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!
>> My Blog post on why and how I accidentally started The Bento People
My restaurant >> http://thebentopeople.com
'Don't do it, you would starve'
These were the words of a very good doctor friend of mine, said to me many months back when I told him that I was going to dedicate myself fully to the practice of Lifestyle Medicine. These are words that I remember always, and very vividly too, because up till today, I have yet to prove him wrong.
My personal journey as a 'preacher', practitioner & promoter of Lifestyle as Medicine came about accidentally. What started off as an accidental journey of a doctor turned incidental chef & restaurateur has brought me to where I am today - a passionate practitioner and advocate of Lifestyle as Medicine. Everything I do today is about waking people up and helping them to begin to take steps to harness the power of lifestyle as medicine to prevent and heal - whether it is the patients I see in my clinic, the students I teach in the classes, seminars and programmes in my Engines of Health School or the audience who attend my talks or the participants of the various lifestyle medicine programmes that I conduct in companies, organisations and churches.
What is Lifestyle Medicine?
Many, if not most of the chronic diseases, that are taking away years from the lives or the life from the years of people today, have roots in their lifestyle. What and how one eat, exercise, rest and manage the stresses of life have as great, if not greater influence than one's genes and environment on whether one develop diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, cancer and other 'common' chronic diseases.
One would assume that commonsense would tell us that if lifestyle is a major contributor to these chronic diseases, then lifestyle modifications should be a major part of the prevention, management and even treatment of these chronic and severe diseases. But we all know that the reality is that most people diagnosed with these diseases would still not make significant enough effort to change the very lifestyle habits that caused the diseases in the first place.
Lifestyle Medicine is not a philosophy, it is the scientific evidence-based use of lifestyle as Medicine, the specific prescription of lifestyle modifications customised to the individual to prevent and improve specific chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, frailty based on what latest medical studies say.
Lifestyle Medicine is about not just knowing, but actually putting into practice, what medical science has all along been saying and is increasingly saying emphatically what it is continuing to learn about the power of lifestyle in preventing and improving many chronic and severe diseases.
'Preaching' & practising & prescribing Lifestyle as Medicine - my journey so far.
So what and how have I been 'preaching' & practising & prescribing Lifestyle as Medicine? Firstly I run regular clinic sessions where I practise and prescribe lifestyle as medicine, not in exclusion of but in adjunct to the use of medicine if it is necessary, Secondly, I started and run a Lifestyle Medicine School called Engines of Health here I conduct classes to teach participants the medical science behind many of the diseases that are significantly caused by lifestyle such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Thirdly I 'preach' and speak about the power of lifestyle as Medicine at every platform I get invited to, whether it is at medical conferences, company events or church meetings. Fourthly, I run structured programmes on Lifestyle as Medicine for companies and churches for their employees or members. Lastly, I even practise Lifestyle as Medicine as best as I could in the restaurant that I started and still continue to run, by introducing to people who would otherwise be unfamiliar with many healthier ingredients such as wholegrains (e.g. quinoa) by putting into the menu new but yet familiar hearty dishes I created intentionally using healthier but unfamiliar ingredients.
It has been and can be very discouraging.
Many of my friends, including the very good doctor friend who told me ''Don't do it, you would starve' , have been trying to convince me to face the 'harsh reality' that most people do not want to change their lifestyle, regardless of the number of or severity of the chronic conditions that they have that are brought about by their lifestyle, that they would rather pay a lot of money to 'solve' or 'deal' with the problem in a way that does not require any significant change in their lifestyle,
My well-meaning friends are right, majority of people would only want treatment in the form of medications, and would rather not hear or even contemplate making any lifestyle modifications that would require them to perhaps stop eating what they love, start doing what they don't love - exercise or improve what they have not been able to do such as taking steps to managing stress. or improve their sleep.
However passionate I am, however determined I am, I am still human at the end of the day. I do get discouraged like everyone else. My journey so far, in telling, teaching and coaching people (patients, coachees, participants, public) to know and harness the power of lifestyle to prevent and manage chronic diseases, to maintain and regain wellness, has been a long, lonely and largely a discouraging one.
There had been moments of encouragement, such as when I see my patients or participants of the programmes I run, make big improvements in their disease conditions after making significant lifestyle modifications - whether in their diet, exercise, rest or stress management.
But there were just as many, if not more moments of discouragement when the very endeavour to bring this very important message to people who need it most is met with not just indifference but sometimes even great resistance.
And when I turn to my fellow doctor friends in times of discouragement, quite a few will tell me ,'This is the reality of the society we live in, don't be a hero, just give people what they want, not what they need, otherwise be prepared to be discouraged or even starve.'
I am stubborn and I will press on.
Getting people to wake up to the power of lifestyle with regards to health, teaching and helping people to harness the power of lifestyle modification to improve their health is what I have been called to do, so I shall press on.
