Posh Peranakan restaurant sorry for swiping Indonesian dish

At left, Tray A of the “Nyonya Nasi Ambeng Trays”. A Nasi Ambeng dish by a Muslim catering company in Singapore. Photos: Violet Oon Singapore, Shereen’s Kitchen/Facebook
At left, Tray A of the “Nyonya Nasi Ambeng Trays”. A Nasi Ambeng dish by a Muslim catering company in Singapore. Photos: Violet Oon Singapore, Shereen’s Kitchen/Facebook

An upscale Peranakan restaurant in Singapore has apologized and renamed a newly launched dish after it was called out for hijacking Indonesian cuisine. 

Violet Oon Singapore was accused of appropriating the Nasi Ambeng Indonesian dish by adding a Peranakan twist to its name with the word “Nyonya.” The restaurant has since apologized and renamed its “Nyonya Nasi Ambeng Trays” to “Family Trays.”

“We insensitively used the name of a symbolic dish for a Nyonya interpretation that failed to articulate or acknowledge the rich significance and origins of Nasi Ambeng which originated from Java, Indonesia. As a brand dedicated to exploring the rich and diverse food cultures of Southeast Asia, we have fallen short by culturally appropriating this dish,” the restaurant wrote today.

“We deeply apologise for causing any hurt, anger or offence through this. We will be renaming the dish ‘Family Trays’ moving forward,” the restaurant added.

The popular Indonesian rice platter is comprised of an assortment of vegetable and meat dishes placed around steaming white rice. In Singapore, Nasi Ambeng is usually sold with begedil (fried potato balls), fried cow lung, rendang, and more.

Launched Tuesday, Violet Oon’s version included customer favorites like Chicken Lemak, Eggplant Sambal, Blue Pea Nasi Lemak and Kentang Sambal Hijau (potatoes fried with a green chilli sambal) with Ikan Bilis. It ranges from S$115 to S$130 per set and serves up to four.

“Please do not hijack a Javanese dish and claim it as a ‘Nonya’ dish,” one commenter said today.

Others suggested the dish be renamed as “Nyonya Peranakan Food Platter” or “Nyonya Mixed Vegetables Rice.”

Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine 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).

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