From Kelong to Table: A conversation with Kai from Ah Hua Kelong

If there was one thing we could eat for the rest of our lives, it would be seafood, or more specifically seafood and pasta. Hence, when we met with managing director Jin Kai (otherwise known as Kai for short), we were thrilled to find out about Ah Hua Kelong and at the same time, moved by his passion to promote local seafood. What happened next is a no-brainer. We got into talks and decided to collaborate for a Dining Experience. Everything seemed to click and before you knew it, we came up with a bespoke seafood menu crafted by Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong’s Chef Jovan and our resident Chef Ryan. Better yet, Kai brought us on a tour of one of his kelongs, floating on the sea midway between Pulau Ubin and the Pasir Ris coast. There, he shares with us more about Ah Hua Kelong and his dreams for the seafood industry in Singapore.


Hello Kai, can you tell us more about the history of Ah Hua Kelong?

Ah Hua Kelong is actually named after our founder Ah Hua, who founded this farm 20 years ago. We have two fish farms, one in Changi and the other in Sembawang. Ah Hua is the real expert and we picked up the ropes from him. He knows everything about these fishes and we’ll consult him if we’re unsure about things or if we run into problems. My other business partner runs the marketing aspect, whereas I handle the operations.

Back in 2014, my partner and I met up during reservist training and he told me about the local seafood industry and the kelong business. We recognised that there was a gap that could be bridged — connecting local Singaporeans with local seafood, and this was an opportunity like no other. We came in with the goal of increasing consumption of locally farmed seafood and changing the industry. I decided to take the plunge and join the team, so here I am now!


Speaking of local seafood, what is our local seafood industry like?

In Singapore, 92% of the seafood we consume is imported from our neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia. The remaining 8% comes from local fish farms such as ours and there are 96 as of today. Sadly the number is dropping as they are run mostly by the older generation. Most of the other farms run B2B supplier services with restaurants but we always aimed to be a little different and decided to go for the B2C route. Hence, we launched the home delivery service where customers can place orders for seafood via our website and enjoy next-day delivery.  

How do you run the operations of your online delivery service?

We run on the premise of freshness as that is paramount for seafood. My partner is in charge of collating orders, following that he will send the orders to our team at the kelong overnight. The next morning, our kelong team will harvest the seafood required from our nets and we’ll have it delivered fresh to our customers’ doorsteps.

 The Grouper, one of Ah Hua Kelong’s specialties, takes years to develop to a full size but can grow up to 20kg!

The Grouper, one of Ah Hua Kelong’s specialties, takes years to develop to a full size but can grow up to 20kg!

Sounds like a lot of work! How does your seafood differ from that of imported seafood?

Unfortunately, we cannot compete with imported seafood in terms of price. Manpower and operations are expensive in Singapore, thus our costs are higher. Hence, we make up for that in terms of freshness and premium quality. With our delivery system, you can be assured that you get your seafood a few hours after it’s been hauled from our nets. As for quality, we aim for sustainable farming practices and grow our fish naturally. We also feed our fish high-quality live feed, so that they have superior colour, fattiness, firmer texture and a sweeter taste.

Would you see the other local fish farms as competitors?

No, not at all! In fact, we do rely on each other quite a fair bit. For example, there is an elderly couple who come out to sea to catch flower crabs in their small boat. Sometimes if we have orders, we’ll get them to help us with the harvest. So I would say that our main competition would be the foreign fish farms instead.

Overall, I think it would be great if all the kelongs could come together and collectively boost the local consumption of seafood. If we could increase the local consumption to 10%, this would make the industry more sustainable economically. If we can increase it to 20%, then it can even be profitable and start to attract investment. With that, perhaps the younger generation would see the potential and start joining in. That is the ultimate goal because it’s important to keep the kelong culture alive for generations to come!

 Kai showing us the huge nets used to haul up tons of fish each day.

Kai showing us the huge nets used to haul up tons of fish each day.


Speaking of Kelong culture, what is a normal day on the kelongs like?

Just like any other farm work, it’s definitely back-breaking and not the most glamorous. Most youngsters in our generation aren’t too keen on this, which is why most of the fish farmers are old uncles. We have a total of seven guys in the team and their day starts at 5 am. They start by raising the nets which normally takes an hour. From 6-7 am, they will scoop the feed and remove any dead fish. Following which, they will wash the nets and start cleaning out the shellfish to prepare for delivery. All this will usually be done by lunchtime where I will pick up the seafood at the jetty and have them delivered to our customers and our restaurants.

