Healthier fried fare

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 5, 2013

The hawker stall deals a double whammy that would make patrons do a double take.

Half of the stall, with big bunches of bananas hanging from the ceiling, sells pisang goreng (fried banana) and other fruit and vegetables that are coated in batter and then deep fried.

The other half, with trays of eggs on its counter, offers char kway teow (fried flat rice noodles).

Mr Patrick Sze, 53, learnt how to cook char kway teow from his father and taught himself how to produce pisang goreng. He even set up a banana farm.

Now at Snow Mount, located at Clementi 448 Market and Food Centre, he dunks food into the deep fryer, while the eldest of his three children, Lewis, 28, wields the wok.

Fried food is hardly healthy, but the Szes have made their fare more wholesome by whipping it up with less artery-clogging oil.

The oil contains less saturated fat, which is converted into low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, after being consumed.

This is transported through the blood to tissue to make hormones.

But when in excess, it is deposited on artery walls, narrowing the arteries and raising a person's risk of heart disease and stroke.

The younger Mr Sze has also replaced the conventional white rice noodles with noodles made from a mix of white rice and brown rice.

Brown rice and other whole grains, which have only the husk peeled off, contain more vitamins, minerals and fibre than white rice, which is the carbohydrate-rich endosperm left after removing the husk, bran and germ.

Whole grains take longer to be digested. This lowers a person's likelihood of overeating and keeps his blood sugar level steady, which is beneficial to diabetics.

Eating whole grains has also been shown to reduce a person's risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

The Szes switched to the healthier ingredients after joining the Healthier Hawker Programme in July last year.

This was when the Health Promotion Board extended the programme to the food centre in Block 448, Clementi Avenue 3, a stone's throw from Clementi MRT station.

The other food centres in the programme, launched in April 2011, are Yuhua Market and Hawker Centre, Eunos Crescent Market and Food Centre, Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre, Haig Road Market and Cooked Food Centre, Marine Terrace Market and Food Centre and Seah Im Food Centre.

The older Mr Sze said: "Initially, we had some concerns about whether the new oil and noodles would affect the taste of our food and whether our customers could accept them.

"After trying them, we found that the taste remained the same. As they are better for our customers, why not continue using them?"

Unlike the oil-soaked skin of the usual pisang goreng, the skin of the pisang raja (banana king) and durian pisang was crispy, light and not greasy.

The banana within the skin of the $1 pisang raja remained soft and sweet.

But the flavour of the durian was much stronger in the $1.60 durian pisang, which was first created by the older Mr Sze in 2004.

Similarly, the $3 char kway teow was not too oily, but was pleasantly moistened by sauce that tasted both savoury and sweet.

The fresh and firm clams and the fluffy fried egg gave the dish more flavour and texture.

At this stall, you can have your fried fare and eat it too.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 5, 2013

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Mind Your Body paid for the meal.