Food

Mixue is popular among the urban youth in Indonesia. (Mixue/Instagram)

Much ado about Chinese ice cream Mixue’s halal certification in Indonesia

ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata looks at the Chinese ice cream brand Mixue and the difficulty it faces in getting a halal certificate in Indonesia. What does it say about the power struggle between different interest groups and Indonesia’s processes?
People buy Lunar New Year decorations in Hong Kong, China, on 9 January 2023 for the upcoming Year of the Rabbit. (Peter Parks/AFP)

Not sweating the small stuff: Blessings for a happy Chinese New Year

Recalling a Chinese New Year feast where he was ruffled by feelings of injustice, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai returns to equanimity with the wise words a friend gifted him: stay true to the values of the Chinese heart and mind, and days of peace and simple joys can unfold all through the year.
Diners eat in a restaurant in Guangzhou city's Tianhe district in China's southern Guangdong province on 1 December 2022. (CNS/AFP)

Why we eat alone

In urban cities, from Singapore to Beijing to Shanghai, eating alone is increasingly embraced, even if it seems to go against human instinct or some food cultures of communal dining. The pandemic has changed some nuances, but the essence of having a cuppa with yourself, nourishing mind and palate, is here to stay.
People visit West Lake during snowfall in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on 1 December 2022. (AFP)

Jiangnan cuisine is poetry on a plate

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai reminisces about the delectable freshwater shrimps he savoured in Hangzhou, recalling that Jiangnan cuisine is very much poetry on a plate.
Elderly eat in a community canteen in Changbai county, Jilin province, China, on 17 November 2022. (CNS)

Not everything has to be run by the state: Thoughts on communal canteens in China

US academic Wu Guo looks at the recent online furore over the mushrooming of state-run communal canteens in China and offers his views from the US. While providing food for the needy should be part of the state's responsibility, there should also be space for civil society, private enterprises and the public to play a role to create kind and healthy communities.
The Dajia Mazu's litter arrives at a small temple in Xingang, Chiayi, allowing locals to pay their respects and celebrate the sea goddess’ birthday. (SPH Media)

Taiwanese art historian: The joy of sharing food in old Taiwan

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun reminisces about the good old days of simple food and heartfelt folk religious festivals, where regular households threw banquets and opened their doors to friends and strangers. It is in those vignettes of daily life that all of Taiwan’s generosity, harmony, magnanimity and acceptance are on display.
A woman buys pork at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, 4 August 2022. (Ann Wang/Reuters)

Remembering Mother's cleaver in the 'Palace of Versailles kitchen'

Amid the grandeur of his friend’s deluxe kitchen, Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun remembers his mother, a skilled cook. With simple tools and deft hands, she whipped up artisanal meals worthy of many a great restaurant.
Rice is a staple food for many people. (iStock)

The art of cooking rice and making bread

Throughout the world, perhaps nothing is more familiar than the daily essentials of rice and bread. These are everyday foods but is there anything more comforting than sitting down to a meal with a bowl of steaming, fragrant rice, or seeing a bakery window filled with freshly baked bread? No wonder centuries of poems and odes have been dedicated to these staples.
Plain porridge with pickled lettuce is enough for a hearty breakfast. (iStock)

Pickled vegetables, fermented beancurd and stinky egg: An art historian's love of preserved foods

Ensconced in Dapu village in Chishang, a Hakka enclave where air-drying is a common way to preserve food, art historian Chiang Hsun muses about the ways that Chinese and others around the world have ingeniously learnt how to preserve food for long periods of time from methods ranging from pickling to salt-curing and air-drying. In food preservation as in life, time builds character and patience often yields rewards.