Sounds like a busy day! Can you tell us more about your restaurants?

The idea of opening restaurants was a natural symbiotic progression as we returned to our founding idea of bridging locals with local seafood. Through our restaurants, we hoped to create a platform that could feature our fresh seafood through carefully crafted menus, which celebrate its natural flavours and allow diners to taste the difference. Hence, dining at our restaurants is not just about our food but also the experience, as every plate offers a fresh perspective. We take every opportunity to educate diners on our farming processes and get them hooked on our local seafood. We sometimes share our interesting kelong stories and customers love this engaging aspect of the dining experience.

As of now, we have two restaurants, the first restaurant is simply named Ah Hua Kelong. It’s located at Jalan Riang and serves our freshly harvested seafood prepared Chinese ‘Zi Char’ style. The other outlet, Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong, takes on a modern Asian-fusion approach and is located at Haji Lane. For Scaled, we serve up a small menu focusing on affordable sharing plates to reach out to the younger crowd.

 A lot of work goes behind the scenes before our seafood reaches our tables, such as the cleaning of mussels (scraping off barnacles) which has to be done individually and can be labour intensive.

A lot of work goes behind the scenes before our seafood reaches our tables, such as the cleaning of mussels (scraping off barnacles) which has to be done individually and can be labour intensive.

That’s great to hear! What are your hopes for your brand and the seafood industry in Singapore?

First of all, we hope to build awareness and seep into the consciousness of consumers, to spark their curiosity and change their viewpoint on seafood they eat. We want them to start thinking critically and asking fundamental questions, such as ‘Where does my seafood come from? What is the process of fish farming? Who are the people responsible for my seafood?’ This creates a talking point which motivates people to seek answers, learn more, and ultimately see the value in our work which is very much under-appreciated.

The concept of ‘Farm to Table’ has been a buzzword in the West and slowly but surely, starting to catch on in Singapore. We have more and more young chefs who recognise the importance of supporting local and want to feature our seafood on their menus. We also have more farmers markets which are growing in popularity every year. It’s great that this concept of supporting local is picking up, although more can be done through education.

How do you plan to better educate consumers and spread this awareness?

As much as we’d love to run kelong tours and outreach programmes, it’s difficult due to strict AVA rules. Thankfully there is social media, so we can share photos and videos of behind-the-scenes of our team and our fish farming process.

On our restaurant side, we’ll continue to educate diners and at the same time promote our home delivery service so that our efforts come full circle. We’re also trying to do more collaborations with other chefs and restaurants to feature our local seafood. This upcoming Seafood Locavore Experience is our first collaboration so we’re definitely very excited!


Thanks Kai, that was very insightful and meaningful and we can’t wait as well!

The Seafood Locavore Experience co-hosted by Chun Tsubaki and Scaled by Ah Hua Kelong is happening on Thursday, 1 November 2018 at 7pm. Sign up here to reserve your seat and taste the fruits of our local seas!

For the sake of good Sake


As you can tell by our name, you’d pretty much know that we’re Japanophiles, and that includes our love for Sake, an age-old yet underrated spirit that makes for a great aperitif. However, the world of Sake is one that is pretty unexplored and hence we thought it'd be great to combine this with our love for Japanese food! We speak to Charles, the Sake Connoisseur from Epicurean Nomads to learn more about this iconic Japanese brew for our upcoming Sake Pairing Experience, in collaboration with Haru Singapore.


Hi Charles, can you tell us more about yourself and how you got into the trade of sake?

It was a serendipitous encounter with a sake that flicked on the "sake-switch” within me some 6 years back, kickstarting the genesis of my foray into the fascinating world of rice, yeast & enzymes. My prior fascination was with another fermented beverage — beer!

There are many different types of sakes available in the market, but how do we distinguish a good sake?

Balance is of paramount importance in a well-crafted sake;  it should have components of umami, acidity, sweetness, bitterness, alcohol and body all coming together harmoniously.



What are some brands good for regular drinking and others that are reserved for special occasions?

