The Real Thing


I’ve been thinking recently about the notion of “authentic” food.

There’s an interesting story in Singapore’s Straits Times today about foreign eateries trying to bring authentic takes on their native cuisines to Singapore. French boulangerie Le Grenier à Pain, for example, apparently stuck to its crusty baguettes even though Singaporeans typically favor softer versions that local bakeries serve up. Ditto for Quiznos and its authenticity. (Yes, this article actually cites the American food-court sandwich chain in its roundup.)

Nonetheless, there are some Singaporeans who disagree with this business strategy — one is quoted as saying that restaurants should take local preferences into account since “the customer picks what he likes most, whether or not it’s true to the original taste.”

The story made me think of the tale a friend recently told me of taking his Beijing girlfriend to Italy. There, she sniffed at the way Italians do Italian pasta dishes, finding them lacking when compared with the versions she’s had in China.

Sure, cuisines get altered all the time when they migrate from country to country — ingredients are added, steps are subtracted. But what happens when the tweaked, polyglot product ends up being what people believe to be authentic?

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Dinner (And a Show)


Anyone tailing me over the past few days might come to this conclusion: That Cheryl, she’s just a big whore.

It’s these red-light districts. I just can’t stay away from them.

Not that I’m dissing the world’s oldest profession, but it’s actually other afternoon delights that have been the draw for me in these neighborhoods.

In yesterday’s case, it was Kok Sen Coffee Shop‘s crispy harjeong gai, a Singaporean dish of chicken marinated in prawn paste and then deep fried. (A particularly apropos lure considering “gai,” or chicken, is local slang for “prostitute.” As is “fishball girl” in some corners, for that matter. I’m not even going to speculate why.)

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Where The Girls Eat


Perhaps it was the yellowing fluorescent lighting. Or the sticky plastic chairs. Or the fleshy young girl in the black fishnets, scuffed-up heels and too-short shorts sashaying in for her nightly order of chicken wings.

But I had the distinct feeling: I’ve been here before.

Not here, at Cafe Supunsa in Singapore, specifically. But at a saucy place of ill-repute, enduring the mental undressings of men wondering if I’m one of the crowd, all in the name of searching for a good meal.

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The Heart of Things


They say that you can’t go home again.

Over a snack of mutton murtabak and Malay ginger tea, scalding hot and satisfyingly milky, the phrase suddenly popped into my head. And my mind immediately banished the logic.

I had been bemoaning my rudimentary photography skills to my friend KF Seetoh, a Singapore TV food host (the Saint Anthony of Southeast Asia, really), when I confessed, “I just learned how to focus.”

The camera, that is. And this would be, oh, after four years of owning the darned thing. 

In fact, I’m the only person I know who can take a picture of a perfectly delicious specimen of food and somehow produce a vision that is capable of inspiring nausea and thoughts of never lifting morsel to mouth ever again.

My problem, always, has been the hunger.

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A View From The Road: Spam Fries in Singapore


Best. Discovery. Ever.

“Luncheon Meat Fries” at Wild Oats  in Singapore — an amazing bar food that consists of Spam sliced into thin strips and then deep fried.

Surely, this must be the reason God invented pigs.

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