Eating At Home Vs Eating At A Hawker

Over dinner, my wife and I made an observation about the food we were eating.  It was heavy on vegetables and we liked it that way.  It was a home cooked meal of pork chops, broccoli, and a sinigang based soup with radish and a green, leafy vegetable.

It’s really easy to get roped into the habit of eating at the hawker all the time.  The food is good and it’s well priced.  Depending on what country you come from, you might even say it’s dirt cheap.  When you can eat a tasty, filling meal for a good price it’s hard to make yourself get into the kitchen and break out the pots and pans.

The problem with that is hawker food isn’t the healthiest choice more often than not.  Hawker dishes tend to be heavy on rice, a staple food, and light on vegetables which are necessary for a balanced diet.

Here are a few example dishes:

On top of that, most hawker food will be loaded with MSG.  MSG in small doses probably won’t do much harm, but if you fall into the habit of eating all of your meals at the hawker, or even eating there multiple times in one day, it can cause health issues.  Here’s a list of what you experience from too much MSG:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Lethargy
  • Sleepiness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mental confusion/disorientation
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bloating
  • Asthma attacks
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Runny nose/sneezing
  • Extreme dryness of the mouth
  • Hives or rash
  • Palpitations
  • Flushing
  • Mouth lesions

Please follow through on this link for additional information about the hazards associated with MSG, along with who should avoid MSG.  I’ve had an MSG induced migraine on more than one occasion and it is NOT fun.

Hawker food can also have other health consequences, like higher risks of food poisoning and even death, as reported in a recent case where 152 people fell ill and 2 died from food contamination at an Indian Rojak stall at the Geylang Serai Temporary Market.

By all means, enjoy Singapore’s food culture, which is most prevalent in the country’s numerous hawkers, but be aware of the health risks and remember to eat at home more often than you eat out.  When you do the math you’re not going to pay much more, and often it’ll be less, and you’ll have more peace of mind that your body is getting what it needs.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 5: Hotel Chinatown 2 Review

Hotel Chinatown 2 is located on Jalan Petaling in the Chinatown area of Kuala Lumpur.  It’s a little tricky to find it, because there is also a Chinatown Hotel Inn or something like that a few doors down.  Also, the only visible sign is the one high up on the building, that you can see in the above picture.  There is a sign at the street level entrance, but that entrance is hidden from the main walkway by street vendors.

This hotel is a great find, if you go into it with the right mentality.  If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  This place is all about price and location.  For two nights in the hotel (check-in Monday afternoon and check-out on Wednesday morning) we paid a total of about 188 ringgit.  That’s a good deal!  As for the location, the door to the hotel opens onto Jalan Petaling, which is a touristy type area in Chinatown with lots of shops where you can browse for souvenirs.  Also, it’s two blocks from the Pasar Seni train station, which we put to good use.

As for the hotel itself, the lobby area is very comfortable.  It has a few cozy couches, a TV, a book rack with a guitar on top, and a few computers for public use at 1 ringgit per 10 minutes.  There’s free wi-fi, which worked for me on my Nokia E51 in the lobby, but I couldn’t connect properly up in the actual room.  I kept getting a “no reply from gateway” error.  I don’t know what that was all about, but it didn’t really bother us too much, so I didn’t ask about it.  We just used the paid computers for a little while in the evening to keep up with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The room we booked was the “standard” room, which came with a double bed.  It was a bit cramped, honestly, and that feeling was compounded by the fact that there was no window.  At first that bothered me a bit, but then I realized that it probably had no window because it was on the back or side of the building.  That’s a good thing, because it meant we wouldn’t hear as much of the racket from the street below.  The paint was worn and scuffed, the floor was a bit dirty, and there were no toiletries provided.  The TV in the room only picked up 5 or 6 channels.  Only one of those channels was in English and it seemed to rotate between different stations.  What I mean is, if you left it on that channel, which was 12 I think, it might be National Geographic at 8pm, Animal Planet at 9pm, and then a local station at 10pm.  I thought that was kinda odd, but again, it didn’t bother us that much.  We weren’t really there to just lay around in the room watching TV.  If you do happen to be up late though, around 1 or 2 am, flip through the channels until you find a program where there’s a girl sitting behind a laptop, presenting requested music videos.  Neither the program nor the videos are in English, but it’s hilarious!  They played these crazy Indian music videos, complete with “Slumdog Millionaire” dance routines and the accompaniment of the high pitched female vocals.  Besides that, the videos are just hilarious!  I don’t think they’re meant to be, but they were to us!  Also, the music really isn’t that bad at all in most cases.

I think the best features of the room were that the water was nice and hot for showers, and the air conditioning blew nonstop and got nice and cold at night.  Even under the thick blanket it was a bit cool.  Both of these things were a nice change for me, since I’ve been living in Singapore.  Here, the air conditioning isn’t used much and the water heaters are small and I can rarely finish showering before the hot water runs out.  I think I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes each time, enjoying how hot the water was and the fact that it stayed hot.  Plus that cold air conditioning is a relief after a day out in the sun there.

Another thing the hotel has going for it is the staff.  They’re very friendly, very helpful, and very knowledgeable about the city.  They helped us find the train station and also told us how to get back to the airport for the best price (a cheap bus from the downstairs area of KL Central).  Also, the guy at the counter had a conversation with me while I enjoyed a cup of coffee and my wife was busy on one of the public computers.  Oh, and the rooms are cleaned daily.  At least, I think it was cleaned.  The bed was made at least, and nothing was missing from our bags.  That’s always a bonus.  If you do have something expensive, the place has safe deposit boxes in the lobby too.

The hotel also has some dormitory style areas that can be rented out.  I didn’t look around there too much, except for one time when I passed through it to get to a bathroom.  It looked clean and the beds were set up two to a cubicle.  There was a youngish looking girl writing a paper on her laptop at a table in the dormitory area.  I guess it must be fairly safe.  I did see a TV behind the front desk that was showing views from security cameras, so that area must be kept under surveillance to make sure nothing happens to the guests.

Overall, we were satisfied with our stay there.  If we find ourselves in Kuala Lumpur again and need to stay the night, we’ll definitely be trying for a room there again.

Here are some of the photos we took inside the hotel: