Monday, January 25, 2010

Zaobao Interview (25 Jan 2010)

Would you believe it? Never in my life did I ever think I would be fielding interview questions as a food blogger, much less in a CHINESE language newspaper! Life's ironies, really.

The interview focused on how new immigrants change the food landscape of Singapore. Go to the end of this post if you want to read the full article in Chinese. Here are the snippets where I gave my 2-cents worth.


Zaobao Now (Crossroads section, page 1), Monday, 25 Jan 2010.
A loose translation of what I said in the top paragraph:
Like Ju of The Little Teochew said, "Food transcends barriers. Food brings people to together. Food is often the entry point to learning about a new culture."

And the bottom paragraph:
Ju, The Little Teochew, is a stayhome mom to 3 children, who blogs as a hobby. She said, New immigrants, by bringing their food (and culture) to Singapore, will invariably change the local dining landscape. We become more cosmopolitan as a result of having more food choices. As time goes on, these different food and flavours become uniquely Singaporean.


Just in case you think I did the interview in Chinese, I didn't. I gave my answers in English, via email. My Chinese needs all the help it can get.

So here's the shocker: I was a SAP school student. *runs and hides*

I studied Chinese as first language and scored nothing less than an A2 and B3 for my 'O' and 'A' level papers respectively. Heck, I even took Chinese Literature in Year 1 of Junior College. And look at me now. :( Sure, I can speak Chinese to save my life, but I can't express myself as fluently as I can in English. That's sad.

I'm a classic example of "use it or lose it" when it comes to languages. My teacher would kill me if he knew the dismal state my Chinese is in. That is, if he only knew how easy it is.

You see, he's my neighbour.

Nightmare, I tell you. To this day, he has no clue that I was his student (I no longer look geeky, yay!). We just smile and say hello when we meet. I don't have the heart to tell him. How would a teacher feel when he learns that his student has clean forgotten everything he has taught? He'll be so disappointed! So.

Sorry Mr L. It's not you. It's me. Let's just remain neighbours, OK?

Full article:
饮食博客寻寻觅觅 看“美味移民” 改变本地餐饮景观

赵琬仪 (2010-01-25)

  美食的价值在新加坡,不单纯是满足口腹之欲,也是对本地多元文化的礼赞。

  如果我们去追溯本地每一道美味菜肴的源头,不难发现,无论是100多年前莱佛士时代的狮城,或是踏入21世纪第二个10年的新加坡,这些奠定新加坡作为国际都会形象的美食,其中有不少最初蕴含的是移民的乡愁,以及融入新土地新生活所发挥的智慧。

  这些年来,来自四面八方的新移民,不仅将他们的家乡菜肴带入本地的酒店、餐馆,也走进深入民心的咖啡店、小贩中心和食阁。现在连网络世界也遍布这些“美味移民”的踪迹。《新汇点》邀请了3名在网上分享寻访美食、品尝美食经验的博客作者,谈谈新移民如何改变本地的餐饮景观。

  “我们习惯了不好的服务态度,觉得‘两块钱的食物,就不能嫌弃(服务差)’。但是新移民把家乡的服务文化带进来,他们多数会强调亲切周到的服务态度,让人感到宾至如归。”——美食博客黄宏安

  针对本地餐饮的“美味移民”,本地著名的饮食博客“ieatishootipost.sg”的作者郑春茂医生,一针见血地指出两个现象。

  郑春茂说:“新移民在本地开餐馆或担任厨师,有的是为了讨生活,而饮食业门槛低,容易入行,所以很多新移民从事餐饮行业。另外,有的是因为喜欢自己家乡的美味,也擅长烹煮,希望在陌生城市推广自己的所爱。谈论外来的美食,必须将这两个类别区分开。有些人会搞不清楚,以为日本人、意大利人掌厨,烹调出来的就必定味道道地,一定好吃,其实我们那些受过严格训练的专业厨师一样能烹调出外地菜肴的美味。”

