Past, present perfect at O'nya Sayang

WHAT: O'nya Sayang @ Paya Lebar Square
WHERE: Paya Lebar Square, #B1-30/31
WHEN: 11am to 9.30pm daily
CALL: 9101-5147

O'nya Sayang, or mother's love in Peranakan patois, was started to preserve family recipes.

In 1999, Madam Khoo Pong Tee opened Dulukala Peranakan Restaurant. In 2011, her grandson Zan Ho decided to start O'nya Sayang (in Tampines Mall) with the same recipes to try to win over a younger group of diners.

You'll get authentic Peranakan food cooked for the masses, with friendly prices and in a non-formal setting.

The second O'nya outlet is at the new Paya Lebar Square, and it has a mix of the traditional dishes and modern interpretations of popular dishes.

For a cuisine steeped in tradition, "modern" and "interpretations" are bad words. You can imagine a bibi screeching in horror, pestle in hand ready to be flung.

Luckily the modern bit at O'nya seems confined to desserts and a few savoury dishes, so there is no need for an outcry.

O'nya prides itself on using rempah (the foundation of a Peranakan dish) and sauces that are made using recipes passed down from one generation to the next. I find it comforting to know that a bit of the past has been preserved - and served.


The Ayam Keluak Fried Rice ($14.90) is one of the new dishes offered here. I don't remember eating keluak fried in rice, so it was interesting to me. It was spicy and fragrant (thanks to an amazing sambal belacan), and it did a great job in whetting the appetite.


My earliest introduction to Peranakan food was a bowl of bakwan kepeting ($12.90), so it holds great sentimental value. The version here didn't best my memory, although it was full-flavoured - salty even - and the pork and crab meat balls were tasty.


I really like the seafood chilli garam ($15.90). The intense colour and aroma hit you quickly. The pool of oil might scare you, but go for it. The sun-dried chilli added a seductive smokiness to the flavour.


The lok bak noodles (braised pork in a dark sauce, $12.90) looks like a mess. Taste-wise, it was a mess too. I felt that the noodles were strangely soggy-tasting and the pork wasn't tender enough. It has potential though, because the classic combination of pork and dark sauce is always a welcome one.


I think the chendol ice cream dessert is meant for the young. It's coconut ice cream disguised as chendol. It's meant to be modern, but it's neither a novelty nor radical. It's pleasant enough, but I would skip it. The real chendol is better anyway.

This article was first published on Mar 11, 2015.
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