My Mother - Entre, Main, Dessert

Mother is a word often synonymous with over-bearing, prying behaviours, big warm hugs, nagging, band aids, incredi-balls food and, of course, all encompassing love. I suppose that makes me pretty unique, because I have three mothers…. kind of. I am the youngest of two in a unit of four and have thoroughly reaped the benefits of being the baby of my family.

My family and I migrated to Australia when I was a wee tyke, and while my sister and I are totes ‘Straylian now (mate) there is one thing that we hold dear as a family that links us distinctively back to our roots. Food.

Most of my best memories growing up are born from some type of food adventure (ie: after school, self-made ‘cooking shows’ with my sister) or deep and meaningful discussions from around my dinner table. And while this may seem normal to most, food (whether eating, making or sharing it) is a passion that seems to have tied my family together as one – skeletons and all!

I sat down with 1/3 of my mother-unit over a hot steamy bowl of home-made prawn noodle soup to talk all things Singapura, Malay and edible!

What does food mean to you?

Food is something to be enjoyed. Food links people, it is one of lifes pleasures. It helps you discover other cultures, appreciate the finer points about their culture, breaks barriers. Eating together builds bonds, makes friends out of enemies – draws people closer. Yeah. It’s a pleasurable thing.

What do you think is distinctive about our family meals? Our dinner table?

Distinctive? Well, it’s asian. But it’s not distinctly one particular asian culture- we eat chinese food, malay food, pera makan food, we try Indian. Its an adventure I think, you know. Something that strives not to be boring but yet nutritious – non excessive. Even though we have a lot of left overs haha. 

What is your favourite past time as a family?

Favourite past time? The only activity that ties everyone together is having a meal, because we all don’t enjoy television or going out or shopping equally. Having a meal is the only thing that everyone readily enjoys getting together for, you know.

Why is food/eating/our food so significant to our family – immediate and extended?

I think for me it's to see the dynamics around the table – to see the family’s faces light up when they are presented with certain dishes or certain food. To see them enjoy it. Yeah! I think there's a significance there. We came from a culture – a very rich culture. Our culture is one that takes pride in cooking and you can see that in Kou Kou (my aunty). Cooking it right and serving it in a large family setting. It goes way back. My grandfather used to buy whole stalls – not just a bowl or two, but whole stalls for his family. That’s typical of Singapore – it’s one where families and friends get together always around food, you know. It’s a tradition for us. 

We don’t eat to live, we live to eat. When you eat out you actually go look for the best provider of certain dishes, like a converation would say “ay, where's the best char kuey tiao (fried noodles) huh?" So in Singapore they don’t just talk about food, they talk about where's the best food, and people don’t mind driving kilometer’s to get the best food.

In order of age, what would you say our family’s favourite foods are?

Collectively – seafood is something we all enjoy. Ok in order of age - me, it would be crabs, seafood and duck especially. Mum would be ahh… rice. and soups I think. (hahah) Adele…I think adele would again be things like duck and seafood. You would be noodle. But you enjoy seafood and duck and siew yoke (roast pork belly). And David (my brother-in-law) would like curries and pratha (hehe) like me.

Your favourite dish to cook?

Soft shell crab or chilli crab.

(I would classify that a national food)


What was I like as a kid, food wise?

You were very picky. Extremely picky. oh man, so many things you don’t eat! You still don’t.

I do now! I eat everything!

You still don’t eat pig entrails, ocre…there are other things. Chicken feet you don’t eat. Certain delicacies you don’t touch.

We had to ween you out of milk. We had a big concern about you being addicted to milk (hahaha/hahaha). First we had to ween you out of milk, second thing we had to ween you off instant noodles. Yep. 

Best advice to those who cook?

Do it instinctively. Don’t follow the cook books to the letter. Use your instinct to guide you.

Best advice to those who can’t?

No such thing! Everyone can cook. Give it a go!

Best advice in general?

Be adventurous. You have to be adventurous with food, you can’t let the appearance affect you. You have to have a sense of discovery – not just of the taste, but of the people behind the food, the culture and reasons behind the food. That itself is such an interesting thing.