Good Food for a Good Cause – Asia Pacific Breweries @ Violet Oon’s Kitchen
For many, Chinese New Year is a time of feasts and festivities. This is when no reason is needed for pigging out with friends and family, or even gorging oneself crazy with a plethora of Chinese New Year goodies like pineapple tarts to bak kwa. Also, no excuse is required for enjoying the wide variety of Chinese New Year dishes, and most certainly no apologies is needed for indulging! How to resist all that good food?!
Last week, I attended an event hosted at Violet Oon’s Kitchen by Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore (APBS), an appreciation lunch prepared by Ms Oon and her team for 60 elderly folk from the Kreta Ayer Seniors Activity Centre who had extended their help towards packing cookies for the annual ‘Cookies for Charity’ Programme. This lunch was a way to reward them for their effort and boy ‘o boy were they in for a special treat of delectable Nyonya dishes in an all-Peranakan spread!
The grandpas and grannies, all the way from Chinatown to Violet Oon’s Kitchen located at Bukit Timah.
And the staff from Violet Oon’s Kitchen and APBS went all the way, several doors down from the restaurant to give them a warm welcome!
In fact, we could hear them even before seeing them in person! Amidst all that chitty-chatty and laughter as they walked to the restaurant, we could really sense their excitement and anticipation!
It took a while to get everyone settled in properly but all of a sudden, the quiet restaurant on a lazy Friday afternoon burst to life!
First on the menu was salmon yee sang! No Chinese New Year celebration is complete without a good “lohei“!
Yee Sang a la Nyonya. Apart from the standard julienned concoction of carrot and radish, Violet Oon’s Kitchen’s rendition also incorporated ingredients like green mango, as well as bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves) to play up on the aromatics . The drizzling sauce was also somewhat unique, lending a hint of spiciness apart from the usual tang we get from plum sauce.
Alina Boey, Head of Corporate Communications, APBS enjoying a “Huat ah!” moment with a granny, soaking in the festivities.
While Ms Oon helmed all the hustling and bustling in the kitchen, putting the final touches to the dishes rolled out, her children-cum-business partners were also there to help out in front, ensuring that all the elderly folks were well attended to.
Ngoh Hiang, deep fried meat rolls was served for starters. This was easily a favorite amongst the other foodies who attended. The flour coated exterior was deep fried to a wonderful crip when the insides remained uber moist and succulent. When asked about her secret to making the filling so soft, Ms Oon shared her “secrets” owing much to the correct proportion of meats used. The rolls were then steamed to firm them up and the slices were subsequently frozen to produce such precise and clean cuts. How clever is that!
Two “po pos” enjoying ngoh hiang. Apart from the standard dipping sauce, these deep fried meat rolls at Violet Oon’s Kitchen are also served with sambal belachan over a spritz of limau katsuri. Rather unconventional, but it worked really well!
And where there is a Peranakan Chinese feast, there must be soup! Hee Pio Soup, an off-the-menu dish which was specially prepared for today’s occasion.
Homemade meatballs lavishly made from minced pork, shrimp and crab , together with fish maw and sea cucumber over a thick collagen-enriched broth base from a generous use of pork bones, chicken and conpoy. Salt was added at the very end, and for this event a healthier “less salt” version was created with the dietary needs and medical condition of the eldery folk in mind. But the flavour is not compromised, remaining full-bodied and robust while the milky transluscent appeal is a clear indication of good soup making, teasing out all the goodness out from the premium ingredients from the long hours of boiling.
Nyonya Chap Chye, a dish very close to my heart as we’d definitely have this on our dining table at every family gathering. Truth be told, I would have preferred the cabbage to be a tad firmer, with a bit more crunch. But this IS now this dish is traditionally done, and even more rightfully so for the elderly folk enjoying it today, allowing them to ingest and digest much more easily. The broth was very savory and rich nonetheless, owing to the plenitude of ingredients incorporate, like black fungus, Chinese mushroom, tau kee etc..
