To balance out all the festive feasting so far, I make it a point to have lighter meals whenever possible.
This generally means asking for less rice or noodles and having food such as porridge, soup and maybe some salad.
An easy meal option is herbal soup, which is both nourishing and comforting.
At Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre, Herbal Kitchen specialises in steamed herbal chicken dishes and a small selection of soups. This is not the usual herbal soup stall, where there are plenty of different types to choose from.
I go straight for the signature herbal chicken ($4.50). The aluminium-wrapped parcel is pulled out of the steamer and I get a whole chicken leg cooked in a heady broth with herbs such as Chinese lovage (chuan xiong), wolfberries and dried tangerine peel.
The chicken is so tender that it starts to fall apart when I lift it up with my spoon. The leg I get is meaty and good for a simple lunch. I like that there is plenty of soup - at some places, the meat just comes served in gravy.
If you like mei cai (preserved vegetables), there is preserved vegetables chicken ($4.50). Similarly, I get a tender chicken leg, with plenty of mei cai. I'm so used to eating mei cai stir-fried with pork belly that this soupy combination throws me off a bit. It tastes good, but I feel that the strong mei cai taste overpowers the herbal flavours. It is not bad, but this is really only for people who love mei cai.
My other favourite is the salted vegetable duck soup ($5), a perfect combination of salty and sour in a bowl. I get big pieces of mustard greens and pieces of duck on the bone. The vegetables are cooked just right - tender, but not mushy, and with a slight crunch. The duck meat is not particularly tasty, but some dark soya sauce fixes that.
What is most important is that the soups I try are all not oily.
And when you order rice (50 cents) with the soup, say yes when asked if you want some braising sauce poured over the grains. You will get some braised peanuts too.
Other options at the stall are ginseng chicken soup ($5), scallop chicken soup ($4.50), peanut pork rib soup ($3.50) and lotus pork rib soup ($3.50).
I guess this is as far as I would go in my attempt to detox and "eat clean". You won't find me on any diet in the new year, that's for sure.
The original version of this story was published in The Straits Times on December 25, 2016.
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