 7 Raffles Boulevard

Info: www.rangmahal.com.sg

PUNJAB GRILL

Its mithai are made with more dried fruit and nuts and less sugar. The 18-piece box ($68+) comes with six varieties of sweets. Flavours include Alphonso mango and white chocolate magical delight barfi and delectable Darjeeling green tea.

There is also the 25-piece box ($88+) that comes with four types of namkeens (Indian savoury snacks) such as masala mathri (savoury Indian cookies).

On Nov 6, Punjab Grill will have two Deepavali special menus ($120++ a person) - one of which is vegetarian. They are available for lunch (11.30am to 2.15pm) and dinner (6.30 to 9.30pm).


PHOTO: PUNJAB GRILL

The non-vegetarian menu features new special dishes like chaamp taazdaar (above), sweet and sour lamb ribs with a mango chutney. The lamb is marinated in a blend of spices which includes sandalwood powder and mace.

The vegetarian set features a healthier dish of grilled lotus root and sweet potato.

Where: B1-01A The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue

Info: www.punjabgrill.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 28, 2018, with the headline 'Healthier Deepavali fare'. Print Edition | Subscribe