Perhaps writing this post is meant to be cathartic for me, it has afforded me an outlet for my frustrations and disappointment. Now that I have done that, I shall take a deep breath, be still and refocus. For I know if I focus correctly, I will never starve but instead I shall continue to run and run and not grow weary, I shall soar on wings like eagles. I shall refocus and press on.
Someone called me The Food Doctor recently and got me wondering if that accurately described what I do and who I am. Because a 'Heart Doctor' treats the heart, a 'Eye Doctor' treats the eyes or even a 'Tree Doctor' treats the trees but I don't treat 'Food', rather I treat my patients through 'Food', I run classes to teach people about Food, the power of food, not just to heal but also to destroy, about the power of Food to cause or reverse diseases, I even run and cook in a restaurant that encourages people to try healthier options and learn more about the power of food.
I do not think that makes me a 'Food Doctor', because I do not treat 'Food' but rather I treat patients through 'Food', so maybe calling me a 'Food Obsessed Doctor' would be more accurate. My conclusion was that it did not matter and I do not really care what names people give me, all I want to do is to wake people up to the power of food to heal but also more critically the power of food to destroy our bodies.
A few weeks ago I received an invitation from Good Gifts City Church, they wanted me to give a talk about food & health to their church members. I was delighted, it had always bothered me why Christians do not guard as zealously what they put into their bodies as they would guard what they allow into their spirit or soul and I saw this talk as a precious & privileged platform for me to wake my fellow Christians up to the power of food to destroy and also to challenge them to honour God by guarding against food that will destroy our God given bodies.
The talk was well attended and went well although as expected, I overran the time that I was allocated and by the time I finished speaking, It was almost 10pm. Despite the late hour, quite a number of people gathered around me after the talk to ask questions or speak with me. Amongst this group of people 'bombarding' me with questions I noticed a gentleman who seemed to want to tell me something but was waiting patiently for others to finish. He finally found a 'window' to speak and what he said to me struck me deeply, Below is what he said to me, Not 100% word for word verbatim but based on my best effort in recalling, this was the essence of what he said to me,
"I've been a diabetic for more than 10 years and recently I was also diagnosed to have coronary heart disease. After hearing what you shared tonight about the power of food and its serious impact on our bodies, how I wished someone told me all these 10 years ago when I was first diagnosed with diabetes with the conviction that you did tonight but now it might be a little too late for me. But nonetheless, I want to encourage you, you really must continue to do what you are doing because more people need to hear this. God bless you ."
When I heard what he said, I was so touched that I almost teared and all I found myself saying to him was just a sincere "Thank you" from my heart and as I extended my hand to give him a firm handshake, he gave me a hug.
It is encounters like these that give me the encouragement to press on with what I do despite all the challenges. It is for people like this man that I became the 'Food Obsessed Doctor' that I am today.
Talking about 'Food Obsessed Doctor' most Singaporeans would more likely think of the other 'Food Obsessed Doctor' in Singapore, my doctor friend Dr Leslie Tay of the 'ieatishootipost' fame who 'Gai Siow' or share 'lobangs' about where to find good eats in Singapore instead of this 'Food Obsessed Doctor', me Dr Chan Tat Hon who tells them what not to eat! At the end of the talk that evening, I jokingly shared with my audience at Good Gifts City Church that I have an ambition, I want to reach as many Singaporeans with my 'Power of Food - to heal or destroy' message as Leslie Tay can reach with his 'where to find good eats' message, starting with aiming to have as many facebook followers as he has on his 'ieatishootipost' facebook, so if they think more Singaporeans should hear my message, they can, on top of praying for me, for God to open doors to more opportunities & platforms for me to reach as many Singaporeans as possible, telling and waking them up to the power of food to heal and destroy our bodies, they can also like and share my 'WhatsCookingDoc' facebook page which at last count, at 1309 Likes has ONLY 239715 more likes to go to catch up to Leslie's 'Ieatishootipost' facebook page..
Whilst I know that most people prefer to know where to find good eats & good food deals than to hear advice about having to give up some of the local food that they have grown to love for the sake of the health and wellness of themselves and their loved ones. I am however always crazy enough to aim for the seemingly impossible,
So if you think more Singaporeans should hear my 'Power of Food - to heal or destroy' message, you can also help LIKE and SHARE my WhatsCookingDoc facebook page. I only got 239715 more likes to my target of catching up with the other 'food obsessed doctor', my friend ieatishootipost's Leslie Tay!
