Singapore — Upscale Peranakan restaurant Violet Oon Singapore has apologised and renamed a newly-launched item on its menu after being accused of culturally appropriating an Indonesian dish.
The restaurant had launched a Nasi Ambeng dish by adding a Peranakan twist to its name with the word “Nyonya”. After facing some backlash from the online community, the restaurant has apologised and renamed its “Nyonya Nasi Ambeng Trays” to “Family Trays”.
Nasi ambeng is a traditional dish that originates from Java, Indonesia, that is usually served communal-style at weddings or functions on a large platter with an assortment of meat, vegetables, sauce, spices and rice. Served in a large tray (the dulang) lined with banana leaves, the dish is usually eaten by hand by those sitting around it.
Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine, on the other hand, comes from descendants of early Chinese migrants who settled in Penang, Malacca, Singapore and Indonesia. Their signature dishes include Asam Laksa, Ayam Buah Keluak (chicken rib stew) and Babi Pongteh (stewed pork).
The restaurant said: “We deeply apologise for causing any hurt, anger or offence through this. We will be renaming the dish Family Trays moving forward.”
It had a description of nasi ambeng and said: “Taking inspiration from this age-old Javanese dish, we introduce our Family Trays: A feast of favourites like Chicken Lemak and Eggplant Sambal, along with new dishes like Blue Pea Nasi Lemak and Kentang Sambal Hijau with Ikan Bilis (potatoes fried with a green chilli sambal and anchovies).”
While many were unhappy with what the restaurant did, there were some who asked for a little understanding, especially since it apologised quickly and rectified its error.
Former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng, who has commented recently on issues ranging from Pofma to the National Day funpack, also had a say on the matter.