79 episodes

The Singapore Noodles podcast features host Pamelia Chia, founder of Singapore Noodles, engaging in open, honest conversations with people who are keeping Singaporean food heritage alive in their own ways. Join us to learn about how we can take an active role in preserving and embracing our Singaporean food heritage and culture.

sgpnoodles.substack.com

The Singapore Noodles Podcast Pamelia

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 9 Ratings

The Singapore Noodles podcast features host Pamelia Chia, founder of Singapore Noodles, engaging in open, honest conversations with people who are keeping Singaporean food heritage alive in their own ways. Join us to learn about how we can take an active role in preserving and embracing our Singaporean food heritage and culture.

sgpnoodles.substack.com

    If we want to preserve Singapore’s hawker culture, we need to be willing to pay for it.

    If we want to preserve Singapore’s hawker culture, we need to be willing to pay for it.

    Over the weekend, a commentary that I wrote on hawker prices was published on CNA and has sparked a bit of debate. Much of the discussion has been robust and I thought I’d share my views on some of them:
    “Letting hawkers set their own price at will is going to raise the cost of living for everyone. Thus, price controls are justified.” Some have argued that even though Singapore is a first world nation, the cost of housing and car ownership (though whether this is truly a necessity in Singapore is debatable) is a lot higher than many of its counterparts. The only thing that is keeping our cost of living in check is cheap hawker food and it’s been this way for decades, with keeping hawker food affordable being “a cornerstone of government policy”. But while cheap food might have been a possibility when hawkers were offered rent subsidies by the government, now with more than half of our hawkers not being on subsidised rents, that narrative is broken.
    “If it’s not cheap, it’s not hawker food.” Because the ideology of hawker food being cheap food has been so pervasive, anyone who has grown up in Singapore in the past couple of decades would feel bothered by price hikes. This is an intuitive, reflexive response which is inevitable, even for someone like me who has grown accustomed to paying at least S$15 the minute I leave my home for a sit-down meal in Australia. Also, given that hawker prices are in the single digit range, any price hike feels significant (for example a rise of S$4 to S$6 is a 50% increase) and feelings of outrage even more knee-jerk.
    If hawker food is not “cheap” and patrons have to clear their own trays and put up with no air-conditioning, some say that there is no reason to eat hawker food. “Might as well eat in an air-conditioned eatery.” Therein lies the problem - inherently, do we recognise the value of our hawker food? Do we truly feel that it is unique, world-class, and intangibly precious - everything we claim we believe when we nominated it for UNESCO? Because if we do, then the best way for us to demonstrate that belief is to put our money where our mouth is.
    Comments that I read that grind my gears include things like: “Hawkers are using the excuse of inflation to charge higher.” or “Only when your food is good, then you can increase the price.” There was also this 8days article that I find troubling on many levels - the journalistic angle that emphasised the hawkers’ “uncommon sense of gratitude” when they choose to keep prices low amid economic pressures, and the way hawkers have internalised society’s expectations of them fulfilling the role of a social worker or charity in feeding “people with no money”. I referenced the article and addressed the line of thinking in these comments in the CNA938 radio interview that I’ve embedded in this newsletter.
    What is worth our time discussing are solutions, especially with regard to considerations for low-income households & the problem of high rental and miscellaneous fees that plague hawkers. While 40% of hawkers are on the subsidised rental scheme (who pay between $56-320 per month), most have their rentals determined via a bidding system. The upper limit for this is usually S$5,000 but it can go up to even $10,000 a month as the fees are entirely dictated by the free market. And then you have hawkers whose landlords are not the government, but corporations such as Timbre who have been reported to charge an average of $4,000. How many plates of chicken rice would a hawker have to sell to break even and not make a loss - and we are only talking about rent as one part of the cost equation!
    KF Seetoh, our country’s loudest voice for the hawkers, proposed that “the authorities get rid of the bidding process, offer a fair rental and give it to the most deserving ones, may it be based on the menu, talent and preservation of Singapore’s unique food culture.” But this opens up a can of worms. Wit

    • 7 min
    Ivan Brehm: On how keeping tradition static is a surefire way to kill it.

    Ivan Brehm: On how keeping tradition static is a surefire way to kill it.

    Five to six years ago, when I was working on Wet Market to Table, I came across the menu at Nouri where regional vegetables and fruit were celebrated in new and unexpected ways. Lots has changed since then and it is not uncommon now to see young chefs working with produce from our markets, but back then, it definitely got my interest. I’ve wanted to have a conversation with Chef Ivan for quite some time, but it never happened, owing mainly to the fact that I was leaving for Australia… so it was great that this chat finally happened and that it is on this podcast!
    Ivan believes strongly in how food can connect us all, and he expresses it with eloquence. Towards the end of the conversation, he talks about how to keep tradition alive is to embrace “the Indian hand cooking Hokkien mee, and the Chinese hand folding prata”, and it is such a moving, beautiful picture of what our society and the Singaporean food fabric could look like. Instead of having sharp boundaries drawn around dishes, food can be such a unifier and common ground for us all!
    I hope you enjoy this episode. And please let me know if you do... I always love getting comments and suggestions from listeners.