Most breweries have a diverse range of sakes, with some commanding a high premium, given highly artisanal brewing techniques and the intensely limited yield. An example is the Komyo, where the semaibuai (percentage of rice removed during the polishing process) is 1% and it takes 1800 hours to mill away 99% of the rice grain;  such sakes are best reserved for an extremely privileged occasion.  

On the other hand, brands like Toyo Bijin Junmai Ginjo OkarakuchiNabeshima Tokubetsu Junmai, Kamonishiki Junmai Daiginjo Nifuda Sake and Yamamoto Pure Black are some labels that people can regularly indulge in without having to break the bank!

What are some of the best sake breweries in Japan and what distinguishes them as the cream of the crop?

While it is not difficult for breweries to have 1 or 2 Sake labels which are really good, outstanding breweries make sure that every single label released is equally outstanding & sublime. Smaller artisanal breweries tend to brew sakes of a much higher quality as compared with National Breweries whose objective is to offer high volumes of Sakes at very low prices.  Each year, before the brewing season commences in October, the entire production for Nabeshima is fully accounted for — that’s truly a mark of how successful a brewery is.



How does sake pairing normally work and is it similar to the principles of wine pairing?

Many people feel that sakes pair better with Japanese cuisine but that’s somewhat a myth. Sakes are intensely food-friendly, with high levels of amino acids which enhance the flavours of the food. On the other hand, some sakes are brewed with the intent to help refresh the palate, allowing the diner to better appreciate and focus on the food. Textural compatibility is also an important theme when pairing sake with food.

Personally, what is your favourite sake?

While it’s really difficult to select a favourite sake, I am partial towards Yamahai and Kimoto styles given the complexity and depth of flavours. Wataribune would also rank as my favourite sake rice varietal — it’s an ancient sake rice which was extinct before being revived. These sakes made using Wataribune are quite simply unmatched. 


The Sake Pairing Experience hosted by Chun Tsubaki in collaboration with Haru Singapore and Epicurean Nomads will be happening on Saturday, 4 August 7pm, featuring a carefully curated menu inspired by the 4 seasons of Japan with artisanal canapés matched with 4 premium Sakes. Did we mention Sake is free-flow? 



Recipes by Uma Raghuraman (@masterchefmom)


ICMYI, we had a great time with our friend and inspiration Uma Raghuraman, the talented home cook behind Masterchefmom. Lucky for the FOMO in you, Uma has kindly shared her very own recipes of the delicious Indian dishes we prepared at our Masterclass Experience. Read all about it below!

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Preparation time: 15 minutes

Soaking time: 4 hours

Fermentation time: 8 hours



Raw rice- 2 cups

Parboiled rice( Idli rice)- 3 cups

Urad Dal-1 cup( a handful more ,if you are using broken Urad)

Poha (puffed rice) - 1/2 cup

Sabudana - 1/2 cup

 Sesame oil- 2 tbsp

 Rock salt to taste.

 Fenugreek seeds- 2 tsp


IMPORTANT TIP: Before you soak the rice and dal, wash them separately at least 4 to 5 times in running water to remove any impurities. You must be able to see the rice/dal below water clearly. 



1. Soak both rice together. Poha separately and sabudana separately. Soak them in such vessels, which has adequate space for them to rise. Soak the Urad dal with Fenugreek seeds in a separate vessel.

2. If you have a grinder, it is good or else you can use a mixer to grind the batter. The Urad dal mixture goes into the grinder first. Drain the water and start grinding. Watch over it and keep adding water to ease the grinding process.  It will take at least 30 minutes to get a smooth and fluffy batter.

3. Remove this batter and transfer it to a large vessel.

4. Now add the rice in the grinder and as it starts grinding, add water to smooth the process. Do not add too much water or too less. This grinding will again take a minimum of 20 minutes( depends on the quality of your grinder and rice)

5. Just before switching off, add the sesame oil and salt. If your grinder is a big one, you can also add the Urad batter into the grinder so that it can mix well. How ever, if that is not possible, remove the rice  batter and pour it inside the same vessel that contains the Urad batter. Beat the batter in a circular motion with your hand to mix well. However, you can also mix with a ladle

Tip: Beating the batter with the hand helps the batter to ferment better and quicker. Adding rock salt is preferred.

6. Cover the batter and rest it in a warm place for about 8 hours. You can see that it has risen well Your homemade Idli/Dosai batter is now ready!



