Being from Penang, Ong Beng Chung knows a thing or two about good food. The island is famous for its nasi kandar, char kuey teow and laksa – all delicacies Ong loves, but in moderation.
As a food technologist, Ong is wary about some ingredients in our food and that is why he decided to craft delicious and nutritious meals for a living.
“To be honest, we don’t need most of the stuff we buy off the shelves. Don’t get me wrong, they are safe for consumption but I always believe in natural ingredients and not ones which are processed.
“Having said that, it doesn’t mean I don’t eat at hawker centres or buy bottled sauces. It’s just that if I could do them myself, I would.
“It is all about convenience. Most parents don’t have the time to make everything from scratch so they opt for what they can get from supermarkets or ‘kedai runcit’,” he added.
As to why he changed careers to become a caterer, he said it came from a desire to see people, especially children, eat healthily.
“I used to travel the world, visiting factories to inspect their raw ingredients and processed food for nutritional value, safety and quality,” said Ong, who graduated as a food technologist from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1992.
“I also undertook basic and applied research into aspects of food processing, preservation, quality, deterioration, packaging, storage and delivery.
“It was interesting but also made me realise that making fresh food and using natural ingredients is always the better choice.”
So he started a restaurant in Bangsar South which was in operation until 2016.
But in 2015, he also rented space in a school to run its canteen.
Since then he has found it more fulfilling to feed the children but has a group of regular patrons from his restaurant days who cater food from him as well.
“I notice children eat too much junk food. As such, I wanted to try to change some of their habits by providing food to schools,” added Ong, who supplies food to Global Oak Tree Scholars (GOTS) and Integrated National Curriculum School in Shah Alam among others.
“It is always a challenge to get kids to eat their greens and fruits and we have to come up with fun recipes to make it interesting for them to try.”
“It is also important to get feedback from teachers to see what works and what doesn’t. I also reduce the amount of sugar in my food as modern adults and children consume too much of it. So the trick is to make it tasty but nutritious as well,” he added.
GOTS co-founder Veronica Shepherdson simply loves Ong’s food as she is an advocate of healthy eating.
“What children eat today can have a huge impact on their health throughout adolescence and adulthood,” said Shepherdson.
Ong said it was all about striking a balance.
“The Penang part of me wants to eat all the delicious food and I do from time to time, but the food technologist part of me tells me to take it slow!
“It is the same with children. They won’t take no for an answer so we should not restrict or ban them from eating their sweets and chips. The trick is to make them eat those less often and to switch to healthy nutritious food. We can start by being good examples for our children.”
Some food tips for a healthier life:
- Low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
- Whole wheat or whole grain bread instead of white bread.
- Homemade smoothie instead of ice-cream.
- Olive oil instead of butter.
- Oil-based dressings or vegetable-based pasta sauce instead of cream-based ones.
- Baked chips or nuts instead of potato chips.