Updated: Nov 21
When Dan Buettner nominated Singapore as a Blue Zone version 2 some people were a little sceptical, especially when it comes to diet and eating practices. However, despite easy accessibility to unhealthy modern fast food and old school street food options, there are local traditions of healthy eating to be enjoyed. The dish we nominate as our (first) Singaporean Blue Zone dish is the local equivalent of the Sardinian minestrone soups: yong tau foo soup from the Hakka people of South Eastern China.
Yong tau foo is a popular dish and widely available in eateries around the island. Using a stock made from tiny ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and soy beans, the dish is brimful of vegetables, tofu, a little pork and 'stuffed' ingredients. The ingredients are often served with a sweet or spicy dipping sauce.
The dish can be as simple or as complicated as one wants it to be. Ingredients can be prepared in the kitchen, or bought in. Often vegetables are stuffed with meats, to create tiny flavoursome treasures. These can be bought in market or made at home, but they do not have to be used if you are simply looking for a quick and healthy dinner. Yong tau foo ticks many nutritional boxes. The high fibre content from the mix of vegetables. Protein from soy beans, tofu, pork, even seafood. Accompanying sauces to add flavour.
For inspiration this is a full-on version of the soup, more complicated than we would make on a regular evening...
A simpler version of the dish is here...
After a busy day we make a simple version of yong tau foo. Preparing the stock with beans (we always add extra), ikan bilis, a stock cube and a thumb of ginger. Once the stock has simmered and the flavours combined we add vegetables and some tofu. Perhaps a scattering of ground pork, fish slices, even a few dumplings. This is not fussy food but it is tasty and nutritious.
Enjoying healthy, tasty and culturally appropriate dishes is essential for older populations whose taste buds might be more attuned to local traditional eating practices. It is also a great way to encourage the younger generation to enjoy foods that are healthy and provide connection to tradition, community and taste!
A nutritionally dense diet and maintaining a healthy weight are cornerstones of physical health. Our coaching based programmes support sustainable weight loss and long-term health. To maximise long-term health outcomes cardiovascular exercise and strength training are vital, as is quality sleep. Finally, let's not neglect our social health, a positive work-life balance and having a good circle of friends that can support you.
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Liao, Y. and He, S.D. (2018) The Hakka Yong Tau Foo: A Typical Symbol and Identity of Hakka Food Cultural Value in Food-anthropological Perspective. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 6, 1-13. https://doi.org/10.4236/jss.2018.62001
Buettner D, Skemp S. Blue Zones: Lessons From the World's Longest Lived. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 7;10(5):318-321. doi: 10.1177/1559827616637066. PMID: 30202288; PMCID: PMC6125071.