Culture

People dig for clams on the intertidal zone of Fangyuan Township, Changhua County, Taiwan. (CNS)

The old days of eating well without a refrigerator

Have we lost more than we gained with the invention of the refrigerator? With giant fridges in each household, sometimes more than one, stuffed to the brim with frozen food and leftovers, are we eating less well now than when we had no means to store food? Chiang Hsun ponders the question.
A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19 works at a stall in a market in Taipei, Taiwan, 26 November 2021. (Annabelle Chih/Reuters)

Taiwanese art historian: Why a mother's winter melon soup is best

Like the art of cooking, which often involves a mastery of heat control, living a good life is determined by how we can temper our souls, do what we are put on this earth to do and not take things for granted. We may not know what our life’s purpose is immediately, but if we stay the course, we can adjust the embers of our lives as we walk on.
A student of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), 1998. (SPH Media)

What is Nanyang art?

Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre CEO Low Sze Wee traces the origins of Nanyang art, the shaping of the identity of the “Nanyang artists” through the years, and the relevance of this movement to Singapore’s art history.
How does a cup of HK$68 milk tea taste? (iStock)

Song dynasty emperor's brewing secrets in a cup of HK milk tea

As far as a passion for tea goes, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai meets his match in a tea shop owner in Sham Tseng. The tea connoisseur is an alchemist almost as he varies the ingredients and brewing methods to concoct the most memorable teas.
A sketch of the photo of Tai Tong Hoi Kee Restaurant by the writer.

Large steamed meat buns: A flavourful memory of old Singapore

Former journalist Lim Jen Erh remembers the delicious da rou bao or large steamed meat buns he used to scarf down as a kid. They don’t make them like they used to, but the memory of its luscious taste is intact, triggered instantly by old photographs of bustling teahouses of old Singapore.
A family waits for their food to be served at a restaurant in Keelung, Taiwan, 23 May 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Taiwanese art historian: The five elements of cooking in the olden days

Being his mother’s good helper in the kitchen for many years, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun got to experience cooking with firewood, charcoal and of course the everyday natural gas. He is convinced that a different fire and stove begets a different flavour in food. Taiwan today is fortunate to have access to fire at the flick of a switch but this could all change. Lucky thing for Chiang, some firewood is all he needs to make his favourite scorched rice snack.
A vendor wears a protective mask while working at a food stall at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, on 21 May 2021. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg)

Life and life lessons in the old markets of Taiwan

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers his trips to the market as a child which taught him more than he could ever learn in schools about life and humanity. From the back lanes of 44 Kan Site, a shopping street that used to house exactly 44 shops, he would peek into courtyards and encounter the kindness of shop owners; from the varied stalls of Dalong Market, he learnt about the sanctity of life of all living beings, human or animal.
A general view of a village in Pu'er, Yunnan province, China, 12 May 2022. (Xinhua)

Can’t bear to part: A cultural historian in Yunnan's Pu’er

In Pu’er, Yunnan, if you get the chance to meet the Lahu, Wa, Yi, Hani or the Dai people, you’d be blessed, as cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai was, with their down-to-earth hospitality. Their ties to the land and their traditions are captured beautifully in Can’t Bear to Part, a folk song that every Pu’er native knows.
People tour the Autumn Moon on a Quiet Lake (平湖秋月), known as one of the “ten scenes of West Lake”, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, 2 May 2022. (CNS)

Cultural historian: Fish as large as submarines in Hangzhou?

On a walk in the deserted Lingfeng Temple near Yuquan Botanical Garden in Hangzhou, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai muses that peace and quiet is a blessing but a kiss of death for small teahouses trying to make a living. Also, memories of days gone by may be blurry over time. Either that or things have really changed, and one must face the sad reality that the good old days can never be brought back.