Malay food is well-loved in Singapore for it’s robust spices, creamy gravies and crisp deep fried fritters – but also known for it’s lack of veg*n-friendliness. Good news is, vegan Malay food may soon be a reality as my bodybuilder friend Hilmi is preparing to start up a food business. The venture is named Sapao, and they hosted their first pre-launch food tasting event last weekend.
Sapao’s tagline is “Mama’s Meatless”. The head chef is none other than Hilmi’s mother, who is also vegan thanks to Hilmi’s influence. Hilmi has been vegan for more than a year and his mother was also inspired by the benefits, especially health-wise. Once from a Malaysian kampong (village), the dishes she cooks has that homely kampong taste that’s a gem in our world of fast food and ready-made-meals.
Here’s a short interview of Hilmi on Sapao, his inspiration and goals:
What made you want to start Sapao?
There’s a general misconception that vegan food is tasteless and food that has meat tastes better. Here at Sapao we want to change that and reintroduce plant-based foods to Singapore.
We believe it’s not about the meat that makes food tastes good but a robust mix of spices or rempah (spice paste) that cause the dish to stand out.
As for the replacement of meat it doesn’t matter if it’s soy, pulled jackfruit, or whole foods. What’s important is the dishes taste great as a whole and everyone loves them.
How long has your mom been cooking these dishes?
She has been making the meat versions all her life since the kampong days till she turned vegan and started experimenting with plant-based alternatives. I went for 4 vegan potlucks with her cooking and the feedback we got were always great, that’s why we want to start this venture.
When will Sapao be launching?
Tentatively early next year, either a stall or delivery format.
Sapao’s Dishes – Starters:
Sapao’s dishes are:
- Halal – Made with love by Malay Muslims.
- Very spicy – that’s the authentic way!
- Contains onions/garlic – A pity for religious vegetarians but I guess authentic Malay food, like Shandong food, can’t do without alliums.
Keep updated at their facebook and instagram, they may have another food tasting this month. They will be the first 100% vegan Malay food in Singapore and that’s a huge milestone for the local vegan scene!