O’nya Sayang – Affordable Peranakan Food at Paya Lebar Square
There are always new malls opening in Singapore but most of the malls look similar because they carry the same brands. However in Paya Lebar Square, there is a modern Peranakan restaurant called O’nya Sayang. Founded and helmed by Executive Chef Zan Ho, a third generation Peranakan Chef, he grew up in the kitchen and learnt how to cook traditional Peranakan cuisine from his mother, who opened Dulukala Peranakan Restaurant in Beauty World during the 90s.
In 2011, Zan opened the first O’nya Sayang at Tampines Mall. This outlet in Paya Lebar square is the second branch after the Tampines Mall outlet. His aim was to provide affordable Peranakan food to more Singaporeans, especially to the younger generation who are gradually losing awareness of this rich culture.
Good Peranakan cuisine boils down to the skillful use of spices and exotic ingredients. At O’nya Sayang, each dish is prepared with their very own recipes that were passed down from generation to generation.
Ask any food lover for Peranakan food and they would surely tell you their favourites. I didn’t expect my favourite dish would be Babi Pongteh ($13.90) because the lighter colour looks too unassuming. But the fermented bean paste was specially imported from Malacca. The flavours are subtle and the pork belly melted in my mouth. Bakwan Kepiting Soup ($12.90) was also well executed. The soup is robust and the meatballs are firm yet moist.
Its Assam Fish ($16.90) was slightly expensive in my opinion. Two pieces of fish is nestled in a sea of reddish gravy with brinjal. The fish was a little too fishy but the assam sauce had enough kick, but still able to eat it without perspiring. I love the Chap Chye ($10.90) which was again cooked using fermented bean paste imported from Malacca. It has a hint of sweetness and the vegetables are stewed till very soft.
O’nya Sayang offers quite a few Peranakan set meals. One of them is the Lor Bak Noodles Set ($12.90) that comes with a plate of noodle, achar, lor bak and otah. It probably works for office ladies who don’t wish for a heavy lunch. The noodles are soaked in a pool of savoury braising, which I wasn’t quite impressed. But the fiance loved it and even though commented that the noodles retained its texture even though it has been left aside for some time to take photos. The otah had some small bones at one part, so you got to take note while eating it.
Another set was Ayam Keluak Fried Rice Set ($14.90) which I am sure would blow the mind of a modernist. The rice was stir fried with the ayam buah keluak sauce, and served with a bowl of ayam buah keluak, achar and sambal belachan. Being a traditionalist, I didn’t quite like the fried rice as I thought it lacked the fragrance from the keluak. However, I enjoyed the ayam buah keluak totally.
Cooking buah keluak is a tedious and time-consuming process which begins at least 3 days before the day of cooking. The nuts have to be soaked, scrubbed and dried to get rid of any traces of cyanide. Besides the nutty flavour from the keluak, I noticed the mild sweetness from the sauce. Zan said the he added minced meat together with minced prawns to make the dish more wholesome, and of course that’s where the sweetness came from. Oh yes, please have it with the sambal belachan, it is so fragrant with a mild spicy kick!
Ending my lunch with Chendol ($4.90) and Sago Gula Melaka Ice Cream ($5.90). Using Thai coconut ice cream, it is so creamy and pairs well with the chendol strip and gula melaka. Zan gets his gula melaka from Indonesia so it is richer and less sweet.
I think I am still a traditionalist as I still prefer the classic Peranakan dishes rather than the set meals. Classics like chap chye and babi pongteh won my heart, as well as the chendol. But I appreciate Zan’s effort in trying to keep the prices low and coming up with innovative set meals so as to introduce Peranakan cuisine to younger crowd.
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