Light, tasty noodle soup

Few forms of food can be healthier than noodle soup.

Blanching in broth uses less oil than other cooking methods, such as frying.

Yet the nutrition level of the dish can be raised a notch when it is whipped up with wholegrain noodles rather than regular ones made of either refined rice or wheat flour.

For instance, the Indonesian dish of mee bakso (meatball noodle soup) can be cooked with thick yellow noodles made of a mix of flour milled from whole wheat and refined wheat, rather than from the latter alone.

Similarly, the Peranakan dish of laksa (thick rice vermicelli in spicy gravy containing the laksa leaf) can be created using thick rice vermicelli made of a mix of brown rice flour and white rice flour, instead of only the latter.

Only the husks are peeled off from whole wheat and other whole grains, so flour milled from them contains more vitamins, minerals and fibre than flour milled from refined grains.

A refined grain is the carbohydrate-rich endosperm left after the husk, the next layer of bran, and the germ (the embryo of the seed) have been removed.

As wholegrain products contain more fibre than refined ones, they take longer to be digested. This reduces a person's tendency to overeat and keeps his blood sugar level steady, which is beneficial to diabetics.

Eating wholegrain products has also been shown to reduce a person's risk of developing certain types of cancer and heart disease.

Sajian Tradisi (Malay for traditional food) in Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre has made its mee bakso and prawn laksa more nourishing by substituting the standard noodle or vermicelli with wholegrain ones.

Ms Jalianah Ahmad, who is turning 50 and took over the 40-year-old stall after her mother died from cancer seven years ago, now also prepares both dishes with low-sodium salt and oil containing less saturated fat.

Consuming too much sodium has been linked to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which, in turn, increases the risk of heart disease and strokes.

When consumed, saturated fat is converted into low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, which is distributed through the blood to tissues to make hormones.

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

For the same reason, Ms Jalianah has also cut the amount of coconut milk - which is high in saturated fat - in her prawn laksa gravy.

She switched to the healthier ingredients after joining the Healthier Hawker Programme, launched at the food centre at Block 1, Geylang Serai, off Sims Avenue, by the Health Promotion Board in April last year.

Ms Jalianah, who has four children aged between 18 and 30, said: "I cook healthy food just like I do for my family at home, so everyone eats healthily."

The noodles in both the mee bakso and the prawn laksa, which cost $3 each, tasted like the typical types.

The broth of the mee bakso was savoury while the beef balls were chewy and the bean sprouts, crunchy.

The gravy for the prawn laksa was spicy and creamy but still light. Firm prawns and fish cake slices added the flavour of seafood, while tau pok (deep-fried soya bean curd sponge), bean sprouts, cucumber strips and laksa leaves lent texture.

This stall serves noodle soup that is souped up in all the right ways.

huichieh@sph.com.sg

Mind Your Body paid for the meal.


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