Sharing food and stories at Singapore International Festival of Arts

Noorlinah Mohamed will curate the collaborative event.
Noorlinah Mohamed will curate the collaborative event.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

SINGAPORE - Whenever 27-year-old Asha Adnan needs a pick-me-up, she fries sweet potato donuts (kueh keria) the way her grandmother taught her. "Whenever I feel low I make these and turn the radio on to the oldies channel which she likes," says Ms Asha, who teaches arts and cooking under the group Asha & Co.

She is among 20 sets of home cooks who will share recipes and feed visitors next month, in the run-up to the Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa).

Visitors to O.P.E.N. Kitchens, held from July 8 to 30, will learn recipes and stories about food that are central to the cooks' identities.

The collaborative event curated by artist Noorlinah Mohamed is part of a season of public engagement, the O.P.E.N., which leads into Sifa's main season of dance, theatre and performance art from Aug 5 to Sept 9.

Participation in O.P.E.N. Kitchens is limited to those who hold a $45 O.P.E.N. Pass ticket. Each ticket offers one entry into a kitchen and groups are limited to 20 or 25 at a time.

Nine home kitchens will be open to visits and 11 kitchens have also been set up for the project in shop houses in Geylang.

At the media preview held in one such shop house on Tuesday (June 6), 17-year-old Joshua Tang made gazpacho of cherry tomatoes, red onions, Japanese cucumbers and non-alcoholic sherry vinegar. "My lecturer jokes that the national soup in Singapore is cream of mushroom but in this hot weather, people don't always want to drink a heavy soup," says the teen, who is doing a tourism diploma at Singapore Polytechnic.

The food tales offer a taste of the multicultural smorgasbord that makes up Singapore.

Madam Ng Swee Hiah, 74, will make a pesto sauce of kedondong fruit with the aid of her 14-year-old grandson Dylan Soh.

She looks forward to teaching visitors about the edible plants in her home garden at Telok Kurau. "Did you know you could eat chives flowers? People are always surprised to learn what can be eaten," she says.

Baker Nurhasana Kamaruzaman, 29, will make vegetarian Malay food - sambal goreng, vegetarian rendang - with her friend Madam Rusnah Sajee. Madam Rusnah, 57, invented the recipes to allow vegetarians to enjoy a taste of Malay cooking. Visitors to Ms Nurhasana's two-room flat in Ang Mo Kio will feast from common trays, as is traditional.

Ms Nurhasana says: "I hope I can make everyone comfortable and they enjoy the experience."

Curator Noorlinah says: "The idea is to generate community bonding, not just eat the food."

For details and ticketing, visit