I made this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' because I was angry seeing how the love for noodles was affecting the health of one of my diabetic patients.
What is your favourite noodles dish? Is it Bak Chor Mee, Lor Mee or Wanton Mee?
Just wanted to share this 'story' of how I was inspired and driven to make this low GI (Glycemic Index) whole food alternative to noodles, this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' dish. I have always been using my restaurant The Bento People as my developmental kitchen, 'dispensary' & 'living classroom' to develop and offer alternatives for my patients and customers, such as this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' that I made and added to the menu of my restaurant only a couple of weeks ago.
The impetus to look for, create and offer this lower GI alternative came from what I saw happening with one of my patients who came to see me in my clinic recently. Despite the medications and insulin that he was on, he had very poor blood glucose control because he could not control his diet and as a result was already blind in one eye and had deteriorating kidney function. And as I went through his daily diet in detail, I found that he was having a very high intake of high GI, highly processed carbohydrates such as his favourite Bak Chor Mee which he must have for breakfast everyday.
He had a blood glucose monitoring device that allowed him to monitor his blood glucose closely and therefore he knew the impact that highly processed carbohydrates, such as the noodles in his favourite Bak Chor Mee, would have on his blood glucose each time he ate it. And yet despite that, he was still not able to moderate his intake.
I left the clinic that day feeling a mixture of frustration, sadness and anger. Like most Singaporeans, I have always been a foodie, and I love food. But what I saw that morning was a person who, for his love of our local food, struggled to make the necessary changes in his dietary habits, even though his health was clearly deteriorating as a result.
That afternoon when I was working in the kitchen of my restaurant, I kept thinking about him and whether I could create and entice him with lower GI alternatives to the noodles he loved so much. That afternoon, I ended up getting hold of some daikon and spiralising them to vermicelli-like strands and cooked them in a tom yum soup, I then got my wife as a guinea pig to try the tom yum daikon-'noodles' dish I created, she loved it and that was that, I immediately added the dish to the menu of my restaurant the very next day to test the response of my customers. It turned out to be a polarising dish, some customers loved it, some a lot less and there were some who disliked it and quite a few were incredulous that I even dared suggesting this as an alternative to the noodles or vermicelli that they so loved. Subsequently I even managed to get that very patient who inspired me to create and offer this dish in my restaurant to come by to try it, he seemed to like it, but whether he really liked it or he was just being polite, I would never know!
These Daikon-'noodles' dishes have since become a permanent offering on the menu of my restaurant and have become increasingly popular amongst some of my customers, I have no delusion that these lower GI whole food alternatives that I created would ever displace our common love for noodles and other popular staples made from processed carbohydrates, all I wanted and hoped to do is to introduce to people some different-but-just-as-yummy whole food alternatives to noodles, especially for those who needed to moderate their intake of processed carbohydrates products because of their changed health circumstances.
I am not saying anything about whether noodles are unhealthy and neither am I suggesting that everyone must give up or reduce their intake of their favourite hawker noodles dishes. all I am saying is that we all could do with a more 'flexible' palate, one that would enable us to still be able to enjoy what we eat even when we have to change our dietary habits, if not by choice but when necessitated by the changed circumstances of our health.
I didn't write this blog post to tell people about this Tom Yum Daikon-noodles dish I created for The Bento People , it is a simple dish, which anyone can do. spiralising vegetables is nothing new and I did not invent anything or create anything new. I wrote this blog post hoping to awaken more people to the impact of our dietary habits on our health and to encourage people to be more open to trying different kinds of foods made from new but healthier ingredients.
It is one thing to enjoy our favourite hawker foods, especially those high in processed carbohydrates, occasionally and on special occasions but to have them as our daily staple and not being able to reduce the intake of them even when our changed health conditions demand that we do so is another thing altogether.
It is OK to love food, I do too but we shouId love life more, and that does not mean that we cannot enjoy our food at the same time, we just need to move away from a 'Love Food, Enjoy Life' mindset to one that 'Love Life, Enjoy Food' instead.
Many friends have been telling me I am crazy, that as a F&B business owner, my focus should only be on making it profitable and therefore should only focus on giving customers what they want instead of trying so hard to educate and encourage customers on unfamiliar foods that might be better for their health, that if they like highly processed carbohydrate foods such as noodles, just give it to them, if customers prefer white rice, just give it to them, if customers prefer more meats than vegetables, just give it to them, it is their preference and their choice. My friends would keep reminding me that my job as a F&B owner is to make customers happy, it is not my job to make them healthy! But I always tell these well-meaning friends, that other than being a F&B business owner, I am also a medical doctor and so I just cannot help myself in wanting to use this blessing and unique opportunity of being both a doctor and owner-chef of a restaurant as a platform to try to encourage customers to be more conscious of the impact of what they eat on their health, to offer opportunities to try foods made from ingredients that might be better for their health than what they have been used to.
I remember, that 3 years ago, when I first started offering a variety of quinoa options on the menu of The Bento People, the response initially was also very poor, we were located in a semi-industrial building and the customers there were not familiar with quinoa but today at least 40% of my customers would choose one of the many quinoa items on the menu to make their own bento. So I am going to persist, even though customers may not be so familiar with and some may not like these low Glycemic index whole food alternatives to flour-made noodles such as Zoodles (spiralised zucchini) and Daikon-'noodles' (spiralised daikon) that I am offering on our menu. I know it will not be easy as most people would still prefer the high GI, processed flour made noodles and pasta that they have been used to and grown to love, but just like when I started offering a wide range of quinoa dishes on the menu 3 years ago, I shall persist in offering these low GI Zoodles and Daikon-'noodles' on my menu even though I know it will be tough and demand might not be high, but this is what I want to do, that is to offer foods made from healthier alternatives for customers to try even though they may not be familiar with them, so my wish me luck!
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I made this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' because I was 'angry' with how the love for noodles was affecting one of my patients.
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