  郑春茂(40岁)的正职是家庭诊所医生,他2006年开始设立博客,发表食物摄影作品及撰写寻访美食的发现。他喜欢在小贩中心寻找美食。问他喜欢哪些本地美食,他细数的都是多数新加坡人成长记忆中熟悉的蚵煎、炒粿条、虾面等。

  他举了个例子,假设有个新加坡人在外国开餐馆,来补充说明他对一些所谓“美味移民”的看法:“如果这个新加坡人和一般的新加坡人一样,平时都是在外用餐或吃家里人煮的饭菜,然后,他到了外国,就想尝试把自己平时吃的食品做给外国人吃,并称它们为道地的新加坡口味,你说那会有多好吃?”

  郑春茂还提出另一个观察。近年,本地出现很多标榜价廉物美的火锅店,以数目之众,形容为一股由新移民带来的火锅新热浪一点也不夸张。他认为这些由新移民开设的火锅店,照顾的是和他们一样是新移民“同乡”,本地顾客群并不是最初锁定的对象。它们用的一些食材,如家禽的内脏、脖子、舌头等,不一定合本地人口味,但却是新移民在家乡时平常不过的食品。换句话说,一些新移民把家乡味道带到异乡,最初极可能是为了迎合同乡对家乡味道的思念。他觉得,越是地道的味道,更需要时间融入新环境,被陌生的味蕾接受。

  从小笼包想起先辈移民故事

  然而,正如“The Little Teochew”(小潮州)博客作者Ju通过电邮受访时所说的:“美食无疆界。美食使陌生人聚集起来。品尝他人的家乡美味,也是学习一个新文化的起点。” 也有一些地道美食,具备“大众甜心”的特质,在家乡深受欢迎,离乡后一样容易受到外地人的喜爱。

  中国北方新移民在本地最深入民心的食品,可以说是十多年前带来的板面,以及近年的小笼包。

  郑春茂多次在他的博客介绍小笼包这北方小点,认为它已逐渐成为狮城常见的平民美食,不用上餐馆,在熟食中心一样能找到5元10个,皮薄汁甜,水平可媲美餐馆的小笼包。

  他在介绍牛车水熟食中心的小笼包时,联想到自己祖父辈的移民故事。这摊售卖北方食品的移民小贩,似乎在重复着新加坡早期移民的故事——离乡背井到陌生城市讨生活,赚了钱寄回家乡贴补家用,适应新环境后决定在此落地生根,把家人接过来,共享天伦,开创新天地。

  谈到新移民小贩除了带来美食,还带来了什么,郑春茂不假思索地说:“新移民令人赞叹的是,他们刻苦耐劳,有着和我们先辈一样的拼搏精神。我们新加坡人现在太安逸了,总想着轻松容易地完成一件事。”

  新移民精益求精的精神除了用在厨房功夫上,也发挥在待客之道上。

  在美食搜寻网站“HungryGoWhere.com”负责到处试菜的黄宏安(31岁),从开设餐馆的新移民所提供的亲切友善服务看到,他们对本地餐饮文化有了新刺激,让习惯了“比上不足比下有余”的 bad service(坏服务态度)的消费者多了具有素质的选择。

  黄宏安在新加坡出生,但有多年在外国生活,先后在印尼、法国、美国(包括夏威夷)生活学习。他说:“我们习惯了不好的服务态度,觉得‘两块钱的食物,就不能嫌弃(服务差)’。但是新移民把家乡的服务文化带进来,他们多数会强调亲切周到的服务态度,让人感到宾至如归。”

郑春茂在博客里写品尝美食的发现。

  对美食文化的执著

  不过,真正令美食家留下味蕾享受以外的深刻体会的是,一些新移民对于美食文化的坚持。通过他们对美食的热情,以及文化上的执著,食客品尝菜肴的同时,也在体验另一个文化、另一种生活的智慧。

