mongolian pork ribs

The perils of eating at Chinese restaurants

We set off for dinner with the best of intentions. We were only going to a Chinese restaurant to eat the meat and vegetable dishes and leave out the rice and starchy stuff. It wasn’t going to a perfect paleo night out (when is someone going to open a paleo restaurant in Singapore?) but we should be at least 80% in line with clean eating, right?

This restaurant that we chose was called the Penang Seafood Restaurant right next to Aljunied MRT Station. It was known for its assam Penang Laksa, which of course we were going to avoid because of the noodles, and order the other dishes instead.

Little did we realise that the dinner we were about to have would be the most un-paleo meal in a long while.

penang food restaurant

We picked two meat dishes – pork ribs and pork belly – and one vegetable dish – broccoli with mushrooms.

The pork ribs and broccoli arrived first.

mongolian pork ribs

Both these dishes were covered in a thick sauce. The vegetable dish looked like it contained oyster sauce. What is oyster sauce, you may ask?

“Oyster sauces today are usually made with a base of sugar and salt and thickened with corn starch. Oyster extracts or essences are then used to give flavor to the base sauce. Other ingredients, such as soy sauce and MSG may also be added to deepen the flavor and add color.” – Food Reference

Sugar? Corn starch? ARGHH. I don’t understand why vegetable dishes can’t just be cooked in garlic and oil. They are always covered in some brown sauce that almost always happens to be oyster sauce.

The next dish was the mongolian pork ribs. It had no bones, which was greatly disappointing for me because I like to gnaw on them as I rip off the meat. But the main problem was that the meat was covered in a very thick red sauce. No, it was definitely not paleo. A quick search online suggests that the sauce contains sugar, some bean paste and soy sauce.

The last dish was the worst. This was what we thought we ordered:

pork belly

Now, nothing in the picture suggests that it would have any sauce. It looks like your typical siew yoke, which is roasted pork belly with a crispy skin. Siew yoke is not a perfect clean food but it’s as good as you can get from Chinese dining.

This was what arrived:

breaded pork belly

It was breaded pork belly. Now, please tell me I’m not blind. This dish looks nothing like the picture in the menu. This clearly has a batter and the picture shows the pork belly in its naked glory. How am I going to eat grain-free when the picture in the menu doesn’t look like the real dish and the description doesn’t say “deep-fried breaded pork belly?” ARGH.

Despite all my complaints, we still polished them off because we were hungry. From a purely food tasting perspective, the food wasn’t that great and I wouldn’t go back again. To get good Mongolian pork ribs, I would recommend Dian Xiao Er, where they serve pork ribs with the bones and a non-paleo but very yummy coating of sauce. Dian Xiao Er also serves this amazing duck meat dish. Just ask them not to pour the sauce over the duck and you’re good.

Eating at Chinese restaurants is definitely treacherous. Any tips to avoid this problem again in the future would be much welcomed!

4 thoughts on “The perils of eating at Chinese restaurants”

  1. Unfortunately in this meal, it seems you have to deal with:

    Gluten contamination in paleo like dishes
    Huge amounts of sugar
    Trans fats
    Table salt

    What a dangerous world we live in.

    1. Yes definitely… I think the sauces are the most problematic. I can’t stop eating at Chinese restaurants because it’s just part and parcel of living in Singapore and having to eat with family but definitely I can urge them to stop ordering food drenched in strange sauces!

      So far they have been quite receptive to my complaints, especially my mum because she likes bland food.

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