Category Archives: Food

Unite, Not Divide

Even before this year’s Ramadan managed to make through its first week, my phone and social media feeds have been (and continue to be) inundated with photos, actions, reactions, and everything else in-between regarding a certain “list”. Allow me to share my thoughts and hopefully bring some sense in a seemingly senseless world.

What This Is About

A collaborative article by The Halal Food Blog and Halal Food Hunt stemmed from a moral-religious obligation to earnestly admonish their target audiences; primarily focusing on food stalls in the annual Geylang Serai Bazaar. It features a list of stalls which have been halal-certified by Singapore’s lone Islamic authority, MUIS, as well as stalls owned by Muslims.

Another sub-list – which has since been deleted – features stalls which “are not Muslim-Owned and not Halal-Certified or meet halal risks as described”.

Despite a number of the latter’s owners and staff taking additional steps and measures to ensure – to the best of their knowledge, ability, and legal means – that they source and work with ingredients which have been halal-certified (a highly commendable and selfless move in itself), the denouncement of the nature of their business – courtesy of what can be described as a self-styled questionnaire – came as an unwelcome surprise.

While the main intention of the article was definitely not to name-and-shame, a certain degree of damage had already been done thanks to screenshots of the now-deleted sub-list spreading like wildfire via mobile messaging apps and social media.

Word On The Street

A close source (a veteran food vendor who literally grew up in and around bazaars, and also happens to be a decades-long Geylang Serai Bazaar stalwart) at ground zero has noticed food vendors who were featured on the sub-list – which include a mix of both veteran loyalists and first-time aspirational millennials – mulling over whether participating in this year’s Bazaar was a good business decision to begin with.

The cost of setting up a business in Singapore is already physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially exhausting enough; and word of potentially damaging information would only add more woes.

Despite the lengthy and detailed explanations, clarifications, and justifications, the article has still come across with having a somewhat divisive, holier-than-thou, authoritative, and haughty demeanour; more so as the website and article is accessible by many, and helmed by a collective of young, tech-savvy, and highly enthusiastic individuals, but void of any officiating position.

Why It Matters (Or Not)

While the bulk of businesses and activities within the area of Geylang Serai cater towards the Malay and Muslim demographic – which will inevitably result in human traffic consisting largely of Malays and Muslims (not unlike how Chinatowns around the world are a Chinese enclave) – its is important to note that Geylang Serai has neither been a halal- nor Muslim-exclusive area.

The Geylang Serai Bazaar (colloquially known as “Bazaar Ramadan” due to it’s tradition of being prominent in the area exclusively during the month of Ramadan) has and continues to serve as the locus of anything and everything Malay- and Muslim-related (food, fashion, etc.) during the said period, playing a supportive role to existing brick-and-mortar stores.

On a related note, seeing how some Muslim businesses have helped themselves with a slice of the Chinese New Year Bazaar’s pie earlier this year, who or what is to stop non-Muslims from setting foot in the Geylang Serai Bazaar? Imagine the ruckus that would ensue if those businesses were to be publicly categorised and labelled “non-Chinese-Owned”…

Being On The Right Side Of Things

As a whole; should vendors at the Geylang Serai Bazaar apply for halal certification? Maybe; because of the reasons listed above about the area being a hub for Malays and Muslims, in addition to the increasing population of affluent Muslims.

Are they obliged to do so? Not at all; because of the reasons listed above about Geylang Serai being neither halal- nor Muslim-exclusive.

If the Bazaar vendors decide to go ahead with the idea of moving towards a halal certification; then, good. If not; no big deal, because they cannot and should not be forced to do so.

Despite that, regardless of the location or the demographic served, claiming to be something which you are not (i.e. callously self-proclaiming your food as halal without proper and legal validity – which, worryingly, has and continues to happen) would definitely put you in a bad predicament in the eyes of both the masses as well as the law.

Conclusion

To sum it all up; the Geylang Serai Bazaar is, first and foremost, a Singaporean-Malay and -Muslim tradition. At the time of this post’s publication, the area has not been gazetted as being halal- or Muslim-exclusive.

While the list is much welcomed by a segment of the population, it has indirectly triggered an unnecessary, unneeded, and divisive sentiment between Muslims and non-Muslims. While some may see that the act of thoughtfully advising fellow Muslims about what is right and/or wrong as a moral and religious obligation, others may consider it to be nothing more than a self-satisfying halal/haram (permissible/not permissible under Islamic law) witch hunt or even a form of online vigilantism.

A simple reminder to one and all about their constant obligation to exercise discretion in seeking and frequenting halal food stalls around the literal maze of sights, smells, and sounds of the Bazaar (or anywhere else, for that matter) would have sufficed.

The few street and/or night markets (known locally as pasar malams) such as the Geylang Serai Bazaar belongs to all Singaporeans. Looking at the bigger picture, this whole issue only proves to show how distant we really are in attaining the multi-racial and egalitarian utopia that we often hear other nations praise us for being. Let’s not allow our beliefs to divide us, because the last time such divisive mentalities were allowed to prevail, it certainly did not do anybody any good.

I shall end this post with a reminder to myself as well as all who are fortunate enough with the means and reach to do so: It is imperative – especially in this day and age – to choose to unite, not divide.

Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Versus Home Cooks: If You Can’t Beat Them, Take Them Under Your Wing Instead

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

Some small/independent owners of brick-and-mortar food and beverage (F&B) establishments are crying foul over the lack of enforcement, licensing, and presumably less-financially-straining rise to success gained by home cooks. One distinctly upset business owner recently aired her grievances in the local papers, and a number of responses soon followed.

