Monday, February 2, 2015

Onya Sayang: Peranakan food in Paya Lebar

I have written about Dulu Kala, a Peranakan restaurant started by the grandmother and parents of Zan Ho. And since then, Zan has become a chef of his own reckoning, and opened updated versions of Dulu Kala, which he calls O'nya Sayang.

I was invited for a tasting at their newest outlet in Paya Lebar Square.

We started off with the interesting dish, totally tradition based, but updated. The Ayam Buah Keluak Fried Rice


Interesting take. Stir fried rice, seen in the background with keluak filling, onions and chillis. Very fragrant fried rice.And a bowl of chicken with buah keluak. The rempah (spices) are made from scratch, and like most peranakan recipes are from secrets only known to family. 


Next up, we had a kind of seafood with rice, topped with a fried egg


I found the gravy, made from house made spices to be very nice, the dish was let down by slightly less than fresh fish and prawns which, though were sweet and rather tasty, was a bit mushy within the shell. 

Another innovative dish is their lorbak noodles


In our family, we would have called the braised pork Tauyu Bak, though Lor Bak is still a descriptive name. The pork belly is braised in a black sauce with house spices till tender. A boiled egg is added to the braise and absorbs the braising liquid, and the dish is poured over the noodles. Interesting, and perhaps totally untraditional. But I found it to be very savoury and nice. Good touch!

Bakwan Kepeting (pork balls in a soup with bamboo shoots) is a typical Peranakan dish


In this instance, the interpretation is truly traditional, and wonderfully so. The bakwan was superb. The texture - bouncy, springy, crunchy to the bite but still tender and juicy. The soup was nourishing, and very nice.

I have mixed feelings with Babi Pongteh, another classical Peranakan Dish



The pork was very tender, the spices quite interesting, but this was not my idea of a babi pongteh. Perhaps my family recipe is not similar...but the main elements - pork belly, potato, a thick mildly spicy braise. This version is still rather delicious, no doubt. And quite satisfying.


Their otak dish I truly loved. Served with a small portion of sambal kangkong, it was quite nice. Again, not in the traditional style I am accustomed to, as in our family, otak is steamed in banana leaf. This was, to me, perhaps a more Melakan styled dish. The otak was grilled. But I must say, it ramains very nice on the palate. Good chunks of fish with nice springy filler. Tasty.

But the desserts blew me away. One of my favourites, sago gula melaka:


Truly superb. Worth the trip just to eat this. The sago was cooked just right, with the a touch of very creamy coconut milk and a generous portion of gula melaka. A scoop of coconut ice cream crowned this magnificent dessert. The coconut ice cream was exactly as the name suggests. It tasted of a creamy iced santan. The gula melaka was special. Very fragrant, coying sweet, and luxurious mouthfeel. Fantastic! I enquired, and Zan told me that the gula melaka was sourced from Surabaya, where the quality is even higher than in Melaka. 

The same coconut ice cream, which is sourced from a manufacturer in Thailand, is used in the chendol, which is also a winner in my view


This reminded me of the version by Mei Heong Yuan, where shaved ice, made from coconut milk is dished out on top of chendol, attap steeds, red kidney beand, piled high. There, the gula melaka is served on the side, where one can drizzle to one's heart's content. Here the base of this dish is the same coconut ice cream as in the sago gula melaka, and the same superb gula melaka. With the traditional chendol ingredients. Quite superb.

I found the dishes in O'nya Sayang to be very homey feeling, with a somewhat traditional taste. One which does not totally agree with my family's Peranakan family's recipes. But the nature of Peranakan cuisine is such. Each family has its own secret recipes, and often times, these are not even shared with other members of the family, only to be handed down from mother to daughter and sometimes son.  

The packaging at O'nya Sayang into individual meals is very innovative. The traditional Peranakan meal is taken on a Tok Panjang (long table), where the dishes are shared by all. Very traditional families eat in shifts...the men in first shift, then the children, then the ladies and finally the servants. But the offering of individually sized, balanced meal portions is very nice. 

And as mentioned, the desserts, a twist to Peranakan tradition, are divine. Highly recommended.


O'nya Sayang @ Paya lebar square
60 Paya Lebar Rd, Paya Lebar Square, #B1-30/31,
Singapore, S409051
Tel: 67838140
Fax: 66848168
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