Although Sunday lunches (and the occasional supper) were a regular affair for the Hartono siblings when they were growing up, their busy professional lives mean that they don’t get to eat with each other as often as they’d like these days. Nydia is a photographer and film-maker while Norman is a restaurateur who spends his days at his latest venture, Dragon Chamber, a speakeasy-style Chinese restaurant and bar. But it’s clear family is never far from their minds. When you ask them about their all-time favourite dish, the collective answer from both is: “Chilli crab cooked by our father, Thomas!”
What do you usually order at your favourite supper joints?
Nydia: Chao ta bee hoon (burnt vermicelli) from Bee Hiang Seafood at Verdun Road; the crispy exterior is addictive, especially when paired with a saucerful of green chilli. I also like the duck rice at Hua Fong Kee Roasted Duck at Toa Payoh, one of my favourite supper spots.
Norman: I like the bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) from Yan Kee Noodle House at Circular Road, the eponymous dish from Beach Road Scissor-Cut Curry Rice, bean curd from Rochor Beancurd at Geylang… there are just too many to name!
What food brings back memories of childhood?
Nydia: The chocolate cake from Lana Cakes. We had it for birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day… I still find the taste incredibly nostalgic. Also, my grandmother’s pancit (noodles) soup. She’d always make a large pot during large family gatherings and I’d be so excited to eat it that I’d burn my tongue – but it was worth it!
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Norman: The wonton noodles from Parklane Zha Yun Tun Mee House at Sunshine Plaza. The taste reminds me of the wonton noodles I used to have almost every day for lunch when I was in primary school – right down to the chilli sauce used.
Have you mastered cooking any local dishes?
Norman: I personally don’t cook too often these days, but I’ve worked with my chefs at Dragon Chamber to create pretty decent wonton noodles and soya sauce chicken with rice or noodles.
What local dish do you miss the most when you’re overseas?
Nydia: When I was living abroad, I missed Hokkien mee because I simply couldn’t find anything close to it.
Norman: Bak chor mee, as it’s not commonly found overseas.
What are some cheap and cheerful spots you enjoy patronising?
Nydia: Swee Choon dim sum at Jalan Besar – I never spend more than $10 there.
Norman: Hong Lim Market & Food Centre; there’s lots of variety and you wouldn’t need to spend more than $6 a dish.
Art Direction: Audrey Chan
Photography: Micky Wong
Hair: Sean Ang, using IGK