Makansutra: Home-cooked goodness at The Ampang Kitchen
Home cook in Jalan Ampang offers delicious Peranakan fare
The thing about our beloved hawker food is that we are almost always eating the most common stuff.
Bit by bit, we are beginning to lose dishes as our younger generation gets mired in fads, trends and popular hipster fare.
Many are clueless about what is not dangled in front of them. Nowadays, it is all just more of the usual fishball noodles, nasi lemak, chicken rice, porridge and prawn noodles fare, which doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what we used to have back in the day.
But in the wake of the popular home chef's table culture, things may change.
Home cooks such as 71-year-old retired chartered accountant Raymond Leong and his son David are offering well-executed vanishing and lost dishes.
They offer the occasional one-table meal from their home kitchen to supplement their income or as part-time work.
Raymond retired in 2000 when his former company was listed, and he immediately returned to his childhood love - Peranakan food.
He fell for itek sio (braised duck with tamarind and coriander) at 16 and over the decades, paid his dues experimenting in the kitchen.
He even went to Penang and studied under a sifu and "learnt 74 dishes in 12 days for RM10,000 (S$3,250)" in 2004.
He went on to set up a few restaurants but commercial operations was not his forte.
So three years back, he persuaded his son to take on his kitchen and earlier this year, began to offer meals in their sprawling whitewashed home under the name The Ampang Kitchen.
I had their upper-tier nine-course dinner recently, and I have to gush about it.
The satay bohong starter was a wicked highlight.
This is a thinking (lazy) man's satay originally from Penang. No sauce is used but instead all the flavour is buried in the marinade.
Raymond uses belly pork and hides bits of fat and cartilage in the soft, roasted skewer.
It was delicious, but I forgot about it the moment his ter tor tng (pig stomach soup) came a-calling.
You can tell that the bones, pepper and dried seafood are boiled for hours to get the flavour, and Raymond placed shards of water chestnuts and gingko nuts together with the soft pork ribs and pig stomach.
I needed seconds.
Then, he offered ayam buah keluak done sambal-style, sans shells, and it was a black, pasty, smooth, rich and spicy mount of iconic goodness. He does not skimp on the nuts, either.
The kerabu prawn salad with mango or banana flower was an epiphany.
Rarely found in Singapore, this Penang dish was prettily plated and topped with mint leaves.
The sweetish sourness was cleverly counteracted with a splash of coconut milk.
His Penang-style tau yew bak is the way to sin with food properly. The belly pork slices came black, soft and boldly marinated in his "expensive Penang tau yew", or caramel black soy sauce.
Meals at The Ampang Kitchen start at $60 for lunch and $100 for a nine-course dinner, for a minimum of 10 people, and you can order takeout from his kitchen too. Advance bookings are required.