Babi Pongteh, another signature Peranakan dish. Chunks of pork belly simmered with chinese mushrooms and winter bamboo shoots in a tau cheo enriched gravy. The pork was so soft that the pieces yielded to the slightest presssure of the palate. Bamboo shoot is a tricky ingredient to work with, but those at Violet Oon’s Kitchen have been skillfully processed to rid them of that unpleasant odour, characteristic of this vegetable which reminds of something fermenting. The only smell that permeated was the wonderfully rich aroma of soy beans in the tau cheo and dark soya sauce used. Very well executed and most thoroughly enjoyed.
Ikan Tempra, Peranakan Fried Fish. Fillets of baby seabass, no more than 700g each were used, cut down to individual portions and panfried until the skin is uber crisp. They rest on top of a bed of caramelised shallots soaking in the flavours from the spicy and sweet dark sauce.
This trio of classic Peranakan dishes went very well with rice served. On my next visit, i would definitely be asking for second helpings!
Nyonya Mah Mee, yellow noodles cooked the traditional way, with pork belly slices, squid rings and succulent prawns simmered gently in a pork broth. According to Ms Oon, the finely julienned omelette and red chillies is an absolute must!
This is a special creation by Violet exclusively for this community event. Likening Peranakan Hokkien Mee, the flavours and textures remind me much of my own mother and grandmother’s cooking. Very simple fare, but nonetheless rich and filling. Like some of the other dishes, this noodle dish is enriched with auspicious wishes for the elderly folks. Yellow noodles are symbolic of longevity while prawns in Cantonese sounded much like ” 哈哈大笑”. May they “umur panjang panjang” and live every day with much laughter and happiness.
And a good Nyonya mee must be enjoyed over a potent dose of sambal belachan with a blitz of limau katsuri, two quintessential condiments which must be present on the table for any Peranakan meal. Small but no less important.
For desserts, one of my favorites Pulot Hitam was served. Again, this has been tweaked for the occasion to better cater to the dietary needs of the elderly today. Cutting down on the sugar and coconut milk added, it is slightly less sweet and “lemak” as I had anticipated. But all was done, given due consideration to the old folks. While the menu version is enjoyed with ice-cream, the grannies and grandpas were in for a special treat with lotus seeds added instead. Symbolic for 早生贵子， this is not only delicious, but auspicious at the same time!
And finally it was time to say goodbye. As the old Chinese saying goes, 天下没有不散的筵席, all good things have to come to an end. Even then, the parting was never hasty, not forgetting a little something for everyone to bring home, some Chinese New Year cookies for the old folks to enjoy as an extension of today’s joyous event, to fuel fond memories in the days and months to come…
Staff from APB who volunteered for today’s community event sending off the elderly folks after a hearty meal and helping them onto their transport back to Chinatown.
Enjoying a Tiger moment with the staff from APB, who took time off their busy work schedule to volunteer for this event. Kudos to everyone who came as well as the staff at Violet Oon’s Kitchen!
I subscribe to a popular Chinese saying “能吃是福”, which loosely translates to “To be able to eat (in abundance) is a blessing.” However, “施比受更有福” – “To be able to give than to receive is an even greater blessing and good fortune”! This year, the ‘Cookies for Charity’ Programme raised over S$20,000 to support the Meal & Grocery Programme created by Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Constituency, which ensures that the needy elderly living in the constituency are able to eat more regular and nutritious meals. The initiative is a part of APBS’s ongoing corporate social responsibility programme, in line with the company’s philosophy of ‘Doing Well and Doing Good’. And one good turn definitely deserves another. So what the wonderful people at APBS and Violet Oon’s Kitchen had planned for the eldery folks from Kreta Ayer Seniors Activity Centre that day, was truly good food, for a good cause.
Violet Oon’s Kitchen
881 Bukit Timah Road
Tel: (65) 6468 5430
Thank you Ogilvy Singapore for the invitation, as well as APBS and Violet Oon’s Kitchen for the hospitality.