Economic rice, also known as cai fan, is one of the cheapest and most filling meals you can have in Singapore. It’s essentially a plate of rice with three to four dishes of vegetables and meat that you can select from 10-15 troughs of cooked food.
Economic rice is almost never paleo. You can ask for economic rice with “no rice” but the food is most likely cooked with corn or soybean oil. According to the Health Promotion Board, their view of “healthier oils” are:
“Saturated fat found mainly in butter, ghee, coconut milk, cream and blended oils can raise blood cholesterol levels, increasing risk of heart disease and stroke. Whereas monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in soybean, sunflower, safflower, olive, peanut and canola oils both help to reduce blood cholesterol when they replace saturated fat in the diet.”
They will award hawkers with a “I cook with healthier oil” sticker if they use vegetable oils such as the above, despite evidence to the contrary that these oils are not good for our health.
That being said, I still eat economic rice occasionally because it’s cheap and convenient. It’s definitely not a perfect paleo meal; to get anything perfectly healthy, we just have to cook at home. But we don’t have to be perfect everyday. For days where we eat out, we can minimise the damage to our health by selecting the right food items.