Last Updated: August 19, 2015
I always had my reservations towards Peranakan cuisine outside of my grandmother’s cooking, perhaps due to the fact that most restaurants out there seem to produce sub-standard fare. Peranakan cuisine is supposedly associated with an extremely traditional setting, hardly one where we could just chill over a casual round of food and drinks.
As such, I was pretty reluctant to try out this newly-opened restaurant over at Paya Lebar Square. However, O’nya Sayang completely and (very) pleasantly redefined Peranakan cuisine for me.
It was applaudable of them to be able to achieve the delicate balance between preserving Peranakan tradition through their dishes yet presenting a refreshing twist so needed to revive the Peranakan scene in modern Singapore today.
O’nya Sayang, translating into Mother’s love in Malay, pays close attention to its Peranakan roots, sourcing for quality, traditional ingredients from places such as Malacca and Indonesia.
Conversing with the young and affable boss of this humble establishment, I could tell he is not one to compromise on quality, especially under strong influence by the previous generations of Peranakan women in his family. He has strived hard to bring to us O’nya Sayang, to give you possibly one of the best Peranakan experience you can find in a mall here in Singapore.
The Bakwan Kepeting ($12.90). With meatballs made from home-made crab and pork, this homely dish was refreshing and authentic. What surprised me was the fact that O’nya Sayang specifically took the trouble to shell and use real crab meat, to preserve the authenticity of the dish, uncompromising with the quality of their food. Admittedly, this is pretty rare for modern restaurants nowadays.
Next up on their extensive menu was the Babi Pongteh Noodles ($12.90), which was pretty standard fare for me. It was admittedly, something light and casual, a good choice for a regular meal at your nearby restaurant.
Even though the kang kong was slightly overcooked and their otah a little too soft for my liking, for me, the saving grace in this dish has got to be the braised pork. Served together in the same set, the braised pork was tender, yet giving a firm bite for enough satisfaction.
The pork was also braised long enough for it to hold the flavour of their signature bean paste sauce.
We also tried the Ayam Keluak Fried Rice ($14.90). One of my favourites, this dish is a redefining moment in Peranakan cuisine. Not too heavy on one’s palate, yet having sufficient consistency in the richness and taste one so loves in Buah Keluak. Paired with crisp keropok and achar, as well as fresh, succulent chicken submerged in flavourful tamarind sauce, I could not help but wolf down its contents in record time.
Using a special blend of over 15 spices and ingredients sourced from all around Asia, just a tiny mouthful of the Assam Seafood ($17.90) gives you a sensory explosion you definitely cannot resist. With generous portions of prawns, squid and fish, (although not as fresh as I would prefer) cooked in the spicy and tangy tamarind sauce, I definitely appreciated this flavourful delight of O’nya Sayang.
With our stomachs filling up fast, we obliged to try just a small portion of their Babi Ponteh ($13.90), a personal favourite of O’nya Sayang’s boss. Wow. I could definitely see why it was his favourite dish, one that he would never get sick of despite having eaten it countless times.
The pork was braised to perfection, and the sauce had many different complex, robust layers of taste, something that could only be achieved by using traditional ingredients and following strict Peranakan methods of preparation. In addition, the potatoes in the dish were so soft and full of flavour (from the sauce) that they literally melted in my mouth. A telltale sign that this dish took at least a few hours to stew.
As if not already impressed enough, we were presented with their signature innovations to the classic Peranakan desserts. Depicted above is the Sago Gula Melaka Ice Cream ($5.90) and the Chendol Ice Cream ($5.90).
Sourcing for the best Gula Melaka all the way from distant Indonesia, and Coconut Ice Cream from the quaint alleys of Thailand, it is no wonder that these humble desserts are a notch above the rest. For me, their desserts were the highlight of the meal (it is quite rare, considering i’m usually not a dessert person), achieving the perfect balance needed for it to become non-overpowering yet flavourful in terms of sweetness and the richness of coconut used.
Overall, I enjoyed the whole Peranakan experience over at O’nya Sayang, from its interesting decor to its traditional cuisine with a modern twist. Definitely a great place to have a relaxed, casual lunch with authentic, uniquely Singaporean food at an affordable price. Of course, not forgetting their desserts; Their desserts are the bomb.
Expected Damage: $12– $25 per pax