  黄宏安举出克拉码头的印度餐馆”IVORY“为例,这家餐馆的特色,不是以南北分界的印度地方菜肴,而是印度南方海岸的特色烹调。通过食材、调味料的选择,烹调方式,让客人体验到印度文化的丰富多样,对“authentic”(原味)一词有更开阔的认识。

  郑春茂谈到自己所欣赏的新移民餐馆或熟食摊,有感而发地说:“他们是把自己文化带来给我们。”他名单中的“他们”,包括在德福巷 (Defu Lane)的印度煎饼熟食摊“Riyadh Muslim Food”;客纳街(Club St)的意大利餐馆Cugini,以及西海岸丰隆花园购物中心的日本料理食店Chako。

  他说,Chako的厨师是一名典型的日本家庭主妇奥川久子。她喜欢烹饪,即使开店做生意,仍坚持保持home cooking的慢工细货。“吃我煮的菜就是要等的。”到Chako用餐,客满时你便会听到这一句话。食物送到眼前,亲切的奥川久子还会细细叮咛,食物要慢慢吃,才好吃。

  Cugini则让他了解到pizza没有所谓的皮薄还是皮厚之分,食物的原汁原味来自厨师钻研厨艺的热情,以及材料的新鲜。

  “小潮州”的Ju是个全职家庭主妇,育有3个小孩,以撰写美食博客为兴趣,她说,新移民将他们的食物(文化)带来新加坡,必然会改变本地的餐饮景观。“更多的饮食选择使我们变得更加都市化。随着时间演进,这些不同的食物、味道将逐渐融入新加坡的特色。”

  近年,本地出现越来越多讲究地方特色的菜馆、食店。对美食爱好者来说,新移民不仅带来了丰富的选择,也促进饮食文化的细致化,推动新加坡餐饮景观更上一层楼。

  “如果客人要求我们改变食物风味,那么我觉得他们不是真的喜欢意大利食物。”——Gerri Sottile

  外来食品不应迁就本地口味

  何谓“新移民”?受访博客作者不约而同提出同样问题。郑春茂定义广泛,反映“新移民”身份多重的可能性。他认为“新移民是任何来到新加坡,决定无限期在此居住生活的外国人。”

  《新汇点》特别走访两户坚持发扬家乡口味的新移民,了解他们将外来口味介绍给本地人的经验,以此观照新加坡饮食文化特色。称之为“户”,因为每一户分别是由家庭成员,或是由青梅竹马的好朋友所组成的团队。

  贾利(Gerri Sottile,37岁)和茂罗(Mauro Muroni,37岁),同样来自意大利南部岛屿,前者生于西西里岛,后者在撒丁岛成长。他们2007年在本地罗拔申码头开设意大利餐馆,去年8月转移阵地,来到令他们缅怀家乡小镇氛围的客纳街,开设了Cugini意大利家庭料理餐馆。

  两人在意大利体验过摄氏45度的酷热夏天,所以认为新加坡常温气候其实非常舒适,即使以脚车代步也不觉得热。他们异口同声地说,已有申请成为永久居民的打算。

  这对从小一起长大,和贾利的祖母一起学习厨艺的好朋友,来新加坡前,在伦敦开设餐馆长达10年。后来经朋友引荐,才来到这里。

  贾利认为,新加坡人热爱美食,所以在此开设餐馆,引荐家乡味道,能够遇到“知音”。

  他相信喜欢美食的客人会尊重食物原味。有人主张外来食品应迁就当地口味,调整咸辣浓淡,他说:“如果客人要求我们改变食物风味,那么我觉得他们不是真的喜欢意大利食物。”

  Cugini的客人,外国人和本地人各占一半。有本地客人尝过他们自家调制的酱料,和新鲜制造的pasta及pizza后,一个星期光顾5次。贾利说,客人的行动是最有力的赞美。他们所坚持的意大利南部味道,让人尝过后意犹未尽。

  Cugini的菜肴特色,重视家庭料理讲究材料新鲜优质的传统,除了推荐意大利南方菜肴风味,也烹调没有南北之分的意式经典。

  茂罗指出,意大利南部菜肴在食材方面偏爱橄榄油及辣椒香料,北部则用较多牛油乳酪。

《联合早报》
(编辑:梁嘉芪)

46 comments:

  1. Oh to read this in Mandarin is tough, I tell you, dear. Something about new immigrant and food.Right?
    I gave up after first few sentences. *frustrated with myself* ....let me try again.

