We pit popular hawker dishes from the same stall in a calorie test – and the results are surprising

Too many food choices, but we only eat three times a day.
Berita Harian

We already know that hawker centres offer a plethora of food options, such that we’re often spoiled for choice when we drop by for a meal.

Maybe that’s why these places are often overcrowded at meal times, because we’ll spend minutes deliberating at one stall before moving on to the next.

We compared different options commonly available at one stall to find out which one is the healthiest in terms of the number of calories per portion.

So the next time you’re wondering which dish will “waist” more of your daily calorie allowance, take a look at some of these popular choices – the results might shock you.

Black vs white carrot cake 

Wan Bao

The name is a mystery on its own, as carrot cake (also known as chai tow kway) contains no carrot and definitely isn’t shaped like a cake. It’s actually pan-fried “radish cake cubes” with bits of preserved radish.

Available in both the black and white (sans dark sauce) versions, its divisiveness rival even the durian fruit – some are loyal to one and will never be caught eating the other.

Deciding between the two leaves one stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sometimes customers order both to play it fair.

But which is actually better for your health?

The answer is white, according to Natalie Black, an accredited exercise physiologist who blogs at The Health Guru and contributed to an article on the issue on HealthMatters, a local fitness blog here.

That’s because the white version (with 466 calories) has 100 less calories compared to the black version as well as 26g of carbs.

This means, that to burn off those two tablespoons of sweet dark soy sauce, you’ll have to add an extra 10 minutes to your jog.

Char siew “roast pork” rice vs Hainanese chicken rice v duck rice

The New Paper

It’s a big lunchtime dilemma for the typical office worker. We all know these three meaty dishes are not the most healthy but it’s just so hard to resist when the craving calls.

So which is the better choice, according to Ms Black?

It’s char siew rice apparently, because at 605 calories, it beats chicken (720 calories) and duck (706 calories) rice because it contains steamed rice and not the oily version we love.

However, she did note that char siew rice typically comes with the smallest portion compared to the other two, which is also a factor contributing to why it has fewer calories.

The healthiest meat option though, is chicken (180 calories in half a breast) compared to duck (255 calories) and char siew (380 calories *yikes*).

The remaining calories come from the rice and sauces. So next time, maybe combine the healthiest parts of both and get the chicken on steamed rice?

I’ll just pass on adding an extra portion of the crispy pork belly (160 calories per 85g serving).

Beef hor fun vs char kway teow vs hokkien mee

The Straits Times

If you’re more of a noodle-maniac than a rice-bucket, you’ve probably found yourself pacing the entire hawker centre before settling down (reluctantly) on one dish.

According to the nutritional information blogged by Ms Black in three separate blog posts, it seems beef hor fun is the least sinful dish among the three in terms of calories per gram.

Beef hor fun contained 1.42 calories/gram (490g serving, 697 calories), char kway teow had 1.92 calories/gram (385g, 742 calories), and Hokkien mee had 1.64 calories/gram (375g serving, 617 calories).

Roti John vs murtabak

The New Paper

Other than the roti prata or thosai conundrum, choosing between roti John (minced mutton, sliced onions and egg nestled between sliced baguette loaves) or murtabak (picture a prata that’s stuffed with minced meat mutton and egg), tears me apart.

Fried in ghee (clarified butter), both are notorious for clogging up your arteries if you eat them frequently enough, but it’s not uncommon to see patrons order both.

If you’re one of them, pick the murtabak next time, your body will thank you.

According to the stats by HealthXchange, a member of SingHealth, a portion (of around 211g) of mutton murtabak contains 373 kcal, slightly more than half of roti John (250g serving) with 721 kcal.

Mee pok (dry) vs laksa lemak

The New Paper

This may seem like a no-brainer because of how laksa lemak has been vilified in the media but you might want to reconsider the sentiment that minced-meat noodles (mee pok dry) might be healthier.

According to data from HealthXchange, mee pok (511 kcal) doesn’t contain that much fewer calories compared to laksa (591 kcal).

In fact, the difference between them is only 80 calories, but mee pok still trumps laksa in terms of being “less unhealthy” with half the amount of saturated fat (9.2g) compared to 17.8g in the coconut-based dish.