My Must-Eats… with Chee Soon Juan, opposition politician and cafe owner

By Joy Fang December 30, 2022
My Must-Eats… with Chee Soon Juan, opposition politician and cafe owner
Photo: Koh Mui Fong/HungryGoWhere

My Must-Eats is a HungryGoWhere series featuring Singapore’s public figures and their favourite food haunts. This week, we speak to Chee Soon Juan, opposition politician and owner of cafe Orange & Teal.

Singaporean politician Chee Soon Juan is known for his vocal views in the political arena. But he surprised many in 2021 when he announced that he would venture into a new territory — food.

The secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party said in a Facebook post then that he would be opening a cafe, Orange & Teal, with his wife Huang Chih Mei. 

The homely venue at Rochester Mall boasts comfy couches and bookshelves brimming with books. It serves mostly Western fare, such as a creamy Tuscan butter salmon pasta and wine-infused, slow-grilled beef cheeks

A year later, in August 2022, he opened a second outlet at Marina Square.

Dr Chee, who has a doctorate in neuropsychology, hopes both outlets would serve as cosy venues that foster conversation and an appreciation for the arts.

Speaking to him, you’d find that Dr Chee is down-to-earth and simple, with a love for comforting food and dishes that evoke a sense of nostalgia

He talks to us about some of his favourites.

Chee Soon Juan_hungrygowhere_My Must-Eats Ivins Peranakan Restaurant
Babi pongteh, a classic dish of braised pork belly in thick fermented soybean sauce. Photo: Ivins Peranakan Restaurant

1. What dish reminds you of your childhood — and where did you get it?

Babi pongteh. I remember helping mum slice the pork, after which she would slow-braise it in fermented soy. And being Baba Nyonya, she’d cook the dish especially for Chinese New Year, which makes it all the more poignant for me. 

The other is a stir-fried honey soy minced pork with lots of white pepper. I try to recreate this for my kids — with limited success, of course.

It’s a bit like that food critic Anton Ego in Ratatouille when he takes a forkful of the dish — namesake for the movie — and has this dramatic flashback to his childhood when his mother cooked the simple peasant dish for him. Smell and taste have that strange effect of conjuring up images in our subconscious. 

There are few places that manage to evoke this feeling in me. For the honey soy minced pork stir-fry, it was a small eatery at Jalan Leban, Upper Thomson, where the Singapore Democratic Party office used to be. It served this dish, but is no longer in operation. 

For the babi pongteh, it was at Ivins Peranakan Restaurant that specialises in Peranakan cuisine.     


Chee Soon Juan_hungrygowhere_My Must-Eats Shangri-la Curry Mixed Rice
Dr Chee at his favourite hawker stall, Shangri-La Curry Mixed Rice, at Blk 75 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh Food Centre. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/HungryGoWhere

2. What’s your go-to eatery in Singapore? Why?

Like most Singaporeans, it’s the ubiquitous hawker centre — no particular one. 

I frequent the one closest to where I live, at Lorong 5 Toa Payoh. There’s one stall operated by an elderly couple that serves rice with the usual sides such as potato, tau pok and curry chicken. It’s one of the less-patronised stalls — better to give them some business — but the food is simple yet good

Of late, however, it’s been Orange & Teal — which I started — where I go for more than just the food. I’m also the official waiter, busboy and dishwasher there. 

Chee Soon Juan_hungrygowhere_My Must-Eats Orange & Teal cafe
Dr Chee in the kitchen of Orange & Teal. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/HungryGoWhere

3. When you travel, what’s one Singapore dish you always miss?

Hands down — white rice. Almost anything goes with white rice, doesn’t it? Take the honey soy minced pork dish. Add a runny fried egg or two, and you’ve got yourself a self-made Michelin-starred meal. The withdrawal symptoms get quite strong after a few days of pizzas and burgers.

I haven’t come across any place overseas that gives a taste of home. The closest ones that come to mind are a couple of street food places in Taipei, especially the breakfast items such as youtiao (fried dough), or shao bing (crispy flatbread) with dou jiang (soy milk).



4. What dish or cuisine do you want to try, but have not?

The simple, unpretentious street foods that are representative of local cuisines, such as Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ones. They sound exotic. I have yet to venture there and would love to try the food there.

Chee Soon Juan_hungrygowhere_My Must-Eats Baby-back ribs Orange & Teal cafe
Baby-back ribs at Orange & Teal. Photo: Koh Mui Fong/HungryGoWhere

5. What’s the last thing you ate that impressed you — and where did you have it?

The beef cheeks and baby-back ribs at Orange & Teal. Just ask chef Anabel — talk about shameless plugs

I also enjoy butter crab with fried mantou (buns). 

I’ve had this at several eateries at various hawker centres, but the one that sticks in my mind is the first time I ate it, which was many years ago. I can’t remember exactly which one, but it was somewhere in Hougang. 

This dish has to have a thick, creamy sauce. It’s one messy meal, but worth every crack of the shell.


Orange & Teal, Ivins Peranakan Restaurant and Blk 75 Lorong 5 Toa Payoh Food Centre are on GrabFood. You can also book a ride to any of the eateries mentioned in this article.  

Joy Fang-HungryGoWhere

Joy Fang


Joy has more than 14 years of experience as a journalist, editor and content creator. She has a soft spot for good food and strongly believes there’s nothing better than hot tea, cake and a good read on a rainy day.

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