    Congrats on the interview :D

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  2. Earlier I thought you do not know Chinese language but I just realized that your level is definitely higher than me, hehehe..Glad to see more peoples knowing your blog, you will getting famous and famous..

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  3. Congratulations, it's great !!!

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  4. I was a SAP student too... embarassing that I can hardly write Mandarin now!
    I know who to catch up with when I am back for a holiday :)

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  5. Hi Ju,
    Wow! That's cool! I enjoyed your blog as much too! Your languages are really good, and there is no lack of expressions in your posts. Keep it up! :)

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  6. Saw it on the newspaper just now, congrats...benjamin

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  7. Great sentiment ... It is tough to get people to try new foods, but it is a great way to learn culture and history. Food was the driving force of expansion for centuries. (spice wars are the best example). Now it brings individuals together

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  8. congrats! What a great start to the new year! Long Live thelittleteochew!

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  9. How wonderful!
    You are famous Ju...
    Thank you for sharing with us...
    L~xo

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  10. LOL...oh really JU! u even took chinese lit n now forgotten? wow just proves practice makes perfect huh....maybe I shd be speaking for myself of Bahasa..but i have a very good excuse..heh...when I was in school we were taught in English and bahasa was just one of the subjects. wh was why I did poorly in bahasa.

    but wow .u were interviewed!!! ur getting famous!! n resto reviews too ! lucky lucky u Ju! :))))

    n youre so right about food being the entry point of learning a new culture! well said! n if it wasnt bcos of food we wouldnt even know each other! now look at us! heheh

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  11. How cool! Remember those of us who always loved you when you are a world famous food blogger! (And hopefully your teacher/neighbor isn't secretly a food blogger himself, lol!)

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  12. Congratz on the interview and publication Ju! You're gaining reputation!!!!

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  13. 新移民美食?马国的算不算啊? :p

    我相信,只要持之以恒,你还是可以用华文来表达感想的。 我们要加油哦!

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  14. Complimenti per questa intervista, sono molto felice per te. Sai anche diocleziano è un po' scettico a provare nuovi cibi, ma alla fine io riesco sempre a convincerlo e molto spesso ne rimane soddisfatto.
    Un abbraccio Daniela.

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  15. I love that the world is finding you..
    Please remember us:)

    The writing is beautiful..such an art form..I hope you kept the paper? You know me and souvenirs..

    Thank goodness they didn't put your photo in the paper..as you would also become a movie star..
    I cannot ever believe you could have been geeky:)
    It's so true..Food brought you and Zurin together:) That was such a nice story..and a coninuing friendship:)

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  16. OMG, wow!!! Ju, this is so cool!! Congratulations!

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  17. Wow I am impressed, you are being interviewed. You are getting popular...more fans on the way.

    Great start to 2010.

    Kampai, cheers!

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  18. yay! what a great interview, ju! i wish my parents would have forced me to learn how to read and write, instead of just speak, so i'd be able to read it in chinese as well.

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  19. Congratulations Ju!! You are famous now :)

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  20. Ju,
    Congrats!!!! You deserve this.. yoohoo!
    I haven't practised my spoken mandarin for a while, so it's kind of rusty.. guess i lost what i have learnt.. yuck..

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  21. Congratulations Ju on being in the press! Well done! Funny about your teacher - hope he doesnt read this - he would be heartbroken!

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  22. Congratulations on your appearance in the newspaper! :) It's absoloutely fantastic knowing you're being recognised from your work in the blogsphere... and who wouldn't notice you?! A truly awesome apperance by a truly wonderful blogger! Well done, Ju! :) x

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  23. Congrats to you for being interviewed by the press! A famous housewife now! I'm not good at reading Chinese newspaper but still can understand the two particular paragraphs relating to you. Hehehe!

