Last year, Mr Chetan Kapoor introduced lower-sugar laddoos, or sphere-shaped sweets, at his restaurant as a healthier option for his customers celebrating Deepavali.
This year, the 50-year-old owner of Yantra by Hemant Oberoi has gone even healthier – by baking instead of frying the laddoos.
The restaurant at Tanglin Mall has also come up with a new besan laddoo made using organic chickpea flour and organic brown sugar.
Based on feedback from more health-conscious customers, the restaurant has made changes to the preparation and selection of ingredients for several dishes in its Deepavali buffet.
For example, the chefs are using dairy-free, coconut-based yogurt in the marinade for the Badami Chicken Tikka.
More Indian restaurants like Yantra are offering healthier options for Deepavali, which falls on Nov 6, to cater to more health-conscious customers.
Mr Kapoor says it was his wife who suggested that the restaurant offer healthier options for Deepavali sweets last year.
Concerned that their two daughters, aged seven and 14, were consuming too much sugar during Deepavali celebrations, she had learnt to make her own mithai at home two years ago, using less sugar and selecting better ingredients. Mithai are Indian sweets that are traditionally eaten during Deepavali.
Last year, she gave her recipes to the chefs at Yantra, who developed them and came up with a new selection of mithai.
Over at Shahi Maharani at Raffles City Shopping Centre, co-owner and director Chitra Mirpuri, 42, says the restaurant has kept the sugar content of its sweets lower since it began making its Deepavali sweets in-house in 2003.
The restaurant’s selection of traditional sweets are mostly nut-based as nuts have nutritional value in terms of proteins, fats and antioxidants.
There is also a new sweet this year – the Almond Blueberry Roll, which derives most of its sweetness from the blueberries and took the chef a month to develop.
“Although blueberries are not common in India, we have chosen this as it pairs so well with almonds. And we can lower the sugar content in the almond roll and rely more on the natural sweetness of the blueberries,” says Ms Mirpuri.
Superfoods is the theme for the mithai at Rang Mahal, as well as seasonal specials inspired by Ayurveda, an ancient system of medicine with origins in India.
The restaurant began planning its Deepavali menu and mithai selection nine months ago.
Mrs Ritu Jhunjhnuwala, 54, managing director of Rang Mahal says that mithai, which are traditionally made using rich ingredients such as sugar, butter and ghee, are definitely not shy on calories.
To cater to more health-conscious diners, Rang Mahal created a mithai collection featuring ingredients such as oats, goji berry, sunflower seeds, blueberries and pistachio nuts.
Guests can also enjoy a festive meal with healthier and less greasy options at Rang Mahal, which has three a la carte dishes inspired by ingredients used in Ayurveda.
These ingredients include shatavari (asparagus racemosus), believed to be beneficial to the immune system and is incorporated in a dressing for a lotus root and avocado kebab.
Also using superfoods is The Song of India in Scotts Road.
Its director of cuisine, Mr Manjunath Mural, 45, says the restaurant has always advocated healthier sweets and has cut the use of sugar in them by 30 per cent by using naturally sweet figs and dates.
The restaurant’s mithai, which are made in-house, feature ingredients such as blueberries, butterfly pea flower and saffron.
Mr Mural says: “People have always had this perception that Indian sweets are sweeter and heavier, so I think restaurants these days have been trying hard to change that perception.
“However, as chefs, the challenge is always coming up with dishes that are healthier but still delicious.”
Banking professional Sudeesh Narayan, 37, is a regular at Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands, which has made its mithai with more dried fruit, nuts and less sugar.
He has noticed more restaurants offering Deepavali sweets with lower sugar content and more interesting ingredients in the last three years.
He welcomes restaurants putting a healthier spin on Deepavali sweets and dishes.
“When the sweets are less sugary, they don’t taste as cloying and you can enjoy a few more,” he says.
“Consumers will appreciate a variety of healthier options which do not compromise on taste and flavour.”
WHERE TO GO
This article was originally published in The Straits Times.
Photos: Song of India, Yantra by Hemant Oberoi, Zaffron Kitchen, Shahi Maharani, The Fullerton Hotel, Rang Mahal & Punjab Grill