The Food for Thought series explores the complex relationship between food and culture. Traditions, language and environment are all factors that influence the dishes that come to define a place. As we travel, food can open doors. Sharing a meal leads to new friendships, exploring a local market reveals something new to us about the place we’re visiting. Food is not just sustenance. It’s part of the joy we find through travel. Each Food for Thought interview helps us see how others experience culture through food. This week we’re chatting with Victoria from Singapore Foodie. How we wish we’d known about her blog before our visit to Singapore! We can’t wait to try out one of her self-guided food tours next time we’re there! An honest perspective is sometimes hard to find, and we really respect Victoria’s ability provide that. She’s aware of the challenge to remain impartial when getting a meal for free, so she focuses getting the full experience as a regular diner. From the famous Singapore hawker centers to fine dining restaurants, to where to find vegan and other special offerings, Singapore Foodie covers all the bases.
A talented and versatile writer specializing in the food and travel sector Victoria has been featured in Expat Living Singapore and many online publications including the new travel app for Singapore, Perfect Day. Victoria is the founder of Singapore Foodie, a website dedicated to finding the best places to eat in Singapore. Victoria’s food journey began in her home town of Melbourne in Australia and has since taken her to Sydney, Salt Lake City, London and now Singapore. Victoria has travelled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the United States and Africa and has developed a love of travel and food that has formed the basis of a new career.
Food for Thought
The underlying idea of the “Food for Thought” series is that to truly experience a culture you must taste it. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
100%. Absolutely. Categorically. Agree. Food is nutrients for the soul, without it we’d be a) hungry and b) miserable. In most cultures food is the centre of everything that is good. Whether it’s family celebrations, enjoying the company of others, nurturing one another or celebrating special times of year, food is always present.
What food do you identify with “home?” Does it reflect something about your own culture or upbringing? Do you crave it while you’re away?
I’m Australian, I have to say Vegemite 😉 Although I’m not one to take it with me when I travel, if I was to see it whilst I happened to be in the wilds of Borneo it would immediately remind me of home and I’d have to have it.
How has travel affected the way you think about food?
Trying new foods has always been important to me but it wasn’t until I started extensively travelling that it really turned into an obsession. Having lived in some of the best ‘foodie’ cities in the world (Melbourne, London and Singapore) I’ve always been spoilt for choice. Learning about different cuisines though, particularly in Asia, has been eye opening and has meant that my research before travel now is almost entirely centred upon food related activities. This sometimes means eating more than three meals a day!!
Do you have a technique to try and understand local cuisine? (ie: Attending cooking classes or food tours? Hunting the best street food?)
I don’t have a particular technique. It depends on the place I’m visiting. In big cities it’s usually more about restaurants and markets. In smaller cities, and particularly in Asia, it’s more about street food. I’d say that merely reflects the food culture in those places. And I would always try to enjoy a meal with a local if I have a contact somewhere. Nothing beats sharing food in someone’s home.
Tell us about a memorable meal that was so special it is forever ingrained in your memory. Where was it and what set it apart? What was served, and who shared it with you?
This question is too hard! A few spring to mind but I’m going to say that it was several meals that derived from one slab of meat. In 2010 my husband and I spent 6 months travelling through Europe in a campervan. When we got to the north of Italy we met friends who lived there and they helped us buy a whole Prosciutto (about Euro 250 and 5 kgs or so). Our plan was to spend the next three months eating it! We had hired a house in Calabria and had a series of friends and family visiting so every evening we would take out the Prosciutto and carve the meat for the evening. Usually we’d have it with some melon, or maybe as charcuterie with fresh cheeses or salami that we’d bought. It was a fabulous ritual and I’ll remember it forever. It lasted us right till the very end when my husband gnawed it to the bone 😉
What food have you tried in your travels that some might find shocking or surprising? Would you eat it again?
I recently visited Laos and spent a day visiting the markets and learning to cook Laotian food. One of the common flavourings included in the buffalo meat salad I made was buffalo bile. I was a bit hesitant about including it but figured that if that was customary then I should do. It was merely flavouring and there was no noticeably strong or unpleasant taste from it so I guess I would try it again.
And just for fun, if you had to choose one country’s cuisine to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?