Even with the plant-based culinary landscape evolving at a very rapid pace globally, vegans and vegetarians continue to be hard pressed to find exceptional Peranakan fine dining experiences in Singapore. But that’s about to change with Violet Oon, a timeless destination for inspired Nyonya cuisine paving the way and making sure that everyone else takes notice!
Starting January 7th, Violet Oon is offering a 20 dish extensive plant-based menu at the Violet Oon Satay Bar and Grill at Clarke Quay that is sure to delight vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. What’s more is that they plan to extend the veg menu to other outlets soon. Violet Oon Satay Bar and Grill has combined Violet Oon’s treasure trove of signature spice blends, pastes and sauces, with the clever use of plants to create diverse meaty textures, and concoct a scrumptious spread which is largely vegan! We got in early on the action to savour some of their most innovative creations.
Celebrated for their regional flavours inspired by Singapore’s heritage and culture, walking into the modern yet bohemian outlet is also a sensory experience. The deep bottle green interiors with subtle Peranakan influences come together beautifully with the Tungsten lamps and Chesterfield sofas.
While I was still taking in my new surroundings, I was swiftly presented with the Eggplant Goreng with Emping Crackers (S$17) which did just the trick in building my appetite for what was to come. Unlike other eggplant dips that tend to be on the smokier side, Violet Oon’s Eggplant Goreng tastes very little like eggplant itself. Mildly flavoured with coriander and enhanced with a dash of lime, this is like a fancier version of the universally loved “chip n dip” – great to chomp on while waiting for the rest of the meal to arrive.
Next up, Ta Hu Goreng (S$11), served with julienned cucumber and bean sprouts delivers more in taste than it does in texture. The fried bean curd is a little tough and does not have the springy pillowiness one usually hopes for. The sweet and tangy sauce however, implores me to rate this dish rather highly. Thick and super caramelized, I just couldn’t get enough of it!
Vegan Delights Off The Grill
A definite highlight of the plant-based menu is the Kunyit Lemak King Oyster Mushroom (S$20) which is grilled to perfection and served on a bed of a creamy turmeric infused coconut sauce. The meatiness of the king oyster mushrooms comes together beautifully with the creamy, golden sauce, making for a very moreish mouthful that kept me going back for more. Also, off the grill, the Garam Assam Tau Kwa (S$20) comes with a generous serving of a very well-balanced pineapple compote. I personally love pineapple in savoury preparations so it was certainly something I enjoyed but next to the grilled king oyster it didn’t shine through as much.
I’m new to Singapore and this was my first time visiting a Violet Oon outlet. As the evening progressed, it became increasingly obvious to me why Violet Oon is the grande dame of Singaporean cooking. Violet’s chefs really know their sauces and how to bring out the umami in different dishes using herbs, seasonings and spices. The sambal in the Cauliflower Sambal Tunis (S$19) was so flavoursome, I wanted to take some (ok, a lot) home in a big jar! As someone who doesn’t get too excited by cauliflower, I really enjoyed this dish.
I also got to try one of the mains, the Mushroom Pong Tay (S$20), a very comforting and no fuss kind of stew with Shitake mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots. Non-spicy and reminiscent of the flavours of homemade chicken curry from my childhood, this would be perfect with a side of rice on a rainy day.
An interesting and novel experience for me was the Buak Keluak Fried Rice (S$25). Made with the seeds of the Kepayang tree, Buak Keluak is a staple ingredient in Peranakan cuisine that is usually eaten with pork or chicken. It wasn’t something I had tried before so it definitely surprised me with its undertones of bitterness and fermented earthiness. I was curious enough to go back for seconds and thirds but I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether I loved it or hated it! I was later told it’s an acquired taste for those who haven’t eaten this growing up and I couldn’t agree more. A more familiar and comforting dish, the Nasi Goreng Kangkung (S$23) is fragrant, perfectly seasoned and loaded with egg-like pieces of fried tofu, I could have easily eaten this comforting bowl of rice all by myself.
Time for dessert and the classic Pulot Hitam with Coconut Ice-cream is just the right amount of sweet. You can’t go wrong with black Glutinous rice cooked to perfection with gula melaka. A big portion and slightly on the heavier side, sharing this with a friend is highly recommended, both for the belly and the soul!
Violet Oon certainly deserves praise for creating an extensive meatless menu largely without any plant-based meats. While there is an Impossible Satay on the menu, there are 19 other delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes that speak of the innovation and creativity of the chefs at Violet Oon. With so many options to choose from, I wouldn’t think twice before returning for another glorious meal. If you took Violet Oon off your favourites list after going plant based, I think it would only be fair to add it right back!
Mansi is a former vegan restaurateur from India who tries to live a conscious and sustainable life. She likes to work with ethical businesses and dreams of having an animal shelter some day. As someone who developed her restaurant’s menu herself, Mansi is an instinctive cook and hates following recipes to the T. Relatively new to Singapore, she finds herself on a permanent food excursion and hopes to eat ALL the vegan grub that the city has to offer.
Before jumping into the food business, Mansi worked in the Development and Communication sector and is also a certified yoga instructor.