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  24. YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, JU!!!! You deserve all the recognition you get. I'm so proud of you!!! I agree about using the languages you learn or you'll lose them. I hope this experience encourages you to learn Chinese all over again. Do you children speak Chinese? I hope so!

    Congrats again!

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  25. Very cool-how fun that you got an interview!

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  26. uh, I'm gonna need a dictionary to read that. I took chinese for 10 years in Singapore, until sec 2. It's a bit rusty now.

    But hey, chinese or English, congrats on being interviewed!! :D

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  27. wow congratulation on your achievement, keep it up, keep blogging! :)

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  28. Hey Ju, this is quite funny, the part on your Chinese teacher living next door. This must be exciting for you... way to go!

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  29. YAY congratulations Ju! And so true what you said :D Thanks for translating it too hehe!

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  30. Hey, I was a SAP student too, and my chinese is not much better ;)

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  31. WOW! Congratulations! You're are famous now :)

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  32. Ju, congrats to you!! Your popularity just never ceases to grow!! So excited and happy for you!

    Hey, y'know what! So glad to know that you're bilingual, which has proven my previous assumption of you wrong!

    Pei-Lin

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  33. Ju...I am impressed and glad the world loves you as much as we do!

    It is so true about food bringing all people together. It is a language we all understand (your Chinese I'm sure, is great), and can share.

    Thanks Ju!

    Diane

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  34. Congratulations on the interview! This is an honorable mention!

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  35. So fun for you! Congratulations!

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  36. omg congratulations!!! Did the article mention your blog url? I have to confess I can't really read the article very well too, haiz :x

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  37. congratulations...you really deserve it!

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  38. Wow! Congratulation to your press interview :) You deserve it :)

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  39. pssst. i was a SAP sch student too and back then, hated all the chinese culture lessons and etc. but really glad I had those now. I actually have learnt to embrace and appreciate the language so much more and what it means to who i am. lovely replies you made to the paper. I totally agree :) x

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  40. Dear Ju,

    Congrats on the interview!!! Well done!

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  41. OHMYGOSH JU!!! This is so exciting congrats on your achievements!!! I find my chinese getting worse and worse every year -- probably because I no longer live with my loud chinese mother that use to constantly scream chinese at me at all times of the day :)

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  42. I read the newspaper just yesterday at my sibling's place and when I saw "The Little Teochew" mentioned, I told myself, "Oh, It's Ju!". Congrats on the interview!

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  43. Hi,
    Just wanna drop a note to you. Like you, I am Teochew with Hainanese grandparents on the maternal side.

    I also wrote a little bit about Chinese food and culture on my blog. Thought you might be interested. http://funvinyldecals.wordpress.com/tag/food/

    I am happy to have stumbled upon your blog. .. I was googling about how to make ngoh hiang .. :) love your blog, will be back.

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  44. Congrats on the article! Zaobao journalists are fantastic, they always translate from English input and come out with good Chinese copy.

    But hey, it's no mean feat to have gotten As for Chinese when all I hear from people is how they flunked Chinese! I'm sure you still have it in you, just need to let it come out more often! :)

    Hopefully your teacher doesn't read your blog, but hey, after this news article, he just might! :P

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  45. I did really well in Chinese - just so that I could have a good grade for that "horrible" subject on my quite perfect report card. But honestly, it was thrown out of the window the minute the exam was over.

    I wish now that I had made the effort to really learn the language for keeps.

    Funny enough I started speaking Mandarin really well only after I started living in Paris - and met Mainland Chinese people for the first time. I've often been told that they wouldn't know from my accent that I was from Singapore until I told them that. :-)

    Stumbled upon your lovely blog quite by accident. Amazed to discover so many good Singapore-based blogs lately. I'e been too out-of-touch with what's going on back home.

    Bonne continuation!

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