Of Finger-Pointing and Demands For Enforcement

During one of our many food-centred discussions during dinner (such gluttons we are), I recall mentioning to my mother: All it takes is for one letter or a status update on social media calling for tighter sanctions and/or enforcing stricter regulations on home-operated businesses, and an unnecessary spotlight will be cast on seemingly innocent individuals who simply wish to pursue their passion and/or earn a little extra side income by means of selling their food-based products.

Lo and behold; that very letter was penned not too long ago, and a number of responses soon followed (here and here). Not long after, a dedicated newspaper article aired business owners’ grievances and gripes about the aforementioned issue. Seeing how small and connected Singapore is, it will only be a matter of time before more back-and-forth debates arise.

While I do agree that a certain amount of enforcement and regulations should exist, almost none should be meted out with potential levels of tyranny which may affect – among various other collaterals – the livelihood of an individual and/or the existence of a business. With the exception of a few errant individuals/households (black sheep do exist in every possibly-imagined segment of activity), I believe that most home cooks are not breaching any rules as stated in the HDB’s current Home Based Small Scale Business Scheme; albeit (the aforementioned guidelines) being somewhat vague and/or ambiguous.

As someone who has worked in and around a number of food and beverage businesses, it goes without saying that hurdles are aplenty when it comes to setting up a business; with the most common ones in Singapore being that of manpower, not to mention the ever-present exorbitant overhead and operational costs. However; the disease that is finger-pointing, and calling for stronger enforcement and/or penalties only successfully portrays one’s bitter and entitled mentality, in addition to an autocratic-like demeanour. Additionally, even if your “rivals” were to be wiped off the grid, it would not guarantee your business a surge in patrons and/or profits – be it in the short or long term.

Learning To Work Together, Not Against Each Other

Instead of dedicating your time and already-strapped resources to put down others whom you conveniently label as your “rivals”, why not find out ways in which you can co-exist by engaging their services and tapping on their adequate experience and already-present skill sets? Why not offer them a part-time or temporary position at your premises (think the likes of festive season and special menus) instead of attempting to wipe them off altogether? Providing home cooks with a proper platform to showcase their products; and, for the brick-and-mortar business, the possibility of gaining a new group of patrons – that spells nothing less than a win-win in my book.

With the independently-owned branch of the local food and beverage industry (and the country as a whole) being already that small, petulant bickering and the aforementioned finger-pointing epidemic will do very little to solve and/or alleviate any existing issues or problems. Setting up – and subsequently running – a business isn’t a walk in the park; but instead of worrying about things beyond your control, why not look at and think about the things you can change and potentially take advantage of?

There’s some food for thought for you – pun absolutely intended.

Interview Feature on Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow

Not too long ago, I was fortunate enough and humbled to be contacted by fellow food blogger and food lover Nat – the face behind the renowned Singapore food blog Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow – regarding a new monthly interview feature on his aforementioned blog.

The following text (quoted from Rubbish Eat Rubbish Grow) precedes the main post in his series of interviews and is pretty self-explanatory;

Every month, we feature a Singapore food blog or instagram: (1) to cultivate goodwill and camaraderie among the online community; (2) to encourage more people to blog and instagram about food; and (3) to empower bloggers and instagrammers through an insight and understanding to their lives.

Needless to say, I accepted his request and after a few e-mail exchanges later, it came to fruition.

You can read the interview in its entirety here. While you’re there, feel free to read through his posts on the multitude of food options available in Singapore – complete with well-composed photographs to make your mouth water.

Many thanks once again for the feature, Nat! Really appreciate it!

A True Display of Egg-cellence

Firstly, please accept my apologies for the awful pun as this post’s header – I just couldn’t help it.

Anyways… It’s not often that I get speechless and awed by something magical and spectacular. Today isn’t one of those days. Words cannot describe what you are about to see, so I shall just let the following images and videos do the talking. A word of advice; hunger pangs will be evident – you have been warned!

#Kyoto 🇯🇵#Omurice #kichikichi #kichi2 #mangerdestrucsbons #dreamcometru #venez

A post shared by 伍月 first name Yue last name WU (@wuyue5) on

While we’re on the subject of eggs, allow the legendary Jacques Pepin to demonstrate the proper and near-flawless technique of making an omelette. Simply breathtaking.

I’m still drooling over the omelette-split in the Japanese omurice Instagram video…

Source: We Can Watch Videos of Omurice (Japanese Omelet Rice) All Day (First We Feast)

Follow @eatfoodlivefood on Instagram!

After years of “going against the grain”; I finally rewarded myself with a smartphone – and it wasn’t a big surprise that one of the apps I first downloaded was Instagram. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of photos and various hashtags in relation to food!

I consider myself to be a greenhorn in the world of Instagram (and navigating a smartphone in general); but I appreciate the wonders and ease it brings about into one’s daily life – especially when it comes to drooling over photos of food! Additionally, it pleases me to see so many people and institutions dedicating their Instagram pages to the ever-changing and amazing world of food.

So, follow me on Instagram: @eatfoodlivefood! Do include the hashtag #eatfoodlivefood and tag @eatfoodlivefood on your photos to share them with me and like-minded food lovers. I’ve also included a widget on the side menu bar – on the right – that links to the Instagram page.

Here’s to many more years of great food and food photos! I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish fellow Muslims a very blessed and fruitful Ramadan!