Photos by Chong Yap, unless otherwise indicated
The Healthier Dinning Programme is an initiative by Health Promotion Board to encourage F&B companies to provide healthier meals - be it lower calories or by using healthier ingredients such as whole-grains or even healthier cooking oil. Food critic Chong Yap of Make Your Calories Count recently checked out Dian Xiao Er to find out what changes have been adopted.
There is the common saying "you are what you eat" and I was particularly impressed with how Dian Xiao Er made a costly switch over to using rice bran oil, one of the healthiest and most expensive cooking oils in the market. Apart from its benefits of being rich in anti-oxidants, Vitamin E and cholesterol-inhibiting compounds, the best part for diners is that we are not paying more!
Partnering Unilever in the research and development phase, Dian Xiao Er now offers two new lunch-time set meals with a focus on low calorie and collagen rich selection, and expects to roll out a full selection of healthier set menus in July 2014.
In addition, expect new menus to be introduced in July which has calorie contribution and informative logos on healthier choices!
Famous for its signature herbal roasted duck, it is almost a sin to leave Dian Xiao Er without trying this dish! In order to qualify for the sub-500 calories meal, you can now request for the healthier version whereby lean duck breast meat would be specially portioned and served. Expect the same crisp duck skin and accompanying sauces from a choice of angelica herb (当归), ten wonders (十全) and wild ginseng (泡参).
As usual, the fish maw soup stood up to the taste test as it packed a generous amount of ingredients and what I particularly enjoyed was the mildly crunch texture from the fish maw amidst a flavourful broth.
Three featured soups
While I am not a connoisseur when it comes to double-boiled soups, I could certainly taste the difference in quality with the good ingredients used. While most at our table frowned upon the crocodile soup, it actually packed a great deal of health benefits such as improving one's respiratory system which would be perfect for those with asthmatic conditions. The other two soups were flavourful and made me reminisced about my mum's home-cooked soups!
Regular patrons of Dian Xiao Er know the restaurant to be famous for savoury dishes that go with rice. This claypot dish nailed it spot-on. Expect some bold and intense savoury flavours harmoniously complemented by an array of textures such as the crunch of the sweet peas, soft pork tendons and the gelatinous touch of the sea cucumber.
The only drawback for this dish? You will need some rice (carbohydrates) to go with it else the dish standalone might be overwhelming for some in terms of flavours.
While the dish does not sound or look incredibly impressive, it was stir-fried to perfection with the broccoli, water chestnut, sweet peas, carrots and sweet corns having the right crunch while the succulent tiger prawns and sliced abalone introduced an element of sweetness. Is this my definition of a healthy dish tasting good? A resounding yes for me.
Personally, I found that this dish could go either way for diners. If you are truly after a healthier meal, then this might appeal to your palate as the bee hoon had the right amount of wok hei but it might feel slightly dry for some. The dish however went very well for some of our dining companions at the table.
Service at Dian Xiao Er has always been one of the factors that draww us back. The staff give a personal and humane touch which gives a very homely feeling.
Customers and diners usually treat this as a given when it comes to dining out, but many restaurants for some reason fail to pick this up.
As Dian Xiao Er is one of the leading restaurants to kickstart the Health Promotion Board's Healthier Dining Programme, they are also introducing the Healthy Go Lucky Loyalty Card programme.
The programme aims to incentivise consumption of healthier choice items.
One can earn a stamp for each Healthier Choice food item ordered.
Simply collect five stamps to be eligible for a lucky draw opportunity as the contest runs from 26 June - 25 October 2014 at all participating restaurants.
Dian Xiao Er is also hosting its very own social media campaign with the objective to debunk the common notion that healthy food is compromised on taste.
All you have to do is to order any healthier choice dishes, snap a photo and upload onto Facebook or Instagram with hashtag #healthycanbetasty with an added bonus if you can name the benefit of the dish!
3 x S$20 dining vouchers are up for grabs to be won weekly with contest period 26 June to 25 July 2014!
Find out more about Health Promotion Board's latest Healthier Dining Programme here.
Do you think that healthy food taste good? It sure can and did for us.
Dian Xiao Er | 店小二 @ Serangoon NEX
23 Serangoon Central
Tel: (+65) 6634 4828
P.S: Special thanks to Dian Xiao Er for the invitation.