At Thunder Tree, the Hakka hawker stall serves thunder tea rice that changes with the seasons.
The usual suspects that go into making the traditional dish is often switched up. Co-owner Cai Xiaoxi shares that long beans or mani cai (sayur manis) might be swapped for sweet potato leaves or other unorthodox greens – it all depends on the harvest from Fireflies Farm, her family-run organic farm.
“I always say that my vegetables are very hole-y,” jokes Xiaoxi. Thunder Tree uses overstocked vegetables from the farm, or crops that no one wants to buy. Her family wants to provide food that people can enjoy with peace of mind. This means keeping to strict rules: no killing, no pesticides, no herbicides, no insecticides, and no growth-inducing hormones.
“We want to work towards living in tandem with nature, where every single living being on the farm is respected and given the rightful space to grow,” explains Xiaoxi.
Even the vegetable scraps generated from the stall are collected and sent back to the farm, where it is composted and used to nourish the next batch of crops.
But the farm didn’t always operate on this green philosophy.
When Fireflies Farm first started in 1998, chemicals like insecticides were used. The turning point came when the family realised how harmful conventional farming methods can be: close contact to chemicals deformed the fingers of Xiaoxi’s mother.
“Being on the farm, you know exactly what the chemicals are doing to the ecosystem,” says Xiaoxi. “How does it feel when you know that it’s in your hands; that you are responsible for doing this?”