T’s Most Interesting Takes on Singapore’s Chinese Culture

Ahead of 2020’s Spring Festival, we look back at some of our best stories on Singapore’s Chinese culture. Here, read and watch a selection of them.

Jurong Fishery Port, a Night Before Chinese New Year

In the wee hours before the dawn of Chinese New Year, Singapore’s largest fishery port comes alive. T pays a visit and gets to know the people as well the produce at the wholesale fish market.

The video was first published here.

Two Singaporeans Reflect on the Icons of Chinese New Year

Hosanna SweeA photographer and a writer meditate on the oft-overlooked talismans of the festive season through ‘Still’, a poignant photo essay.
A photographer and a writer meditate on the oft-overlooked talismans of the festive season through ‘Still’, a poignant photo essay.

Chinese New Year is often a time where Singapore is thrown into a frenzy. Homes are transformed into labyrinthian factory lines, shopping malls entice the horde with discounts, and the ether is rife with anticipation and anxiety. Our list of to-dos swells, from painstakingly slotting money notes into red packets to carefully picking the perfect outfit.

In the throes of this season, where everything calls for attention, our lives are overhauled to an extent that we may have let slip the meanings behind each festive custom. This photo essay, ‘Still’, is a meditation on the rich significance behind “icons” for which we might have taken for granted through the years.

Read the full story here.

What to do With Mandarin Oranges

Felicia Yap

Post Chinese New Year, mandarin oranges often go to waste. Using the citrus fruits, a wellness practitioner shares her simple recipe for water kefir fermentation.

“It’s like Yakult,” wellness practitioner Jaslyn Kee explains the probiotic drink in layman terms. There are a dozen strains of bacteria and yeast in water kefir. “The kefir itself is good for your gut. It detoxes, improves digestion and gut health.” In the three years that Kee has been holding water kefir workshops, she's had individuals with ailments like eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and bloatedness come through the doors. 

The making of a bottle of water kefir begins with water kefir grains. The exact origins of the kefir grain remains unknown, although there are various versions of how it came about. “They were from mountainous areas in Turkey and Russia. They had these bags to store goat's milk. When they poured it out there were little grains. And they left it there. That actually helped the milk from going bad.” The milk kefir grains were later converted into water kefir grains.

Learn how to ferment your own mandarin orange-based water kefir here.

How to Embrace the Chinese Language

In Singapore where children are increasingly uninterested in Chinese, a family offers a fresh take on learning the language: immersion.

The video was first published here.

Reinventing Chinese Food

From left: A portrait of chef Woo Wai Leong; white radish bamboo shoot porridge.
From left: A portrait of chef Woo Wai Leong; white radish bamboo shoot porridge.

By some measure, most Singaporeans are befitting the title food connoisseurs. Growing up amidst a robust food scene, most claim the right of knowledge to quintessential local fare. The Singaporean culinary offering is best described as a melting pot of an array of cultures, primarily Chinese, Malay and Indian. 

Chinese cuisine, in particular, is considered to be the city’s most accessible and well-learnt. Its origins and influence, drawn from the different southern China provinces from which Singapore’s earliest migrants hailed from. For instance, the Hainanese chicken rice, as its name suggests, is adopted from Hainan, the southernmost province of China; bak kut teh, pork ribs (and meat) in broth believed to have originated from Fujian, China; and Hokkien noodles, from the Amoy and Fujian provinces in mainland China. 

These offerings have laid the foundation for what has come to be known as the archetypal Singaporean cuisine. However, the convoluted umbrella of Chinese cuisine far supersedes this familiar realm. In recent years, the vocabulary of these Eastern influences has been examined by a crop of young chefs. 

Read the full story here.