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Commentary: Why the New York Times’ ‘Singapore chicken curry’ cannot get a free pass


Lovingly marinated chicken with chopped potatoes are the ingredients underlying millions of cherished childhood memories.

Even if we can’t cook to save our lives, you can bet we know how to tell this char kway teow has better ‘wok hey’ (literally, breath of a wok) than another, or which fish ball noodle stall offers up the perfect mix of vinegar and chilli. All of this is baked into our collective DNA: Singaporeans love their food.

American chef Anthony Bourdain understood this perfectly when he said: “Singapore is possibly the most food-centric place on Earth, with the most enthusiastic diners, the most varied and abundant, affordable dishes on a per-square-mile basis.”

Just asking who invented chilli crab first and whether Johor bak ku teh is better than Singapore’s can start enthusiastic arguments.

Which is why, when a foreign publication represents us in a dish that looks way off, you can bet your last chicken wing we’re not going to mince our words.

“It’s a national defense issue,” quipped influencer Lee Kin Mun’s alter ego Kim Huat. “Our own ancestors are whispering into our ears … ‘don’t you dare cook like this’.”

“That poor chicken suffered such injustice … can y’all stop making fun of our makan (cuisine),” makansutra founder and food maestro KF Seetoh said.


Now, Singapore rarely gets mentioned on the world stage, culturally speaking. When the outside world looks at us, we are seen as an attractive investment destination, an efficiently run garden city filled with our PISA-topping kids’ mathematics ability.


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