This Nasi Lemak Is Sweet!
While everyone else was busy squabbling over who makes the best nasi lemak burger, Francis Wong decided he would take a different route. He invented a sweet version of the dish, so it would fit in with the menu at his dessert cafe on Rangoon Road, named Non-Entree.
His version of the “nasi lemak” is made up of a pandan mousse and gula melaka sauce encased in a coconut nasi, served with ikan bilis and lightly-salted peanuts, a yogurt mango “hard-boiled egg”, a side of raspberry lemongrass “sambal”, and topped with a “Kuning” biscuit. It looks almost exactly like the classic dish, but tastes almost entirely different.
What you see isn’t quite what you get – that’s his philosophy, says Chef Wong. “Everyone else seems to be doing desserts like waffles, or thick toast, so there isn’t much variety. I prefer to do something a little more out of the box,” adds the chef, who is trained in French pastry, and used to be a pastry chef at the Regent Hotel.
So at Non-Entrée Desserts Cafe, which he started with two business partners, Chef Wong creates unique themes of desserts that change every six months.
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Last September, the menu was called ‘Back To The Future’, featuring cakes that looked like ang ku kueh, pineapple tarts, gem biscuits, and kueh tutu, as well as gelatos inspired by childhood sweets like White Rabbit candy. Though the theme has changed since then, the four cakes can now be pre-ordered from the cafe at S$35 nett per set in celebration of National Day.
It’s because these nostalgic desserts have been so popular that Chef Wong intends to do more of them in the future, starting with a ‘Street Food’ theme next year which will feature things like chwee kueh and png kueh.
“Singaporeans like nostalgia because they can identify with it. It’s tested and proven – when I ended the nostalgic theme last year my sales dipped. Because with normal cakes you probably eat one or two a month, but with something like kueh, you can eat it every time your mother buys it from the market. It’s part of our culture,” says Chef Wong.
Non-Entrée Desserts Café is at 204 Rangoon Road. Visit www.facebook.com/nonentreedesserts
Next: Kopi O Drip-style
Kopi O Drip-style
Benjamin Tan first got the idea for his coffee start-up back when he was working as a police officer. “The guy who inspired me to do it as a subscription service was an ex-convict I arrested. He was peddling contraband cigarettes that he delivered via bicycle and letterboxes,” he says.
Earlier this year, he finally started Rickshaw Coffee, a coffee delivery service that runs on a subscription model, selling traditional coffeeshop-style ‘kopi’ in drip form – a modern twist to how kopi is usually brewed in a sock.
“I wanted to bring the traditional kind of brewed coffee to people’s homes. The common kind of coffee that is available in drip form is Western coffee, so it’s usually not the traditional beans. I spent some time experimenting and found a blend that suits the drip format, so I can deliver that directly to homes,” explains Benjamin.
For now, he offers two kinds of coffee. His signature blend is Rickshaw Black aka the kopi-o kosong (S$5.90 for a one-time purchase of five sachets).
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“One main group I target is senior citizens, because it’s hard to find a good cup of simple ‘kopi-o’ these days especially in newer estates like Punggol or in the CBD, where a lot of people end up drinking three-in-one coffees. But those aren’t exactly the healthiest choice,” he says.
His other range is the Rickshaw Gold which contains milk and sugar (S$20.70 for a one-time purchase of 10 sachets), and is targeted at the younger generation because it’s easier to drink. This part of his business is a move to help preserve our local coffeeshop kopi culture.
“The roasting methods we have in Singapore are unique to us. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world. There’s an older generation of coffee roasters who aren’t as good as articulating the history or heritage of the Nanyang roast as the young generation that does artisanal coffee. But why can’t Nanyang coffee be considered gourmet? It’s a dying trade, and if we don’t appreciate it, will we lose it,” says Benjamin.
Visit Rickshaw Coffee at www.rickshawcoffee.com
Next: Cold Cold Treat
Cold Cold Treat
You may have heard of the ‘Sticker Lady – a nickname Samantha Lo gained in 2012 when she made headlines for an artwork involving the pasting of stickers on traffic light buttons.
While she has spent the last few years making art and even holding her own solo exhibitions, Samantha has recently been involved in a slightly different kind of project – designing the branding for an ice cream shop called Leng Leng Ice Cream. The shop’s name is a pun on the Chinese word for ‘cold’, but was actually named after her mother and aunt, who run the operations.
Samantha’s friend, Ilya Noor, helps out as a food consultant since she also runs her own adhoc F&B business. Says Ilya: “When her mum and aunt wanted to start a business, they wanted something that was easy and approachable. Everyone loves ice cream, so we brought that idea to life for them. We didn’t want to do something too modern because we wanted them to be comfortable, so we took the nostalgic route.”
While they offer regular ice-cream flavours like chocolate and salted caramel, you can also find Horlicks, gula melaka, and Thai milk tea ice cream from S$3.20 a scoop. Plus, you have the option of having your ice cream wrapped in a slice of rainbow bread, pandan or sugee waffle.
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It’s not just the food that’s the main draw at Leng Leng, it’s the experience you get when visiting the shop, says Ilya.
“We’re fortunate that being in Joo Chiat plays well with the theme of our shop. The decorations were done by Samantha, so for example, instead of lampshades we use those plastic covers meant to cover food. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the set of that local TV show Growing Up,” she describes.
The homeliness extends to the service as well. “The aunties are really aunties. They will treat you like their child, and they have their own way of interacting with you and making you feel comfortable. Our regulars feel like they’re visiting them at home,” she adds.
Leng Leng Ice Cream is at #01-11, 116 Changi Road. Visit www.facebook.com/lenglengicecream
Text: Rachel Loi/The Business Times / Featured Image: Non-Entrée Desserts Café
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