Singaporeans outraged by 'street food' video: Don't whitewash our hawker food culture

Singaporeans outraged by 'street food' video: Don't whitewash our hawker food culture
PHOTO: Video Screengrab

Singaporeans have once again taken up arms against the inaccurate representation of our local culture, barely two days after American crime drama series Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders drew flak for its inaccurate portrayal of Singapore.

This time, they are out to defend one of the cornerstones of what makes us 'Uniquely Singapore'. That's right, we're talking about our food. To be accurate, Singaporean hawker food.

Here's the lowdown on what happened. INSIDER food, which dedicates itself to sharing everything from food hacks to recipes to hidden gems, posted a video on Facebook, with a five-word caption: "This is Singaporean street food."

Naturally, like any proud Singaporean, we played the video out of curiousity. After all, seeing our humble local fare on an international site is something we enjoy looking at.

The video started off by introducing the eatery - Chomp Chomp. The name is a likely reference to the famous Serangoon hawker centre, so plus points for that!

The owner and chef, Simpson Wong, said that when he was younger, his parents would bring his family to the hawker centre, where they could enjoy eight different dishes within one meal. Hence, he wanted to recreate the hawker centre culture in New York, where the eatery is located.

Photo: Video Screengrab

Impressed, we settled back in our seats, interested to see which dishes would make the cut.

The first featured dish was Roti Jala, a traditional Malay dish commonly eaten with curry.

Photo: Video Screengrab

Then came some footage of local hawker centres, with sugarcane to boot.

What happened next, however, left us confused and questioning all our years of eating Singaporean hawker fare.

In quick succession, chilli crab cheese fries, crab omelette, and lamb rendang mee pok, topped with a fried egg and, inexplicably, a cracker, flashed on our screen.

Chilli crab cheese fries (left), and lamb rendang mee pok (right).Photo: Video Screengrab

Huh? This is Singaporean street food? Since when were chilli crab french fries available in hawker centres? And since when do we spoon our mee pok onto a cracker and eat it like a taco?

Reeling from the foreignness of it all, we could do nothing but stare in confusion.

We weren't the only ones.

Commenters on the video wondered if they were living in an alternate universe.

Some drew comparisons to the appalling xiaolongbao video produced by TimeOut London last month, where the Chinese delicacy was offensively likened to 'pus-filled pimples'.

Others pointed out that it was inaccurate to call the dishes 'street food', as most Singaporeans would consider the featured dishes to be hawker food.

Facebook user Michelle Chia explained the difference, saying, "This is not Singapore food. This is Singapore inspired fusion food. Singapore don't (sic) have street food. This is Singapore hawker food."

Some commenters added that the eatery did in fact serve authentic Singaporean dishes, but that they had not been featured in the video in favour of the Westernised fusion dishes.

The choice of the Westernised dishes over the authentic Singaporean ones was a move that (rightfully, we think) drew outrage from Singaporeans.

Facebook user Jon Zephanius noted that a "Singaporean" dish does not equate to a dish that has "chilli crab" added to it.

While we do appreciate INSIDER food's desire to share Singaporean dishes with the rest of the world, we do hope that the representation is at least accurate.

After all, Singaporeans are extremely protective over our food. As Facebook user Kathleen Chan warned, "You do not mess with Singaporeans when it comes to food."

pariel@sph.com.sg

 

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