Over dinner, my wife and I made an observation about the food we were eating. It was heavy on vegetables and we liked it that way. It was a home cooked meal of pork chops, broccoli, and a sinigang based soup with radish and a green, leafy vegetable.
It’s really easy to get roped into the habit of eating at the hawker all the time. The food is good and it’s well priced. Depending on what country you come from, you might even say it’s dirt cheap. When you can eat a tasty, filling meal for a good price it’s hard to make yourself get into the kitchen and break out the pots and pans.
The problem with that is hawker food isn’t the healthiest choice more often than not. Hawker dishes tend to be heavy on rice, a staple food, and light on vegetables which are necessary for a balanced diet.
Here are a few example dishes:
On top of that, most hawker food will be loaded with MSG. MSG in small doses probably won’t do much harm, but if you fall into the habit of eating all of your meals at the hawker, or even eating there multiple times in one day, it can cause health issues. Here’s a list of what you experience from too much MSG:
- Panic attacks
- Mental confusion/disorientation
- Stomach cramps
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Asthma attacks
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Runny nose/sneezing
- Extreme dryness of the mouth
- Hives or rash
- Mouth lesions
Please follow through on this link for additional information about the hazards associated with MSG, along with who should avoid MSG. I’ve had an MSG induced migraine on more than one occasion and it is NOT fun.
Hawker food can also have other health consequences, like higher risks of food poisoning and even death, as reported in a recent case where 152 people fell ill and 2 died from food contamination at an Indian Rojak stall at the Geylang Serai Temporary Market.
By all means, enjoy Singapore’s food culture, which is most prevalent in the country’s numerous hawkers, but be aware of the health risks and remember to eat at home more often than you eat out. When you do the math you’re not going to pay much more, and often it’ll be less, and you’ll have more peace of mind that your body is getting what it needs.