Friday, July 14, 2017

Melvyn Oliveiro's YTF Lontong and Rare Peranakan Dishes

Some of you will have seen me lauding this dish on Facebook and Instagram. This is Melvyn Oliveiro's stunning fusion creation - YTF Lontong - which marries yong tau foo pieces and ketupat with a seriously savoury and super rich lontong gravy. He's made it deliberately thicker than the usual lontong gravy. And he doesn't stop there; there's sambal and serunding (toasted grated coconut) to add spicy heat and nutty sweetness to the ensemble.

Melvyn does home-cooked dishes for sale on various platforms like Dine Inn, Mom's Not Cooking (his Facebook group), and even Carousell.

I have to say, this is his best dish yet. When I saw him posting experimental photos of it on Facebook, I immediately knew this would be awesome (I told him he had to start selling this). But even I was blown away by when I took my first bite. It's so good, I slowed down my eating, so that I could make it last longer and not be sad when it's all gone...oh, so sedaaap it is.

What's unusual about his dishes is that he does some rarely seen or available Peranakan specialties.

KF Seetoh taking photos at Melvyn's
I had the chance to lunch with KF Seetoh and friends at Melvyn's place in Toa Payoh, where we got to see some of these dishes.

Peranakan Papaya Titek
Peranakan Papaya Titek (S$11)
This was my first ever encounter with papaya titek, a peppery seafood soup sweetened with semi-ripe papayas. It carries a smoky aftertaste derived from ikan kurau bones, dried prawns, and prawn stock. Daun kesom (Vietnamese coriander) adds a pleasant herbal note. It's actually quite light, and is not as spicy or tangy as it looks.

This dish needs two days advance order as the half-ripe papayas are sourced only upon confirmation of orders.

Rebong Masak Lemak
Rebong Masak Lemak (from S$8)
You'll rarely see this Peranakan dish of rebong (bamboo shoot) in restaurants. Melvyn's version features chicken thigh and bamboo shoots, slow stewed in a broth made with large onions, chillies, buah keras (candlenut), lemongrass, belachan, kunyit (turmeric)and coconut milk.

Tastewise, it's like a thick lodeh curry mildly flavoured with bamboo shoot.

Salted Fish
Have it with some salted fish and it takes on new dimensions.

Buah Keluak
Ayam Buah Keluak (from S$12)
Melvyn makes very good buah keluak. Only after tasting his version did I get to appreciate buah keluak more. I realise all this while maybe I didn't like buah keluak because it just wasn't cooked with the correct balance of spices and flavours.

Gado Gado Magetan
Gado-gado Magetan (from S$6)
This is the first dish I tried from Melvyn (it was a Dine Inn order - you can see my post on that here) and made me an absolute fan. I totally love the gado gado peanut sauce which he now sells separately.

Gado Gado Sauce Concentrate
The sauce comes in a dry-ish concentrate which means you can store it until you need it. You just have to add water to reconstitute it. I actually ate this like a spicy peanut cookie dough of sorts. YUMMY.

Gado Gado Sauce
It makes a great vegetable or crudite dip, as well as a satay sauce base.

Nasi Briyani
Chicken Dum Briyani w/Raita & Papad (from $8.00) 
The dum briyani looks really good, doesn't it? I would have liked it a bit stronger in terms of salt and spices but this version makes a good rice base for tasting other dishes, which we were doing that day.

Melvyn's got other dishes in his repertoire for sale too - Soto Ayam Surabaya, Roti Jala and Chicken Curry, Sambal Nanas, Afritado Manok, Peranakan Chap Chye, Lontong Lodeh Betawi and Ayam/Babi Pongteh. While his food is not halal-certified, there's no pork or lard used (except in the Babi Pongteh). The kitchen utensils are not halal also, for those who need to know.

Some of these used to be popular in the old days, and will invoke nostalgia in some folks. Even his drink (see the two bottles in first photo) of 1960s Citrus Jelly Water is his re-creation of a popular drink once sold by trishaw hawkers along the beaches of East Coast near the Red House.

So if you are hankering for a taste of food as it used to be cooked back in the old days, you can always check out Melvyn's home-cooked food (via delivery, one-way Grab or pick up from Toa Payoh). I hope recipes like his which he got from the previous generations can be passed down too.


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