Street & Conversation with… Jay at Rasa Sayang
Rasa Sayang is one of London’s few Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants, and is treasured by Londoners, travellers and the city’s considerable population of expats from East Asia.
Specialising in food from two countries known for their culinary diversity, Rasa Sayang offers everything from Malaysian classics like Laksa and Nasi Lemak, to Singaporean street food staples like their crispy and indulgent prawn paste fried chicken.
The restaurant pays homage to its rich heritage, while also catering to London’s fast-paced and demanding palate. We spoke to marketing manager Jay to find out more.
Hi Jay! Tell us a bit about Singaporean cuisine.
It’s a bit of a mish-mash. We’re made up of immigrants from India, the indigenous people who are Malays, immigrants from China…we were colonised for a long time. So all those play a part in the cuisine. It’s the best of South East Asia. The spicy stuff from the Indians and the Malays, you’ve got all the different soups and stews from China…it’s eclectic.
What’s your favourite place to eat out in London?
I’m a sucker for steaks! I like Hawksmoor. They serve awesome steaks. Every time I go there I get into a food coma.
What’s a great undiscovered restaurant gem in London?
There’s a tucked away place I love in Deptford. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant called Eat Vietnam, and it’s by far the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had in London. It’s family run and they serve stuff that people eat locally in Vietnam. It’s really authentic. Deptford has great Vietnamese food because there’s a big Vietnamese community there.
What do you make of the London food scene?
Since I arrived around 2007/2008, it has evolved so much. Soho back then was nothing. It was a bunch of bars…and I liked Soho when it was seedy! It had its charms. But now it’s become an explosion of restaurants. But who would’ve thought, eleven years ago, that the scene would evolve so much. Back then, people took pictures of our shop front because they were fascinated by the fact that we were hanging ducks in the window. And back then, we didn’t serve an entire fish with the head on it…because people weren’t ready for it.
Do you think Londoners are a bit more used to East Asian food now?
Yes. And I think Londoners are looking for more authenticity now. Back then, the perception of Asian food was the cookiecutter stuff that you find at buffets. But now in Chinatown, there’s all sorts of cuisines. It’s very exciting.
What’s your favourite traditional London dish?
Jellied eels! I can’t get enough. I love the ones at Poppies.
Finally…sum up London in three words!
Drink all day. I like the fact that people don’t judge you when you’re having a beer on Monday afternoon.
Find Rasa Sayang at 15 Frith Street, W1D 4RE. For menus and bookings, head to their website.