An interview with Dirisa Tan, founder of Meal Belly, importer of Green Caviar to Singapore
Dirisa Tan grew up watching her father work for himself as an entrepreneur, it could have been there, during her childhood, where her dream of owning a business began. Similarly, during her early years, she spent a lot of time with her Auntie in the kitchen learning about food and how it nourishes. This was where Dirisa fell in love with the industry and how bringing satisfaction to the bellies of consumers became her goal. She now brings Green Caviar to tables in Singapore.
Three or four years ago, while Dirisa was working for a telco in a corporate job, she got the taste of Green Caviar for the first time. Her father, on one of his trips, had brought some back for her as a souvenir and she loved the salty sea flavour and bright crunchy texture it brought to many dishes. Little did she know that she would eventually be importing the necklace-look-alike delicacies to Singapore.
Meal Belly is not Dirisa’s first foray into the world of business. Even at age 18, she was busily selling clothing online. Being an entrepreneur was her blood so in September 2016, she started Meal Belly. Dirisa’s vision is to fill bellies with happy, wholesome foods.
Her main focus and first import for Meal Belly is Green caviar (also known as Sea Grapes), a superfood with numerous health benefits. It contains Iodine, Omega 3, Calcium, Potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A to name a few.
Although fine dining restaurants in Singapore have been serving “green caviar” on occasion, sourcing this delicacy was expensive. Dirisa wanted to bring Green Caviar to homes in Singapore at an affordable price so that everyone could enjoy the taste and benefits of this exceptional product.
While Green Caviar is native to Okinawa, Japan, and it is sometimes credited as the “longevity seaweed” because of the long lives enjoyed by many Okinawans, Meal Belly’s Green Caviar is carefully farmed in Vietnam. It is grown under tight controls and in the most pristine of conditions. A delicate member of the seaweed family, Green Caviar needs a sheltered environment that is just the right temperature to grow and flourish. It is then harvested by hand, using snorkel and mask, and carefully packaged for its journey to Singapore.
We were delighted to sit down with Dirisa for a few quick questions before the Meal Belly event where we were treated to a delicious Poké bowl by A Poke Theory, topped with Green Caviar, of course. It was a wonderful way to showcase the yummy and easy way to incorporate this great ingredient into your family’s meal plan.
Why did you want to bring Green Caviar to the Singapore market?
It is already available in Singapore, but mostly in high-end restaurants as green caviar is very expensive when purchased through international retailers. I wanted to make it more affordable and accessible for most of us who enjoy healthy, wonderful foods without the extravagant price point. It’s good for everyone – even kids and breastfeeding mums!
Who do you think would most like Green Caviar and why?
Basically anyone who likes Japanese cuisine as this is a great compliment to sushi, sashimi, chiraishi and the like. Health-conscious people really like this as well, as it makes a great low-calorie snack when you have cravings due to its crunchiness.
How do you use Green Caviar?
You can eat it on its own! I personally like dipping it with kewpie sauce and Japanese shoyu, but it can also be used to complement entrees like salads, rice bowls, ramen and soups. It gives body to many dishes and I love being able to savour the subtle taste of the oceans, reminding me of the beautiful beaches of Vietnam.
Could you share a favourite recipe?
Definitely the Vietnamese Chicken recipe! The recipe is as follows:
Ingredients (Serving for 1)
- Green Caviar from Meal Belly (20g), prepared as directed on the packet
- A bunch of Rau Răm (Vietnamese Coriander which can be replaced with Cilantro)
- White cabbage
- Red cabbage
- 5 mint leaves
- 5 basil leaves
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce
- 1 clove of garlic
- A pinch of sugar
- ¼ cup of Wwater
- ½ tbsp. vinegar
- ¼ kumquat or lime juice
- 120g Chicken Breast
- Salt and pepper
- Finely chop Rau Răm, white cabbage, red cabbage, carrot, mint and basil leaves. Set aside.
- Prepare the Green Caviar. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix ingredients for the sauce together and adjust to taste. Set aside.
- Marinate chicken breast with salt and pepper.
- Grill chicken for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
- Mix chopped vegetables and sauce together.
- Top it off with grilled chicken and green caviar.
Where did this recipe come from?
This recipe was shared by my boyfriend’s mother. It is healthy, flavourful and so easy to prepare. She also made Vietnamese Coleslaw with green caviar for our Christmas get-together and it was fantastic as well.
What are your tips for using Green Caviar
Green Caviar, while unopened, can last about 8 to 12 months in the refrigerator. But once it’s opened, it’s best to consume it within one to two days. As it is still “alive”, do refrain from storing it in the freezer or exposing it to stove heat, otherwise it will die and not retain its sea grapes appearance. It is so easy to prepare, just rinse it quickly for 10 seconds, soak it for 3 minutes in cold water and watch it “come alive” into the beautiful-looking sea grapes. Then it’s ready to eat and enjoy!
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about starting their own business?
Dare to dream big. It’s never too late to start, Colonel Harland Sanders started at 65.
Don’t be afraid of failure, keep believing and keep working hard.
Thank you, Dirisa!
Look out for more from Meal Belly to come. While their focus is currently on Green Caviar, Dirisa is also intent on finding and sourcing the best ingredients for healthy living that she can bring to Singapore at an affordable price.
For more information, visit www.mealbelly.com
All images have been provided by Meal Belly unless otherwise indicated. This article was originally published on www.vanillabeige.com and may have been edited for this platform.