lundi, septembre 14, 2009

Singapore's Food Heritage @ National Museum, Singapore

National Museum, Singapore

The National Museum of Singapore has come up with a food and culture series known as Life & Living and I signed up Hub and myself for the talk titled "Singapore's Food Heritage" - hoping to know more about our hawker culture, how some of our local dishes started out and how they have evolved over the decades. As the talk cost a good S$30 per head and was to be made by a contributor on the popular (the only one mentioned in the Visit Singapore portal) Singaporean food blog, I imagined that I couldn't go wrong in opting for it instead of another cooking demo at a culinary school.

Talk on Singapore's Food Heritage

I was of course mistaken. But it wasn't something I was to discover immediately as the location was top. The National Museum has undergone quite a makeover since the last time I was there. I love old buildings and am really happy that they have thought to preserve this one. A modern wing made of glass and steel has been built as an annex to the old main building and it introduced light to the whole complex without sticking out like a sore thumb or stealing the show from it.

New wing of National Museum

The talk took place on the ground floor in a spacious and airy room with high ceilings. On the tables were write-ups on various hawker places in Singapore selling Hokkien Prawn Mee, Chicken Rice, Rojak, Ondeh Ondeh, Prawn Mee etc. They commented on the food, provided a few anecdotes on the people running the stalls and shared the addresses. No mention of history, origins of dishes etc which I thought would come later during the talk itself - not.

We started out the afternoon with a guided visit of the exhibition gallery showcasing some of our most popular hawker dishes e.g., satay, laksa etc. There were also exhibits of old mobile satay stalls from the days when we ate out in the streets - before we had our hawker centres. As well as videos demonstrating how to cook some of the dishes - always welcome. The problem is that our nice guide was only 17 - hardly the sort who could remember how it was like in the good ole days. I can probably remember more - because I'm an auntie who has been there done it eaten that. They should have taken one of those uncles from MacDonald's and put him in this gallery instead.

Satay stall from the past

Next, a 21-year old young man named Gregory turned up to give us the talk. I have nothing against young people. They have more time to document themselves and are probably more research-savvy. We were given tiny tasty tasting portions of some of his favourite hawker foods e.g. Katong Laksa, Otah Otah, Hokkien Mee...That he knows and likes his hawker food I have no doubt of. But that he could share anything of Singapore's Food Heritage or hawker culture - I can't say for sure. He was very polite and knew how to excuse and say his thank yous - but couldn't really field questions from the audience about ingredients, how a certain dish started out and evolved (like even I knew that Ba Kut Teh started out as medecine for the poor coolies, for example, and is cooked differently between the Teochews and the Hokkiens), couldn't compare similar dishes from our neighbours and probably doesn't know how to cook. Also lacked some common sense. He should have warned the foreigners in the room to eat the ondeh ondeh in a single bite, for example. So that nobody would get gula melaka splashed onto the front of their clothes.

Tasting portion of Katong Laksa

We left knowing where to find the current good hawker stalls but still ignorant of Singapore's Food Heritage. Without being too academic, still, the word "heritage" brings to mind origins, history, traditions, passing down/inheritance...This talk should be titled "Introduction to Singapore's Hawker Food" or "Where to find Singapore's Best Hawker Foods" instead.

Your auntie me could possibly give a better talk. And save 60 bucks. Imagine the amount of Hokkien Mee you could buy with that.

3 commentaires:

One Wheel a dit…

Ya from the way you described, doesnt seem to worth the $30 per head, could have gone for a buffet :)

Anonyme a dit…


I would feel cheated too. But, I think it may have been geared towards expats living here. I think there is a Friends of Museum @Nat Musuem where its staffed by lots of expats. Perhaps, the idea for this talk may have originated from them.

As a kid, I remembered eating from traveling hawkers who used pushcarts. Till this day, I can still remember the Teochew porridge stall with tau pok, pig innards etc close to the red colored fire station at Hill Street. It tasted so good. We sat on wooden stools around some makeshift tables. Those were the days.

I hoped you have given some feedback to Nat Museum cos they should bear in mind that Sporeans are also interested in their food heritage & not just expats.

Beau Lotus a dit…

My favourite stalls from those days include the mobile Malay satay in Lor 4 Toa Payoh (we used to search the whole neighbourhood for him), the ah pek with his tau suan also at same place (usually ate it at the bottom of the staircase) and the hanyan wu (almond paste soup) in Chinatown just outside where my late grandaunt lived (in a dark and crowded building with who-knows-how-many other tenants).