As an illustrator, I spend most of my time exploring the visual language of the world around me. Recently, I contributed to a food Zine called Family Style – AAPI Food Anthology. My contribution was not on the British fish and chips that is so commonly found in the UK, but on the Singaporean dish, Laksa.
Photo Credit: AAPI Food Anthology
This research into Laksa led me on a journey of Singapore’s diversity. Made up of migrants from all over the world – China, India, and Malaysia – our little island is a melting hotpot of different cultures, and this eclectic mix is best represented in the food. Our exposure to different cultures opened our palates to various cuisines, and nurtured our adventurous gastronomical spirit. I am always heartened at how excited fellow Singaporeans are for their own foods and foods of other countries – you can see it even in the mandatory practice of taking Instagram shots of each dish before digging in. Food also always comes up in conversations with my family, who has since moved back to Singapore. “What did you eat?” and “How was the food” peppers our many Skype calls. A few years ago, when my dad started learning how to text, he would share numerous photos of food with us.
Beyond reminding me of Singaporean’s adventurous palate, researching on the history of Laksa as a dish brought back nostalgic feelings. In my growing years in the UK, my parents missed the food from Singapore. I was lucky enough to have local dishes twice or thrice a week, and would always look forward to the smells from the kitchen when my parents were cooking. Once in a while, they would prepare my favourites - laksa and kaya toast, ensuring that I too, don’t miss out on Singaporean cuisine, even though I was born and raised in the UK.
Such exposure to a variety of palates from a young age similarly fuelled my curiosity and openness in trying different foods.
While the UK does offer Singaporean and Malaysian dishes, it’s never quite the taste of home. I really miss the food from Singapore and always look forward to eating local hawker dishes when I visit (and so does my third generation, mixed British-Asian fiancé!). Here are some of my favourite dishes I miss most:
London, like Singapore, is also a melting pot of race, culture and food. With many second and third generation of immigrants settle and share their dishes, you can find almost any type of international dish similar to your home country. I’ve made it a special hobby to go and seek them out and have started a personal project to illustrate as many delicious dishes I can encounter!
While I appreciate the British culture and humour that I grew up with, as well as the opportunities I’ve been given in its culturally diverse environment, I am somehow drawn to Singapore, and I’m glad I decided to keep my Singaporean citizenship as I would consider returning to Singapore some time in the future.
Children in East Coast Park eating and playing together. I have very fond memories here, as my parents live near and we will often visit.
I feel a strong sense of pride, seeing all that Singapore has accomplished. I am particularly proud that Singapore has maintained the cultural diversity that generations of immigrants have forged over the years – something that I appreciate about the UK as well. Each time I’m back in Singapore, I feel a great sense of belonging despite growing up outside of Singapore. The diversity and acceptance of different races, combined with the connectivity of our country make sturdy pillars that uphold Singapore's identity. I’m confident that our future leaders of Singapore will be adaptable, smart and open, and believe that the children of Singapore will have many opportunities to realise their dreams no matter where they go.
Do you enjoy our local cuisine just like Celine? From the simple kaya toast to the famous chilli crab, it is no doubt that our diverse hawker food brings out an inexplicable pride and identity amongst us Singaporeans. If you agree that Singapore’s Hawker Culture is an integral part of our daily lives that should be passed on for generations to come, pledge your support here: bit.ly/OSHawkerSupport.