INGREDIENTS: Idli/Dosai batter (same as above)


1. Heat a tawa and spread 2-3  drops of oil uniformly using a ladle or half cut red onion.

2. When the tawa is just hot, pour a ladle full of batter in the centre of the tawa and spread the batter from the centre to the edges in a circular motion (usually done anti-clock wise).

3. Spoon oil around the sides of the dosa and drizzle over the dosai also (if you want it little crisp) and cook the dosai over medium flame.

4. When the dosai browns on one side, flip and cook the other side .

5. Remove the dosa using the spatula, fold and serve.

6. Repeat the same process for the rest of the batter.


Preparation time: 12-14 hours

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Serves: 10

Special Vessel/Equipment : Stone grinder or mixer, Idli plates, Idli Steamer or Pressure cooker (do not use the whistle), thin and clean kitchen towel, 250ml cup


INGREDIENTS: Idli Dosai Batter



1. Grease the idli plates (without perforation) with sesame oil. 

2. Spoon the batter into the depression of the plates.

3. Steam cook till done (steps same as traditional method to check whether done).

4. Switch off and remove the plates from the steamer.

5. Wait for it to cool for at least 5-7 minutes. If you are in a hurry, you can show the back of the idli plate in running water (without getting the idlis wet) and then using a spoon, run it on the side of the idli plate to remove them. Your steaming hot, white, fluffy, spongy, super soft idlis are ready to be served!


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Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 6



15-20 shallots (peeled) or 2  regular onions (chopped thinly lengthwise)

2  tomatoes (finely chopped)

1 drumstick (chop into 1" pieces, boil in 1 cup water it is tender) (optional)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (divided)

Juice from marble size ball of tamarind soaked in 1 cup warm water 

1/2 cup toor dal/arhar dal/tuvar dal (wash and boil with 1 & 1/2 cups water, turmeric powder, mash well)

2 tablespoons oil + 1 teaspoon ghee/clarified butter

2 1/2 teaspoons Sambar Powder


To Temper:

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 green chillies (slit length-wise)

1 sprig curry leaves (tear them roughly)


To garnish :

Finely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves (optional)



1. In a pan, dry roast the ingredients given under 'to roast and grind’ and powder them.

2. In a kadai/pan, heat oil and add the ingredients given under 'to temper'.

3. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the onions, tomatoes and the shallots.

4. As you are mixing the vegetables and cooking them over a low flame, add salt and turmeric powder.

5. When the tomatoes have become mushy (it will take approximately 3-4 minutes), add the boiled drumstick along with the boiled water, tamarind juice, toor dal (boiled and mashed) and the spice powder.

6. Adjust water and let the sambar simmer over low flame for 5-7 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.

7. Switch off and garnish with cilantro. Your Chennai Style tiffin sambar is now ready!


Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5-7 minutes

Serves :4

1 cup = 250 ml cup



1 cup fresh coconut (chopped or grated)

2 green chillies (adjust) 

water (adjust) (approximately 1/2 cup)

salt to taste


For tempering :

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves (roughly torn)



1. Add the coconut, gram dal, green chillies into the small jar of the mixer /food processor .

2. Add water and allow it to soak for around 5 minutes.

3. Grind it coarsely. 

4. Transfer it to a serving bowl.

5. Heat a small pan/iron ladle with oil and temper with mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves.

6. Pour it over the chutney. Your authentic and fresh Coconut Chutney is now ready. Mix well and serve it along with your tiffin!


Kamayan Feast: A dialogue with Ryan Foo


Kickstarting our series of Chun Dining Experiences is none other than Ryan Foo, our culinary consultant/studio manager/assistant food stylist (yes he’s a  jack of all trades) and you’ve probably seen him here and there on our Instagram Stories. For our inaugural dining session, Ryan takes us to his Filipino roots with the Kamayan (Tagalog for ‘with hands’), a traditional communal feast prepared and enjoyed by families and sometimes the entire village. The Kamayan comprises a steaming line of rice plated on a long row of banana leaves, piled high with accompanying side dishes, each carrying their own array of spices and seasonings, paired with dipping sauces to complement and enhance the flavours. The essence of camaraderie is further enhanced as guests eat together with the hands. All in all, the various dishes will tantalise your taste buds, and is in its very essence a feast to behold!

