Letter of the week: Appreciate local food and be willing to pay fair prices

More Singaporeans are specialising in local food, even amid the pandemic. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is not true that there is no local institution teaching ethnic culinary traditions (Nurture ethnic culinary traditions too, Nov 22).

The Nanyang Polytechnic-Asian Culinary Institute Singapore (NYP-ACI) was set up in 2015 to train and upgrade talent and manpower in the food industry, and we specialise in ethnic Asian cuisines.

Beyond teaching students how to do a batonnet or a julienne cut, we take pride in teaching the intricacies of handling a chopper and filleting a fish butterfly style.

Students learn to make brioche and baguette, as well as traditional naans cooked over tandoori stoves.

We train our students in Chinese, Indian, Malay and Peranakan classics (yes, we're talking rempah from scratch here).

At NYP-ACI, we have structures in place to help ensure that these cuisines remain alive and well in our local food and beverage (F&B) industry, whether in restaurants or as hawker fare.

We help aspiring hawkers learn the trade, train as an apprentice with an established hawker and then start up their own stalls.

There are also grants for these aspiring hawkers while they learn their skills and trade.

However, while we work on the structures to preserve and pass on Asian culinary traditions, techniques and recipes - they do not operate in a vacuum.

There must also be widespread appreciation of and recognition for our ethnic foods.

I often hear from industry players of a skewed perception of value - many consumers would pay $15 for pasta but gripe about a $4 bowl of noodles.

Asian dishes are, perhaps, also not aesthetically the best for social media.

Even Michelin-starred char siew or wat tan hor fun - which take incredible skill to get right - look pretty blob-like compared with pretty molecular gastronomy.

The truth is, if diners turn their nose up at Singapore's local fare, or if they are unwilling to pay more for ethnic heritage food, chefs and F&B establishments will, in turn, be less willing to specialise in such cuisines.

So, is it all doom and gloom? No.

More Singaporeans are specialising in local food, even amid the pandemic. I see people attempting to cook these local hawker dishes and then sharing the results on social media.

Singaporeans can do their part by learning to cook local heritage dishes (NYP-ACI has a series of courses open to the public), be increasingly willing to pay fair prices (this is growing) and celebrating Singapore's food heritage.

Charlene Ang


Nanyang Polytechnic's Asian Culinary Institute

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