Two years ago, with plans of moving to Los Angeles and opening a food truck, Chef Renée Tang Eyrn quit her corporate job to pursue cooking. She first honed her cooking skills in a restaurant. Today, she helmsJelebu Dry Laksafrom her home kitchen, taking charge of all aspects of the business.
Jelebu Dry Laksa’s beginnings
How did she start her own business? When COVID-19 struck last year, the restaurant she was working at took a big hit. Straddled with a loss of employment and income, and with a burning desire to continue to bring good, modern Singapore homemade cuisine to people, Renée took a leap of faith. Armed with her newfound experience in the culinary world, she embarked on her home-based food delivery business.
Recalling her days of working in a restaurant, she shares that “working with guy [chefs], there are certain things that as a female, I have to prove to them.”
Being smaller-sized or female means needing to work doubly as hard for the other chefs to respect her as an equal, she says.
During the interview, she also shares that she gets many questions on what ‘Jelebu’ means. It is an homage to where Renée lives and where her business first took flight—Jelebu Road.
Jelebu Dry Laksa’s signature, the Jelebu Platter ($118 for 4 to 5 pax) is a modern rendition of the traditional Singaporean Laksa. Crafted with a secret blend of 12 herbs & spices, the rempah features fresh laksa leaves and is infused with organic coconut milk. What is most critical is the laksa leaves. Without them, the distinctive aromas and flavours of the laksa would be lost.
Having found success with her dry laksa recipe, Renée focused on making it takeaway-friendly and suitable for sharing. In this vein, she optimised her dishes for deliveries by swapping out the usual laksa noodles for ones that will not get soggy.
First, Renée boils the noodles in the thick broth of the laksa, allowing it to soak up the best flavours from her handmade rempah.
Thereafter, she tops the dish with fresh seasonal seafood that is uncommon to see in laksa (but so, so delicious). And this is where her version differs from the usual. Luxe butter-poached lobster, grilled tiger prawns, and crispy sakura ebi elevate the already decadent laksa to even greater heights!
Struggles of being a home-based chef
To many of us in a post-pandemic world, WFH may seem like a newer and better norm. But it’s not the case for home-based chefs like her.
In her tiny kitchen, Renée does all the cooking herself. On top of that, she also does her own grocery shopping in the early mornings—all in a bid to secure the freshest ingredients.
Working in a home kitchen certainly has its own set of challenges. Without the professional equipment that is readily available in a commercial restaurant, cooking simply takes more time. Plus, without teammates to help her, Renée must work alone and handle every part of the prep and cooking process.
These challenges had friends and people opposing her idea of starting a home-based business. “You better think about it carefully,” she quotes. All of that did not deter her, though.
It’s not just proving other people wrong. It’s about proving it to myself that I know I can do it.
Chef Renée Tang Eyrn of Jelebu Dry Laksa
“So, no matter how tough it is, I think as long as one perseveres and is hardworking, then one will just eventually meet one’s end goal,” she continues.
Beyond dry laksa
Her other dishes include the Signature Godpa’s Otah ($29.96 for 6 pcs). This appetiser dish marries two of Singaporeans’ favourite food—toast and Otah. Toasted bread slices are topped with Hokkaido scallops, smoked caviar, and a generous chunk of homemade otah. Simple, but scrumptious.
For those craving something sweet and savoury, try the Deep Fried Taupok Puffs ($14.98). Crunchy on the outside and stuffed with King Mackerel on the inside, these bite-sized taupok pieces are drizzled with Singapore Rojak sauce for a burst of flavour. One piece isn’t going to be enough when it’s this good.
To end your meal, indulge in the unforgettable Kaya Goreng Dessert ($14.98) for a sweet treat. This dessert features cannoli shells (a tubed-shaped Italian dessert made of fried pastry dough) piped with kaya mousse and sprinkled with coconut shavings. Sweet, floral, rich, and aromatic in a single dish. A bite alone will surprise you with its light and refreshing flavours!
Indeed, every crisis brings out a chance for an opportunity. For Renée, it was just the right time for her to pursue her own goals with her very own business and brand.