Heba has always loved cooking and eating meat. So when she was given the opportunity to study butchery, the South Korean native was all in. At the age of 29, she received her certificate and licence from a butchery institute in Korea, graduating top of her class. This achievement was especially sweet as she was the only female in the cohort.
Straight off, Heba wants to correct a misconception – that butchery is all about brute strength. “Dealing with the meat actually requires refinement and delicateness, so a woman’s touch is needed here. Also, a lot of people think butchery is very simple work – cutting meat from bone – but the work requires a lot of skill and continued education, because butchering techniques evolve with time. You have to understand the meat you’re cutting,” she stresses.
Despite the long hours she puts in – up to half a day sometimes – Heba loves her job, especially when she gets to interact with the customers. She not only takes the time to teach them about meat, but also looks forward to learning new things from them.
“I get to educate the customers about Korean food and culture. At the same time, I also learn a lot about local food and ingredients, and the different ways of cooking meat in dishes like rendang or fried rice, Singapore style. For example, Korean fried rice uses meat that’s less fatty, but my Singapore customers prefer to buy fatty meat to cook in local fried rice or soup,“ she explains.
The chef and butcher also hopes to nudge her customers into trying special cuts of meat beyond what they are used to, such as outside skirt or rib finger for barbecues, instead of the usual short ribs, pork belly or collars. Her ultimate dream is to see Singaporeans enjoy hanwoo like they enjoy wagyu.
“Singapore uses meat from Australia, New Zealand and the US. Korean meat tastes different from all these – its marbling, colour and cut are also different. I want people to know how good the flavour and texture of Korean beef is,” enthuses Heba.
Her love for Korean beef is so strong that she plans to raise her own cows on a farm back home one day, cultivating quality grade meat for sale.
“I won’t be a butcher till I’m old. It’s not a job that I’ll retire from. I want to build my own farm in maybe 20 years, raise good cows, and supply them to people. I want to create and be the source of a great meat product, so that when people buy from me, they only get good quality meat,” she says.
The Butcher’s Dining is at 593 Havelock Rd, #01-03, Singapore 169641