We speak to Ryan to find out more about his cooking philosophy and how his Filipino heritage has influenced his personal style.


Hi Ryan, can you tell us more about your journey as a chef?

My interest in cooking and love for food was sparked at a young age of 4. I was always borrowing and reading cookbooks from libraries and even asked for one for my 10th birthday! Like everyone else, I considered my options growing up but it ultimately led me back to my love for food. Hence, I took a diploma in Culinary Management which is half culinary-focused and half business-focused (as a plan B). I ended up working in all sorts of positions in food establishments to learn and acquire different skills and culinary knowledge from bistros to fine dining restaurants and to being front-of-house staff.


What is your cooking philosophy?

I believe that understanding tradition is important but we shouldn’t be close-minded to improving and adapting. We should try everything twice even if it seems like a bad idea. First bite is to try, second is to make sure you actually hate/love it.



How has your maternal Filipino roots shaped your cooking journey?

When I started my culinary journey, I didn’t have a unique identity/specialty per se- People would often ask me “What’s my specialty or what cuisine do I like to cook?” I wasn’t completely sure how to reply them. Back then, my ‘favourite dish’ was probably whichever cuisine the restaurant I was working on at the time.

I ate a lot of Filipino food growing up but it didn’t occur to me that it was such an unheard of cuisine to most. One day, I decided to bring my friends to try out Filipino food for the first time at one of my go-to spots, a small cafeteria at Lucky Plaza. They absolutely loved it and till this day, we still keep going back!

It was then it clicked that this Filipino cuisine is so underrated and more people should know about. I started researching and learning about the different dishes and adapted them a little so people can better appreciate it as the flavours can be quite intense/in-your-face. Hence, I ended up adding Filipino flavours to more familiar foods and since then, these flavours have been injected into my cooking on a regular basis.


Speaking of flavours, every cuisine has a distinct characteristic (ie. Vietnamese/Thai food with fish sauce, Japanese food with Mirin/Bonito), what would you say is the distinguishing flavour of Filipino food?

It differs from where you’re from in the Philippines. People from Bicol (southeast part of Luzon island). My mom is from Pampanga (central Luzon region) and they use a lot more acidic/citrus components in their dishes or dipping sauces, like Calamansi and Cane Vinegar. Overall I feel like Kapampangan food (from Pampanga) is generally very bold in flavours with prevalent profiles of acidity, sweetness, spiciness and saltiness.

 Lechon Kawali, deep fried pork belly dehydrated for 24hrs to achieve an extra crispy skin. Without a doubt the star of the Kamayan Feast!

Lechon Kawali, deep fried pork belly dehydrated for 24hrs to achieve an extra crispy skin. Without a doubt the star of the Kamayan Feast!

 Another popular side is the Tocino, the Filipino version of Char Siew Pork that is cured for a few days in sweet marinade and fried till golden brown. 

Another popular side is the Tocino, the Filipino version of Char Siew Pork that is cured for a few days in sweet marinade and fried till golden brown. 


Do you cook with your mum and did she teach you to cook these dishes?

Everyone has to start somewhere, and mine started in the kitchen with my mum. I used to watch her cook when I was young and I moved up into learning some of her recipes (this scored me an ‘A’ in home economics). These days I cook with her from time to time especially the traditional dishes or rather the dishes she grew up eating.

What would you say is your favourite Filipino dish? ie. if there was one comfort food you could choose…

I absolutely love Dinuguan, a savoury stew of pork offal and/or meat simmered in a rich, spicy dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili, and vinegar. Don’t let the idea and dark appearance of the dish freak you out, it’s actually really good! (Just think chocolate sauce)

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to find this dish in Singapore because of strict AVA rules.


Food publications in the US have forecasted that Filipino cuisine could be the next big thing, do you think there is such a chance for Filipino cuisine to trend in Singapore?

100%. I can see a gradual rise in interest of Filipino cuisine now especially with more eateries opening up and actually flourishing, like the successful Iskina Cebu in Timbre+ and Gerry’s in Cuppage Road.


Are you excited to host the first Chun Dining Experience?

Of course! I’m always happy to introduce new food to others, especially if it’s Filipino food since I get to share some of my culture with you guys!