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    • 33 min
    Jimmy Teo: On why cooking is the best thing you & I can do to keep hawker heritage alive.

    Jimmy Teo: On why cooking is the best thing you & I can do to keep hawker heritage alive.

    The Singapore Noodles podcast is back... and integrated into the newsletter! In this episode, I chat with Jimmy Teo, a young hawker who runs Huang Da Fu Bak Chor Mee at Commonwealth Crescent Market Food Centre. Pricing has always been a hotly debated issue when it comes to hawker food, and Jimmy shares candidly about struggles that hawkers face, and how we can keep hawker heritage alive by simply stepping into our own home kitchens. If you’d like to visit Jimmy and taste his bak chor mee, you can do so at: 31 Commonwealth Cres, #02-94, Singapore 149644.
    On the same note, I recently wrote an article for CNA on hawker food prices abroad. Feel free to check that out if you’re keen, or leave a comment here on what you think about the pricing of hawker food in Singapore or overseas:


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    • 56 min
    75: On 'Singaporean chicken curry' and moving beyond singularity | Vasunthara Ramasamy, Culinary Teacher & Masterchef Singapore

    75: On 'Singaporean chicken curry' and moving beyond singularity | Vasunthara Ramasamy, Culinary Teacher & Masterchef Singapore

    Vasunthara Ramasamy: "There are so many styles of chicken curry; there is even a white chicken curry. If Clarissa cooked that, people would say that that is not a Singaporean chicken curry. So what is Singaporean chicken curry? Do we have one? The consensus is that we can never have a national dish because it is very hard to represent Singapore. But why seek for singularity when you are so diverse? Why do we seek such homogenous experiences with Indian food?"


    Vasunthara Ramasamy, Culinary Teacher and Masterchef Singapore Season 2 Contestant, shares about feeling pride as a Singaporean Indian, plus: *No-grind thosai* *How we can bring Indian home dishes to the masses* *Singaporean Indian food as a diasporic cuisine* *How Singaporean history impacted Indian food in Singapore* *Sardine curry* *Caste and Indian food culture* *Sense of inferiority that Singaporean Indians feel towards their food* *How the palate of Singaporean Indians differ from Indians in India* *Fish head curry* *Caste in Singapore* *Homogenization of Indian food in Singapore and Malaysia* *The rise of curry powder* *The case for making your own curry powder and spice blends* *Grinding your own turmeric powder and asafoetida* *Preconceived idea that Indian cuisine is not on par with European cuisine* *The need for more champions of Indian food* *Singaporean chicken curry saga* *Fear of failure as Singaporeans* *Home-cooking* *Her Masterchef journey*


    Singapore Noodles: http://sgpnoodles.com/ @sgpnoodles
    Newsletter: http://sgpnoodles.substack.com/


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    • 1 hr 29 min
    74: Making sustainability and reducing food wastage mainstream | Preston Wong, CEO and lead innovator of Treatsure

    74: Making sustainability and reducing food wastage mainstream | Preston Wong, CEO and lead innovator of Treatsure

    Preston Wong: "The goal should always be to make the message of sustainability and reducing food wastage as mainstream as possible. What point is there if it is just within that echo chamber of eco-conscious people? For us, we can break that barrier because price is not a big issue unlike other sustainable merchandise that may face challenges of accessibility due to price point issues. I would think that surplus food is a good bridge and show people that things can be affordable, and yet can be good stuff if you look beyond the exterior and short-dated condition of the item."


    Preston Wong, CEO and lead innovator at Treatsure, shares about how his business tackles the problem of food waste, plus: *Reducing wastage from buffet lines* *The difficulties that buffet restaurants and hotels face in estimating the amount of food to prepare* *Grocery wastage* *Collaborations between partners and artisans to convert waste to new products* *Building a community* *The importance of education* *What keeps him going* *Using technology to reducing waste* *Why develop an app*


    Singapore Noodles: http://sgpnoodles.com/ @sgpnoodles
    Newsletter: http://sgpnoodles.substack.com/


    Get full access to Singapore Noodles at sgpnoodles.substack.com/subscribe

    • 47 min
    73: Supporting farmers and discovering the diversity of Southeast Asian produce | Evelyn Yap, Chef & Founder of Happivore

    73: Supporting farmers and discovering the diversity of Southeast Asian produce | Evelyn Yap, Chef & Founder of Happivore

    Evelyn Yap: “Singapore is not an agricultural country. That limits the kind of produce we get, but also, we don’t know what is out there because our habits have changed to shopping at supermarkets, as opposed to wet markets, which stock more diverse produce.”
     
    Evelyn Yap, chef & founder of Happivore, shares about her journey as a chef supporting farmers, plus: *How Rustic Canyon shaped the way she cooked* *Supporting farmers in Thailand* *How her experience in Thailand has impacted her as a cook* *Exposure to regional produce* *Favourite Asian vegetables* *Mental health* *How her Singaporean roots influenced her* *Fusion food* *Tips for making vegetables delicious* *Framework for learning how to use a new vegetable*
     
    Singapore Noodles: http://sgpnoodles.com/ @sgpnoodles
    Singapore Noodles newsletter: http://sgpnoodles.substack.com/


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    • 40 min

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