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How to do the keto diet, Singapore-style

If you're on the ketogenic diet, you don’t have to give up local hawker food – you just have to make the right choices.

Keto is the diet plan that everybody’s talking about, including celebrities, fitness buffs and those hoping to lose some weight.

Derived from the word “ketosis”, a process in which the body produces fat-burning ketones, a ketogenic diet is one that is very low in carbohydrates, high in fat and moderately high in protein.

If you’re following this diet, you could always prep your own meals or eat exclusively at salad bars – but who wants to give up the convenience of local hawker food, not to mention its comforting deliciousness?

Here are the stalls to hit up so that you can stick to your diet plan as closely as possible while still enjoying your favourite local flavours.


Go for no-rice portions of chicken, duck and roast pork, and add an egg or two if you can. Just steer clear of the char siew, which generally achieves its sticky sweetness through the use of maltose. That stuff is high in carbs.


Give the bread and rice a miss, but indulge in the proteins and the gravy. Curry contains coconut milk, which is high in fat, low in carbs and very keto-friendly.


Pick lots of veggies to put in your bowl – leafy green vegetables, carrots, eggplant and mushrooms are all good choices. Take note, however, that tofu, although high in protein, is made from soybean, a legume that isn’t considered very keto-friendly. 

Stay away from the fried stuff, too, like the wantons, ngoh hiang and fishcake, which tend to be highly processed as well. Needless to say, you can have your yong tau foo dry, in soup or even in tom yam or laksa soup – but without rice or noodles. And we don’t have to tell you that that sweet dipping sauce is an absolute no-no.


Pork ribs with a good layer of unctuous fat, simmered in peppery soup, will put all thoughts of deprivation out of your mind. Many stalls also serve their bak kut teh with side dishes of vegetables and lor bak, so you can really make a meal out of it, even if you’re avoiding the rice and the fried you tiao.


This makes for a light and clean meal, especially on those days when you’re craving some comfort food. Ask for extra portions of fish and veggies – and hold the rice, please.


Similar to yong tau foo, save this one for a day when only strong, spicy flavours will hit the spot. Choose loads of vegetables, meats and even innards – some of these are satisfyingly high in fat.


Yes, these delicious little pops of meat on a stick, grilled over charcoal until they crisp over, are a great choice. Just go easy on the peanut dipping sauce, which can contain high amounts of sugar. And the onions and cucumber are ok – they make for a great salad – but not the ketupat, of course.


Mixed rice without the rice isn’t an oxymoron any more, with increasing numbers of people ordering their meals without the carbs. Pick proteins that aren’t fried in batter or coated in too much sauce – sweet and sour pork, for instance, is a definite no-no. Steamed or braised eggs are a prudent and tasty choice. Choose vegetable and gourd dishes such as spinach and pumpkin, but stay away from the bean dishes – again, legumes are not friends with the keto diet. 

Source: CNA/my