Kiku is a new high-end Japanese restaurant located at Duxton. My friends and I stumbled upon this place completely by accident. We were planning to eat Mexican food at Lucha Loco but it was closed on a Monday evening.
The restaurant was nearly empty when we entered. We were shown upstairs to a cosy tatami room and proceeded to order umeshu. I chose the ryokucha umeshu, which was made from green tea and Nankou plum. My friends ordered the yuzu lemon umeshu.
This was my first time tasting green tea and plum umeshu and I was so impressed by the flavours. I have a sour and salty tooth (as opposed to having a sweet tooth!) so I really enjoy the tartness of the plum in my drink. One small glass, however, set me back by $14. If only I can get my hands on a whole bottle somewhere in Singapore…
Resistant starch is the new buzzword in health circles. It started with Richard Nikoley unearthing research at his blog Free The Animal and the excitement surrounding resistant starch has been picked up by the paleo world as a type of good starch that can be eaten even as part of a low-carbohydrate diet. Resistant starch’s main role is to feed the good bacteria in our gut, and subsequently, help to reduce leaky gut syndrome, improve allergies and autoimmune conditions, reduce colon cancer risk and improve blood cholesterol. Dieters also have cause for cheer. Resistant starch can aid in weight loss by increasing satiety; it is a carbohydrate that with virtually zero impact on blood glucose.
What is resistant starch?
Essentially, resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your body, but becomes food for your gut bacteria. Normally, starch is digested in your small intestine and absorbed by your body. The remaining non-digestible portion is called resistant starch and travels to the large intestine, where it is broken down by bacteria for energy.
What would you say if there was a food that would fill you up and contain practically no calories? What if there was a food that was not just good for weight management was also good for diabetes control and lower cholesterol levels?
I first found out about shirataki noodles from someone who was using it for weight loss. These are traditional thin and chewy Japanese noodles made from a dietary fibre called glucomannan, derived from the konjac root. Although they may look unfamiliar in this form, I found out that it’s essentially the same thing as konnyaku jelly, minus the sugar, which was very popular in Singapore in my schooling days. The shirataki noodles pass through your colon unchanged and unabsorbed, which makes them perfect for helping you feel full.
I got hold of two packets thanks to my cousin who was shopping in Liang Court. They came to me packed in liquid and I stored them in the fridge for a few days because I didn’t know if I could leave them out in the open.
The most common ways to eat them are to fry them or eat them in a stew. They absorb flavours very well and my cousin recommended that I put them in a beef stew or miso soup. With limited ingredients on hand, I decided to go for fried noodles instead. I cut up some vegetables I had on hand, included lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. For the sauce, I chose to mix together garlic, spicy bean paste and coconut aminos, which I used as a replacement for soy sauce.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them for frying.
Step 1: Get rid of the smell
The noodles smell a bit funny when you first open the packet and the first way to get rid of the fishy smell is to rinse them quickly in hot water. Don’t cook them for too long as they will become rubbery. One or two minutes in hot water should be enough.
I gained 2 kg over Christmas and Chinese New Year from overeating. It was your typical case of holiday indulgences. I ate everything in sight and convinced myself that I was allowed to because the holidays were meant for merry making. Alas, my metabolism couldn’t keep up, given that I was no longer a teenager. I didn’t stick to paleo eating as well – bring on the pineapple tarts and Christmas puddings.
I didn’t realise I had gained any weight (because I don’t weigh myself) until my clothes starting feeling tight on me. My stomach, which was never really slim to begin with, started protruding out and I felt self-conscious about wearing fitting clothes. Even my bra was cutting into my chest.
Was running the answer?
I decided that I would run more. Since I enjoy running, it wasn’t a chore. It just took quite a lot of time because I wanted to go for long runs and I often didn’t have an hour a day to spare. This went on for about a month before I hurt my knee and couldn’t run anymore. The frustrating thing was that my weight didn’t budge at all. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to lose 2 kg that shouldn’t be there in the first place. To me, I was 2 kg over my equilibrium weight. I wasn’t trying to be unnaturally slim.
At the same time, I signed up for the CFA exam – which is a really tough 6-hour exam covering financial topics – for my work. My spare time was further reduced. So I didn’t have time to go to the gym now and I didn’t have time to run. I decided to look for home exercise videos.
