When I was a boy, one of my favourite weekend activities involved leafing through fliers that came in the mail over the week. My favourite fliers were always those from catering companies—tingkat delivery, babies’ first month birthday celebrations, wedding meal options… I was hooked by the idea of almost bringing an entire restaurant right to the comfort of one’s home!
By the time I turned twelve, I was fairly well-informed of catering prices, options and conditions. Still, a handful of teens were probably more knowledgeable than I was: The Ang Cousins of Elsie’s Kitchen.
The Ang Cousins come from a storied catering family that has spanned three generations over more than 50 years. Most Singaporeans would have encountered the family, directly or otherwise, through their experiences with catered food—the firm’s major clients are a veritable listing of Singapore’s most well-known brands, MNCs, and government agencies. On its busiest day, the company had even served up 24,000 piping hot packet meals. (that’s almost half the National Stadium’s capacity!)
The Ang Cousins have come of age and now head the family business: 30-year-old Reuben is the managing director, his sister Rachel heads human resources, and cousin Job Ang oversees food and beverage. Yet the trio are not content to let the company coast along—this year, they have re-branded Elsie’s Kitchen and launched a new buffet menu that emphasises innovative variations of Singaporean classics.
That’s how I ended up on a rooftop garden in Clarke Quay one recent weeknight, having been invited to Elsie’s Kitchen menu revamp. The location notwithstanding, it was a down-to-earth affair—think personable wait-staff, a theme of yesteryear Singapore, and good-to-honest cooking.
But Elsie’s Kitchen had kept up with the times, too. At the event, the nostalgic 60s Singapore-themed table setting showcased the firm’s capabilities in conceptualising and executing themed events (from customisable menu cards to table layouts); online, the company’s vibrant social media presence on Facebook and Instagram (#Elsieskitchen) got me clicking around for more than I would care to admit; and the firm’s ongoing (and progressive!) initiative to collaborate with its employees in creating new dishes impressed me because of how it empowered staff.
Elsie’s Kitchen featured eighteen of its menu items that evening:
Coconut and Pandan Crème Brûlée
Micro Rojak on Semarang Rose Apple
The savoury rojak provided a refreshing counterpoint to the tart and juicy rose apple. Is one slice enough? Probably not!
Muah Otah Mantou Slider with Achar Relish
Thai Green Curry Fried Rice
How interesting can fried rice get? Answer: Very interesting, if it’s flavoured with Thai green curry, not bland, and not overly chewy.
Nonya Dry Assam Prawns
Indonesian Sotong Panggang
Signature Muar Mackerel Otah
This otah has been Elsie’s Kitchen’s specialty since the 1990s, when the family’s second generation went on numerous trips to the Malaysian town of Muar to find the perfect otah. It’s a dish that the company is rightly proud of.
Rojak Chicken Katsu topped with Fruit Salad
Twice-cooked Five Spice Lamb with Red Chili
“Kra Pow” Thai Basil Bee Tai Mak with Minced Chicken
I’m usually wary of carbohydrate-laden dishes at buffets because they generally provide a high cost-to-enjoyment ratio (imagine spending all those calories for a pay-out marked by bloat, oil, and a lack of taste). But this Bee Tai Mak is a worthy contender for your stomach space.
Cuttlefish and Kang Kong Tempura with Spicy Dipping Sauce
Signature Nonya Laksa
The Laksa was spectacular. The gravy was of the perfect consistency, the dish was fragrant, and the noodles retained its plumpness even after being steeped in the gravy for a few minutes.
Peranakan Kueh Pie Tee
This was another standout dish that belies the immense effort that goes into making it. The “top hat” batter is notoriously difficult to get right: in the hands of a lesser chef, it can come off too oily, or worse, mushy. Elsie’s Kitchen version was incredibly delicious. The shrimp and vegetables were fresh and juicy, while the “top hat” batter was crisp, light and flavourful.
Despite my initial misgivings at the potential for gimmickry, Elsie’s Kitchen successfully incorporated “local” flavours with its cupcakes, cream puffs, panna cotta, tiramisu and tarts.
“Teh Halia” Cupcake
Orh Nee Cream Puff, Chendol Panna Cotta, Thai Iced “Tea”-ramisu
Lemongrass Meringue Tart
If you think catered food is static (large trays of colourless food!), boring (“not lime cordial again!”) and otherwise mediocre (salty fried chicken; starchy fried noodles), you’re in good company—I don’t know many people who are enthusiastic about catered food. But if what I tried that evening was indicative of the firm’s wider menu, I know who to call the next time I’m looking to cater food for an event. And Elsie’s Kitchen is good to go for literally any event, from fancy canapé receptions with live stations to mini takeaway buffets.
Here’s to a successful next fifty years, Elsie’s Kitchen.
Thank you, Elsie’s Kitchen, for the invitation.
Elsie’s Kitchen by Hesed&Emet
21 Second Chin Bee Road,
Tel: 6288 4457
Monday to Friday: 9 am to 6 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 4 pm
Sundays/Public Holidays: Closed
Official Hashtag: #Elsieskitchen
Payment: Cash / cheque upon delivery