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THEY LOOK LIKE GRAPES, but much tinier. They also look like caviar but are a bright shade of jade. No wonder that Caulerpa Lentillifera are better known as sea grapes or green caviar.
Neither fruit nor fish roe, green caviar is a type of seaweed that is indigenous to Okinawa, and is part of the local staple diet, credited for the long and healthy lives of the Japanese island's residents. It's served at practically every meal, and also in pubs and restaurants across the rest of Japan.
In Singapore, green caviar is available from gourmet ingredient retailer, Meal Belly. Its founder, Dirisa Tan, first tasted them a few years ago when her father brought back some from Vietnam, where farmers cultivated a farming model to harvest green caviar.
Ms Tan decided to bring in green caviar, and it is now the company's best seller, with fans not only in Singapore, but also from Australia, Europe and the United States.
Green caviar has only four calories per 100g and contains omega 3, calcium, potassium, vitamin C and A. Also rich in iodine, it is believed to help prevent thyroid goiters.
Green caviar's other benefits include protecting the eyes and the heart, thanks to its unsaturated fatty acids. Green caviar is also rich in calcium, potassium and vitamin C, which can regulate blood pressure, and its high omega-3 fatty acid content helps to decrease insulin resistance. The tiny green globules are also said to be a source of collagen and antioxidants, which help to fight the negative effects of ageing.
Since it is a type of seaweed, green caviar also contains Fucoidan, a natural compound with anti-cancer properties. Several studies found Fucoidan to have significant anti-tumour and immune system-boosting effects, which is why seaweed such as kelp, kombu and wakame are on the superfoods list.
"I substitute snacks with sea grapes because it's healthier," says Ms Tan.
The green caviar is salty and crunchy and can be eaten on its own as a snack, after a quick rinse and soak in cold water. Alternatively, green caviar can be added to salads, or served with cheese. It can't beat the fresh variety you see in abundance in Okinawa's markets, but if you're serious about adding more superfoods into your diet, this is the next best thing.
From S$3.60 for a 20g pack from MealBelly, mealbelly.com.
If you recoil in horror at the V word - vegan - the newly opened HRVST may change your mind. There are no boring salads, nor dishes that leave you feeling unsatisfied and still hungry. Instead, the menu comes with dishes such as king oyster "scallops", seaweed tofu croquette, purple cabbage steak and pumpkin taco shell filled with chickpeas and lentil.
The menu is 100 per cent vegan, meaning no eggs, milk and animal products are used.
The kitchen is helmed by partner head chefs, Addis Tan and Dylan Choong, who have between them close to 20 years of experience of working in many kitchens, most recently in Tippling Club, Esquina, and Cheek by Jowl. It helps that Mr Choong is himself a vegan, too.
The restaurant is located inside Kilter Avenue, a fitness lifestyle space, that has a studio gym, and a bar, with a focus on fitness and clean eating.
The chefs decided to go the vegan restaurant route to challenge the notion that meat dishes are superior to vegetarian ones. Also, they wanted to show that vegan dishes can be just as tasty, and look good enough for Instagram. Take the pumpkin gnocchi, which comes in an orange broth topped with carefully arranged bright green cucumber ribbons, for example.
Superfoods are on the menu, but they don't dominate.
For example, sourdough, with nut spread and grilled tofu, has broccoli and cauliflower that are blanched in kelp stock. Kelp is one of the best natural food sources of iodine, an essential component in thyroid hormone production. The homemade nut spread is made solely from hazelnut, almond, and walnut, of which the last is considered a superfood, as it has a high level of antioxidants.
For the king oyster "scallop", spirulina is added to the spinach puree to make a sauce for the mushrooms. Spirulina is a natural algae that is high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients.
If you are still unconvinced by how tasty vegan dishes can be, consider the dairy-free desserts here. Try the clove ice cream that is paired with a caramelised pineapple ring. The ice cream has a slight spicy taste from the clove, and is made with coconut milk instead of cow's milk. If you love matcha ice cream, the version here is milky, again from coconut milk and goes well with the poached plums.
Co-founder Karen Heng says, "Much like Kilter Avenue, HRVST's philosophy is to make the alternative commonplace, to change perceptions, to provoke thought and deliver impact."
6A Shenton Way, OUE Downtown Gallery, #05-01
Diners who enjoy feeling virtuous after a meal at Glow Juice Bar & Cafe will be glad to know that their healthy food joint has reopened as Verde Kitchen, with a new industrial-chic aesthetic to boot.
The restaurant serves simple, tasty cuisine aligned to its mantra of "real food, full of natural flavours" and features a variety of great-tasting healthy dishes, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and raw food options.
Get your superfood fix in this menu which features the likes of wakame, kale, pomegranate, avocado and turmeric. For example, a healthy version of yusheng can be found in the salmon sashimi and pomelo salad with yuzu soy dressing, which has wakame added to it.
Those who find it hard to stomach kale will like the low-fat creamy broccoli and kale soup which comes with a poached egg and cheese toast. Although the soup is a dark green shade, it doesn't taste of raw vegetables.
With turmeric hailed as the new superfood, diners can opt for the Malay-style organic lacto chicken, cooked in a spicy turmeric curry and served with brown rice.
Satisfying low-sugar or no-sugar-added desserts include chia seed and caramelised hazelnut pudding; flourless chocolate cake; and even a less-guilty homemade gula melaka ice cream, that is made with coconut cream instead of regular milk.
While the menu offers a variety of fresh juices, there are also options such as the probiotic smoothies which come with kefir to aid digestion. Other superfoods that are added to smoothies include spirulina, cacao nibs and agave.
Verde Kitchen also prides itself on supporting the local Singapore food economy. Half the menu uses locally- and sustainably-sourced ingredients from organic vegetable farms, floating fish farms and free-range lacto poultry farms in Singapore and Johor.
Some of the leafy vegetables such as lettuce and arugula are harvested from a vertical garden in the hotel.
Level 2, Hilton Singapore