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Ryan will be hosting the Kamayan Feast on Friday, 25th May 7.00pm in our studio. Tickets are at $50/pax and $160 for a group of 4.

Sign up here!


Somen in Papaya Milk Soup with Clams


If you follow us closely, you might be wondering what’s the deal with our social kitchen. Truth be told, food is very much our raison d'être and we love the process of recipe development, cooking and sharing our culinary creations with each other. Hence, a lot of our creative work and Chun Experiences revolve around the idea of food and communal dining.   

What we really love is a one-dish meal, good ol’ comforting soupy noodles that basically fits the entire food pyramid into a single bowl. Inspired by the humble papaya soup of Hong Kong’s 24hr Cha Chan Tengs(茶餐厅), we came up with this recipe for papaya milk soup with clams and somen. You’ve got your carbs with silky Japanese somen; your veggies with crunchy bok choy and papaya which lends a nuanced honeyed and slightly nutty aftertaste; and also your proteins from juicy white clams. Combine all of this in a tasty broth of kombu and bonito stock infused with the sweet papaya and clam juice, add a dash of evaporated milk and voilà — you’ve got yourself a gratifying bowl of wholesome goodness with a balanced harmony of flavours. We bet you’ll be chowing down every last morsel, and polishing off every drop of soup!

Somen in Papaya Milk Broth w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Soup w/ Clams




  • 1500 ml of water
  • 1 pc of kombu (4cm x 3cm)

  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce - adjust to your preference

  • 1 kg of white clams

  • 5 g / 1 sachet of bonito flakes

  • 80 -100 ml of evaporated milk

  • 250 g of papaya, sliced into chunks

  • 2 servings of somen

  • Scallions & coriander for garnishing

  • White pepper to taste

  • 1 tsp of salt

  • Bok Choy, blanched - optional



To prepare the papaya milk broth, immerse the kombu in water and boil over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove the kombu and add the bonito flakes and simmer for 3 minutes.. After which, remove the bonito flakes from the broth using a sieve.

Following the stock preparation, add in papaya chunks and boil on low-medium heat for at least 30 minutes. Lightly crush the papaya chunks to better infuse the flavours into the soup. After 30 minutes, add in the clams and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until they open up. Remove the clams from the broth and set aside. Add a dash of white pepper, 1 tsp of salt and fish sauce to taste.

Finally, add 3 tbsp of evaporated milk to achieve a rich silky finish. Adjust to taste.



Boil the somen as per package instructions. Upon completion, place it in ice water to prevent noodles from sticking together.

Plate the somen and clams in a bowl. Ladle the soup over with chunks of papaya. Garnish with scallions and coriander. You’re ready to serve!


Somen in Papaya Milk Broth w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Broth w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Broth w/ Clams
Somen in Papaya Milk Broth w/ Clams


Let us know if you tried our recipe and send over some noods, for we’d love to hear from fellow foodies as well! Also, complementing this delectable dish are the plates from our Chun Tsubaki Collection, handmade in the USA by Facture Goods. Every dish is molded by hand with a raw finish, giving it a unique rugged charm with no two plates being exactly the same. Get your very own set over on our shop!


Indian Cooking 101


For a cuisine that uses approximately 200 of the estimated 381 ingredients known in the world, we're only getting the tip of the iceberg here in Singapore. For our second Chun Masterclass Experience, we explore the art of Indian home cooking with our friend and inspiration, Uma Raghuraman, also known as her Instagram handle @masterchefmom


Hello Uma! Can you tell us more about yourself?

 There's so much more than meets the eye for Uma Raghuraman. Apart from being a dedicated mother and talented home cook, Uma also bagged the award for Best Food Instagram at 2017's Saveur Awards.                 

There's so much more than meets the eye for Uma Raghuraman. Apart from being a dedicated mother and talented home cook, Uma also bagged the award for Best Food Instagram at 2017's Saveur Awards.              


Hi Food Lovers, I am Uma Raghuraman from India! I am basically a Tamil Girl from Chennai in the South of India. I am a post graduate in commerce and also a professionally trained teacher. After getting married, I moved to Bangalore and later to Delhi to support my husband's career. Thanks to these movements, I learnt a lot about different Indian cultures, people, their habits, languages and most importantly different types of food. 

