Interview with Chinese Londoner Ellen Chew, Rasa Sayang restaurant
London celebrates Chinese New Year in a big way, with an annual Chinatown parade and a cultural festival in Trafalgar Square. For an insight into London’s Chinese side, we’ve interviewed the CEO of the Rasa Sayang Group, Ellen Chew.
Ellen encapsulates the breadth of London’s Chinese food scene: Rasa Sayang is a Singaporean-Malaysian Chinatown restaurant. We met Ellen there for a sweet cup of Malaysian milk tea, teh tarik.
Arriving in London in 2005, Ellen now oversees a restaurant empire: ‘My other half studied in the UK and her industry (construction) was booming. She had the opportunity to work here and I wanted to see London. I did marketing and leasing for food courts in Singapore, so I initially came here to help open a food court.’
Eventually, Ellen opened Rasa Sayang in 2008. So, what’s the food like? ‘Before Singapore’s independence its food was similar to Malaysia, so we serve laksa [spicy noodle soup], char kuay teow [stir-fried flat noodles] and chicken rice. We share heritage, but there are changes in the taste to each dish that Singaporeans can detect.’
‘We also introduced yu sheng, a special for Chinese New Year. This raw salmon salad [above] is very Singaporean – you don’t find it in China or Hong Kong.’ Yu sheng is made by theatrically tossing ingredients into the air, which Ellen says is a great way to get people chatting: ‘As we toss, we say good words for the new year and give blessings to each other – the higher the throw, the better your year and fortunes will be!’
Yu sheng is usually on the menu for one month every year, approximately two weeks either side of Chinese New Year. We went along to try Rasa Sayang's yu sheng and it's utterly delicious – we recommend it! Check out a video from our visit below.
Rasa Sayang, 5 Macclesfield St, W1D 6AY
020 7734 1382 | www.rasasayangfood.com
Read our list on how to celebrate Chinese New Year 2019 in London and discover more Chinese Londoners in our interview series below:
Ruby Wu, Dim Sum Master for Ping Pong
Reverend Paul Lau and Eugene Ling, St Martin-in-the-Fields church
Lucy Mitchell, MD for SeeWoo Oriental Food Specialists
An-Ting Chang, CEO for Chinese Arts Now
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