As the convenience of restaurants and food delivery options gain mass appeal, many traditional foods have fallen out of favour, especially with the younger crowd.
And if you’re lamenting over how traditional and heritage cuisines are fading into obscurity, you’re not alone. Aiming to remedy that and preserve beloved, time-honoured culinary gems, retiree Yap Joo Eng, 57, and her daughter Jinyen Yap, 28, set up their business, Ye Traditions.
How It Started
It started with the pair making red rice wine for their personal consumption every Chinese New Year, and it was only last year that they decided to take the leap to sell it under the label Ye Traditions.
In fact, the mother-and-daughter team have also collaborated with several senior partner-chefs to reintroduce dishes across three dialect groups (Hockchew, Hokkien, and Teochew) like oyster cakes and Fuzhou dumplings; the products are all handmade by the seniors, with Ye Traditions handling the marketing, packaging, and distribution. A portion of the proceeds goes back to the seniors.
Their partners include friends, neighbours, and relatives whom they know are experts in whipping up the respective dishes. “We also get recommendations from customers — some of them wanted to enroll their parents to cook! Before we put a recipe out, we test a small batch with our existing customers to get their feedback,” they tell us.
Recipes Handed Down Through The Generations
Jinyen adds that the red rice wine and red rice lees (the residual product after fermentation) set is the absolute favorite.
“Red rice wine is very time-consuming and takes up to two days just for preparation, and more than a month to brew, so it’s something that is tough to find, let alone create. Our recipe has been passed down for five generations, and our customers love that unlike rice wines found elsewhere, we do not add any sugar to artificially sweeten the taste nor preservatives, and it reminds them of what their grandparents used to make.”
“Our recipe has been passed down for five generations, and our customers love that unlike the rice wine found outside, we do not add any sugar to artificially sweeten the taste nor preservatives. It reminds them of what their grandparents used to make.”Jinyen Yap, co-founder of Ye Traditions
It Doesn’t Come Without Its Challenges
Like getting younger folks acquainted with these flavours. “One hurdle is reintroducing these dishes to younger generations — while these dishes are part of our heritage and childhood dinner tables, they are usually eaten during special occasions and large family gatherings,” says Jin Yen.
“Today, these seldom happen and people either forget the taste of these dishes or never learned to cook them. There is a lot of education involved, in terms of the dishes’ histories as well as producing many recipes, to get people to revisit them again.”
“Another challenge comes in the form of the continuation of these legacies. A lot of seniors are in their 60s and 70s, and while they are elderly, they are still willing to stand for hours in the kitchen to create these dishes for many people. They love hearing customers come back with their stories. But what we need to figure out is how to continue these recipes and create a legacy for them.”
To contribute back to society, Ye Traditions also does a dollar-to-dollar charity giveback, where partners present seniors at retirement homes, such as Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home, with nourishing heritage dishes.
What’s next for Ye Traditions?
“We plan to reach all dialect groups in Singapore and introduce more disappearing heritage dishes from them. Our goal is to make our premium products easily accessible and convenient to the masses,” says Jinyen.
Shop Ye Tradition’s products here.