When people ask me what I do, I often tell them I cook three healthy and tasty meals for my family and as easy as it may seem, let me tell you that it is a full-time job that I enjoy doing. I personally believe that a way to my family ’s heart is through their stomach and I think I have earned their love through my cooking!


How did moving to different cities in India inspire your culinary journey?

My husband believes in the adage, "Live to Eat" rather than "Eat to Live". This triggered my culinary journey and my first guru was my mother-in-law. The genes passed on to my kids too and this encouraged me to be open and curious to explore new cuisine, recipes and techniques from friends and people I met. I have always loved experimenting in my kitchen and it thrills me when my culinary experiments end up tasting great!


Sound like you have a family of foodies! Besides your mother-in-law, did you have any other culinary inspirations?

I have seen both my grandmothers, my mother-in-law and my mother, cooking 24/7, 365 days a year of delicious and wholesome food for their large families around them, always with a smile. I try my best to do the same as they are my constant inspirations.

Apart from cooking, I love to teach. I have spent a decade teaching and grooming little kids. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate to teach cooking and realise that is it indeed my true calling.

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Dosai in 2 variations with a modern twist! (from left to right): Cauliflower Masala Dosai and Mini Dosais with Curry Leaves Chutney


Is that what inspired you to start your blog/Instagram for @masterchefmom?

Challenges in life bring out the best in us. Like most families today, I too had my share of challenges making both my children eat healthy, especially when they were small. I used to come up with interesting and creative dishes that are both healthy and visually attractive to appeal to my fussy little eaters.

When I quit my job in 2014, to be a stay at home mum, I started sharing the dishes I created in my kitchen to the world through social media. It was a huge hit and many people wanted me to share detailed recipes, the process and stories behind the dishes and this culminated in me starting my blog ‘Masterchefmom’.

Through my blog, I want to inspire young mothers to cook healthy, creative and interesting dishes that will not only excite the person who eats but also brings loads of enthusiasm to the person who cooks. I received a lot of love for my recipes and also requests to share more than just lunch box ideas, so I started sharing recipes of everyday Indian dishes recipes with step-by-step pictures which I cook from scratch. Currently, there are close to a thousand recipes on my blog to help young mothers who are going through similar challenges everyday.  


What is your favourite Indian dish to eat/prepare?

This is a difficult question as I have not one but many dishes that I love to prepare! I really love making rasam (a kind of soup). I also love making chutneys and sambar ( a tamarind based lentil curry). I really enjoy eating a good dal with hot rice and ghee. 


Do you have a certain food philosophy when it comes to preparing your dishes?

My mantra is “Being real, simple and original“. The dishes I cook should be simple, tasty, and at the same time wholesome so it can be easily replicated by my blog readers.

I cook with loads of enthusiasm and enjoy cooking using fresh and local ingredients. I like to cook from scratch and use my heart to decide the menu for the day. I use my creativity to give even regular dishes a twist that make the dish interesting and unique. I also share vegan and gluten-free options for traditional recipes. This way, everyone can try my recipes. Also, it is interesting that many South Indian recipes are by nature vegan and gluten-free. I also come up with fusion recipes to satisfy my creative juices and this has been appreciated and loved by my readers. I also like to bring back many lost recipes and traditions, like serving food on leaf plates daily. 


How often do you come up with recipes for your blog and Instagram (ie. the whole process of cooking, styling, shooting and blogging!)?

I feel very happy and excited to see my dishes being recreated in many homes. That being said, food blogging is a lot of hard work. Cooking the meal, styling and then photographing the meal takes a lot of time. Following that, sharing the story behind the meal and the detailed recipe with accurate measurements, steps and ingredients takes a minimum of 2 -3 hours depending on the complexity of the dish. There are days when I have cooked the dish but don't get the time to sit down and update the blog. 

At the same time, I also take my readers to my roots, by teaching them traditional, heirloom recipes that only require a few steps. As I cook three meals a day, I try and share at least one to two recipes from that day’s meal on my blog. So, I plan my menu accordingly. 


choliya kuzhambu 2-min-1.jpg
Dalia Bisi Bele Bath -min.jpg

From left to right: Choliya Kuzhambu and Dalia Bisi Bele Beth, loving prepared at home and styled with elements of Uma's Indian heritage and artistic flair of hand painted boards and colourful traditional fabrics.


That sounds like a lot of work! What is your usual creative process like?