A recent conversation with a doctor friend made me realised that I have unknowingly made a transition from being an 'accidental chef' to an 'incidental chef', or putting it another way, from being a doctor-trained chef to being a 'chef-trained' doctor. Or to be more precise, from a doctor turned civil servant turned consultant turned entrepreneur turned CEO turned doctor-trained chef turned CEO-trained & Chef-trained doctor., although the reality is really that I am just an ordinary untrained home cook thrusted into the role of a chef, but people seem to like to label me as the doctor turned accidental chef.
he story of the many adventures in my colourful and eventful career is best told through the blog post I wrote about how the successes I found in the many adventures in my career would not have been possible without my wife >>> 'Behind every successful man is a long-suffering wife'
For those of you who do not know me and have not read my other stories. Here are some related blog posts that would fill you in :
>> Doctor turned Accidental Chef - How it all began.
>> The birth of The Bento People
>> How & Why I became a Food & Health Coach
>> Why & How advocating healthy eating became my purpose, mission and passion
The Incidental Chef or The 'Chef-trained' Doctor.
The past couple of years, up till recently, I had been working full-time as a chef and that my training as a doctor had been useful whenever I needed to create new healthier dishes for the restaurant, so it was appropriate then to call me the accidental chef or the 'doctor-trained' chef .
But I now no longer work as a chef full-time. Now, on top of still being fully involved in and responsible for maintaining and creating the menu for the restaurant, I spend the rest of my time as a doctor and my focus is to encourage, educate, enable people change their lives, maintain their wellness & regain their health through lifestyle & dietary modifications. Although I did not have the chance to go to culinary school or have any proper training as a chef, I have had to learn on my own and learn on the job when I was accidentally thrusted into the role as a chef a couple of years ago and this experience I had as a full-time chef has now come in very useful in my work with my patients on lifestyle and diet modification plans. I find I am better able to appreciate the need & challenge to winning over patients' ingrained palates as much as the need to winning over their minds and hearts when getting them to make the necessary changes to their dietary habits to regain their health. My experience working in the kitchen and in creating dishes and recipes is now also put to use whenever I need to help give practical advice to my patients on how to change their eating habits.
These last few years working in the food business has not only amplified my awareness and knowledge of the power of food to destroy or heal our bodies but also seeded in me a passion and a mission to tell & teach more people about that and also to help them maintain their wellness or regain their health through food. Realising that I can do that a lot more, and a lot more effectively as a doctor than as a chef led me to cutting down the time I now spend working as a chef so as to be able to spend more time as a doctor, whether it is as a doctor teaching at the :Lifestyle Medicine training and consultancy company (see >>> Engines of Health website) or as a doctor working in my clinic ( see >> my clinic website )
A doctor friend recently quipped that I am no longer the accidental chef that I have been the past few years but should be more accurately renamed the incidental chef or the 'chef-trained' doctor instead and I realised she was right. My work as a chef is now incidental to my work as a doctor, food & health coach and teacher, I now mainly cook and create new dishes with specific goals of wanting to help convince and convert my customers, coachees and even patients to switch to specific healthier ingredients in their diet.
When I first became a full-time chef, I was constantly grumbling to God, asking God why with all my years of training and experience as a doctor and corporate leader that I had to waste all that to work as a full-time chef, constantly wondering if I was making a huge mistake. But now, my experience as a full-time chef has allowed and led me to become a better doctor, coach and teacher to help people improve their lifestyle & diet to better prevent or manage their chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and other conditions where food has a clear significant role. things I would never had imagined doing or to be able to do before. So regardless of whether people see or call me a doctor, chef, teacher, doctor turned chef or chef-trained doctor, it does not really matter to me. What matters to me more is that this journey has reinforced my faith that regardless of what new unexpected twists or adventures that life throws up, no journeys ever wasted. God's ways are higher than our ways, indeed.
- Waking people up to
The Power of Lifestyle to Heal & Destroy, helping them to maintain wellness & regain lost health through informed lifestyle & food choices
>> My Medical Practice where Lifestyle & Dietary modifications is the first go to medicine
>> My 'School' - Engines of Health - where I run workshops and programmes
>> My Advocacy - The TV & print media where I have the priviledge to advocate the power of Lifestyle as Medicine
Why & What I Blog about
Blog's Top Posts
Lifestyle as Medicine - my journey, my passion, my pain
How & Why I became a Lifestyle Medicine Doctor, Trainer and Advocate
Doctor turned Accidental Chef turned Incidental Chef
Reflections of 'The Food Doctor'
How I lost weight 'accidentally'
Doctor turned Accidental Chef - How it all began
The birth of The Bento People
I made this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' because I was 'angry' with how the love for noodles was affecting one of my patients.
No wasted Journeys -
Why I Blog
Buay Chye, God & I. The day God sent me a cook.
Behind every adventurous man is a long-suffering wife
How I accidentally left a legacy as a 9 year old boy
The day blogger Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost) came to visit
The accidental marathoner
- how I accidentally ran the marathon when I was 12
They call me a Maverick.
I say I am an Explorer.
Why & How 'Advocating Healthy Eating' became my purpose, mission & passion.
Sharing about the power of food on Diabetes Lifestyle magazine