LAKEWOOD, Ohio — In Daniel Ang’s experience, when many people think of Asian food, their mind automatically goes to sushi or Chinese takeout. But Ang knows there is much more diversity to Asian cuisine than those two specific types of food, and at his Lakewood restaurant, Dang Good Foods, he’s hoping to help share a taste of his native Singapore, along with other Asian dishes, with diners.
“Our tagline is it’s a taste of Singapore and more, so I try to create dishes that mimic food that you can find in Singapore's eatery scene,” he said.
During his childhood in Singapore, he remembers watching his mom, stepmom, and grandma preparing meals, but he didn’t grow up with dreams of owning a restaurant.
It wasn’t until he traveled to Arkansas for college that he tried his hand at cooking, unable to find some of his favorite dishes from home in his new community. Ang remembers calling up family members to ask how they prepared certain dishes, and doing his best to follow their instructions.
"I had to start recreating those dishes that I enjoyed for myself," he said.
Ang said the flavors of Singaporean cuisine are often influenced by other cultures, reflective of the melting pot nature of Singapore itself. Ang himself is of Chinese background.
“You have Chinatown in Singapore, a Little India, and there's a Malay village in Singapore too, just specific areas,” he said of all the different ethnicities and communities in the island nation. “But we all live and play and work together. So it's a very vibrant city.”
This diversity and co-existence of cultures contributes to the flavors and dishes found in Singapore, the cuisine pulling from the people who call the country home, said Ang.
“There's dishes that have, you know, amalgamated together to create this Singapore dish," he said.
For example, Ang said there are instances where his Indonesian friends will call a dish by one name and prepare it in a specific style, while Singaporeans may call the same, or a very similar dish, something else, and have their own twist on how to make it.
“There are dishes that are very unique to Singapore, but they definitely do draw influences from the surrounding areas like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India, and China,” he said.
Food is central to the experience of living in Singapore, according to Ang, recalling how at lunch time, people would plan exactly what they wanted to eat, arguing over which food stall or vendor sold the best dish or item.
“Eating is Singapore’s favorite pastime,” Ang said.
Now, Ang is sharing that passion for food with the Northeast Ohio community, at his restaurant in Lakewood. What initially started as a food truck in 2019 evolved and grew into a brick and mortar location.
On the menu are staples of Singaporean cuisine, like noodle dish Char Bee Hoon, while also including nods to other Asian cuisines, through items like salmon onigiri, Char Kway Teow, and curry.
In the kitchen, Ang whips up these dishes, many using garlic and shallots as a base, incorporating staple Singaporean items like the leafy green yu choy. Ang said other staple Singaporean flavors include pandan leaves, coconut milk, and candlenuts.
“I just enjoy the process of making food and, you know, discovering the tastes, the different ingredients coming together, and introducing people to different tastes,” he said. "To taste something that actually originates and has still its basis in Asian, in Singapore cuisine was what I wanted to do.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on April 2, 2023.