Home exercise videos
Friends recommended Beachbody’s Insanity workout by trainer Shaun T, which was touted to be the hardest workout ever put on DVD. But you get really good results, like so:
Japanese food is great for paleo eating and healthy meals in general. You can get fresh raw fish and raw beef untouched by any strange sugary sauce. You can get miso soup and green tea. The food in general is light, provided you don’t go straight for the tempura!
Last Friday, I was craving for something light so I made a dinner reservation at Sangokai Japanese Restaurant on Beach Road. The restaurant was cosy, looked very authentic and was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall along the main road.
I went crazy ordering the appetisers. There was such a wide range and I wanted to try them all. We started with seared maguro in miso sauce ($16).
You don’t tend to find organic food sold at coffee shops. I’m so used to poor quality ingredients at hawkers that I took a double take when I stumbled upon Wang Yuan Fish Soup at Tampines.
Derrick Ng (pictured above) has several news article at the front of his stall written about his organic home-grown vegetables. He runs a series of urban gardening projects called Generation Green and he grows everything from chye sim to kai lan. He started eating organic vegetables personally before realising that it would complement his family’s fish soup business.
I ordered a bowl of mixed fish soup without milk. Mixed fish soup consists of both fried and non-fried fish, along with the organic vegetables and some tomatoes. This cost me $4.20.
Overseas holidays are normally associated with lots of eating. We want to sample all kinds of delicious foreign food and we take a break from our usual workout routine. It’s not uncommon to come back with our bellies bloated and skin blotchy from poor eating! Even if the trip involved physical activities like hiking for two days, it’s still possible to eat unwisely when we are not prepared with healthy snacks. Or we may pig out after our strenuous activity thinking that we have burnt enough calories!
How do we stay healthy on overseas holidays then? I just returned from my friend’s bachelorette party in the Maldives and indeed, we feasted non-stop! Actually, I thought we ate a lot less than our usual holidays simply because the food and drinks were prohibitively expensive. Here are a few tips:
Do a fast before your holiday
If you know that your holiday will involve a lot of eating and sitting around, it may be prudent to do a one-day fast before the trip to compensate for the extra intake. There are several ways to fast. My favourite is the Fast Diet method, in which you only eat 500 calories for women, and 600 calories for men, for one day. The next day you go back to eating normally. It’s not as difficult as water fasts and not as sugary as juice fasts. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend juice fasts at all given the amount of sugar consumed. The good thing about fasting is that you do it just for one day but studies have shown that even temporary caloric restriction can have many benefits for the body, including improvements in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.
A new BBC Horizon documentary starring twins on different diets aired in January 2014. For one month, one twin went on a high-fat diet, while the other ate high-sugar meals with little to no fat. The idea was to find out if one food group can be held responsible for the obesity epidemic. Who would emerge healthier, have more energy and lose more weight?
Both of the twins were British but one lived in the UK while the other had moved to the US. They noted that in the US, sugar was regarded as the main cause of obesity, whereas in the UK, fats were the culprit. When I thought about it, I realised that low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, were popularised in America first. I was in the UK recently and I checked out Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. There were very few low-carb items but there were a plenty of low-fat food for sale. Continue reading Sugar vs fats – which is worse for us?
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.
My new-found enthusiasm for trail running has seen me planning more trips that involved hiking in nature. While it’s quite difficult to find friends who want to run with me in the forest, it’s much easier to find people who enjoy walking. So it was with incredible excitement that I started my recent December Taiwan trip with a hike in Taroko National Park. This is one of the country’s eight national parks and is located near Hualien City in the east of Taiwan.
We spent three days and two nights at Taroko. This trip was arranged by a freelance tour guide Ricky, who was introduced to us by a friend. I usually don’t like going on tours and being escorted around by other people but Ricky was passionate about hiking and was not your usual conventional tour guide on buses.
We went on two trails. The first was the Zhuilu Old Trail and this was supposed to have the most magnificent views in the gorge. We spent about six hours on this trail, including rest time at the top. The second was the Lotus Pond trail, which took us four and a half hours in total.
To hike the Zhuilu Old Trail, we had to get a special permit from the park that Ricky arranged for us. We started off from a bridge that spanned a valley.