Singapore

Tung Lok using healthier sugar substitute in dishes

When Tung Lok founder Andrew Tjioe decided to reduce the sugar content in some of the restaurant group's dishes, his biggest concern was taste.

He and his team had taste tests to compare the healthier products against the originals.

These included Chinese New Year favourites such as nian gao (sticky rice cake) and yusheng, as well as classics such as mango pudding and glazed pork ribs.

"For the nian gao alone, we tasted it at least eight or 10 times," said Mr Tjioe, who is chief executive of Tung Lok Restaurants, which runs 20 food outlets in Singapore.

"The taste has to be the same as the original. You have to compare them until you yourself cannot tell the difference."

The re-imagined dishes incorporate allulose - a sugar substitute that can be found in jackfruit and figs. Unlike regular cane sugar, which has four calories a gram, allulose has only 0.4 calorie a gram.

It is also significantly more expensive. While regular table sugar goes for $1 a kg, the same amount of allulose sells for $6 to $9 a kg.

Mr Tjioe said prices of dishes using this ingredient have not risen compared with last year.

"Sugar is just one component," he said.

Tung Lok is the first to come on board a Health Promotion Board drive that aims to encourage companies to replace some sugar with healthier alternatives as part of the war against diabetes.

The reformulated dishes are now being sold at selected outlets, while festive favourites such as nian gao and yusheng are available everywhere.

- LINETTE LAI

MEDICAL & HEALTH