I shoot pictures of my lunch preparation which is usually a three to four-course meal on average. This, I share on my Instagram and Facebook, while a few individual recipes from each meal gets shared on my blog. For these recipes, I shoot pictures of each step to help the readers get more clarity and try it in their kitchen.

Sometimes I also shoot them separately to highlight a particular dish. With regards to styling, I always want a part of me reflected in my food. The picture should talk for itself and share a story. You will always find my styling very real and ethnic. I also paint my own boards as I want every bit of the picture to reflect the love and warmth with which I share the food. 

All in all, the entire process of cooking, styling, shooting and blogging for every recipe takes a minimum of 10-12 hours. It is more than a full-time job!


Are you looking forward to your Masterclass Experience at Chun Tsubaki?

Yes of course! Everyone has a dream. My dream is for the world to know and acknowledge real Indian cooking as an ancient art, where food is considered a medicine that heals. There are so many ingredients that have so much healing power and brings about good health and wellness.  Most of man’s problems today are due to the fast life that includes fast foods and many do not know the secrets of recipes handed down across generations. 

I am so thrilled that Chun Tsubaki is giving me an opportunity to collaborate and share a few gems of Indian cooking with the people of Singapore. Through this, I hope to make people fall in love with Indian food and also motivate them to cook these healthy and healing foods at home. 


Check out Uma's blog ( and join us for her Masterclass Experience on Saturday, 28 April 2018 from 11am-1pm. Sign up here for your slot!


The Coming of Chun Tsubaki


It's almost been a month since we officially launched this labour of love and sometimes I pinch myself because it's so surreal to be where we are today. It was always a dream of mine to have my own creative studio, but I only seriously conceptualised the idea of Chun Tsubaki in January 2017, where I casually mentioned this plan to Claire, our current copywriter/creative strategist. 

Half a year later, the perfect space was found at 3 Kim Chuan Lane, complete with industrial vibes, a tiny loft (a.k.a the mezzanine), and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the perfect amount of sun for natural light photography (also because we're obsessed with #chasinglight).

  The empty shell of our studio, shot during a space viewing.

The empty shell of our studio, shot during a space viewing.

Chun Tsubaki Raw
Chun Tsubaki Raw

As I always had a penchant for interior design, I decided to take on the task of designing the studio. The idea was envisioned along the complementary concepts of Danish Hygge and Japanese Wabi-Sabi. Overall, I didn't want a stiff-collared no-nonsense 'office', but instead aspired to build an aesthetically pleasing 'home away from home'  — a space that could invigorate the senses and bring creatives from various fields together, a space where we could celebrate the culinary arts and share with everyone our passion for food, and finally, an inviting space that could bring people together.

All of this was of course ambitious, and we had our work cut out for us. 

  Renovation works at our studio

Renovation works at our studio

Chun Tsubaki Reno

We liked the bare aesthetics of the studio and wanted to keep it simple. Hence, the bulk of the renovation process was focused on the social kitchen. Everything was painstakingly designed and custom-made, from the  oak wood veneer of our cabinets to the Carrara marble counter top of our mobile kitchen island. It was no doubt a long and tiring process, but seeing it come together beautifully made all that effort feel worth it. 

Our dream kitchen: marble counter tops, wide space for food prep and of course, an abundance of natural light for food photography!

Once the kitchen was settled, we started to fill our space with key furniture pieces from our friends at Möbler, to evoke a sense of rustic Scandinavian charm, complete with electrical appliances from Bosch, and finally some foliage to add a breath of fresh air and greenery to our space.

 After half a year of hard work and planning, our space is finally up and looking lit (literally)!

After half a year of hard work and planning, our space is finally up and looking lit (literally)!

Chun Tsubaki Space

It's been an arduous journey to get Chun Tsubaki up and running, but through this process we've felt an enormous outpouring of love and support from friends, family, and everyone in the community. We definitely wouldn't be where we are today and for this, we are infinitely grateful. We hope to keep growing, to refine and redefine our creative process, to share our passions, and inspire everyone to revel in the makers process. This is just the beginning of a new chapter, and we've got grand plans for the year(s) ahead. Hustle on!


- C.R Tan

Founder and Director, of Chun Tsubaki


If you're interested in booking our space for your private or corporate gatherings, drop us an email and we'll be in touch!