Food for Young Tastes: There’s not so much diversity
By Thammika Songkaeo - Thursday, Oct 16, 2014
There was a 2014 season of rainbow everything. It started with the rainbow cake, and then there were rainbow pops, rainbow macaroons, and rainbow rolls. There was also an empire of cheese – cheese chips, cheese dips, cheese bread, so much that we’re sure there’s some cheese drink lurking in some supermarket shelf. While many people will ask what ingredients define Singapore’s heritage cuisine (“What is buah keluak?” – we hear this one all the time), it’s unlikely that they have any problem figuring out what the western, imported stuff are. Some international and western flavours have already crept into the palates of our little juvenile feeders, and they’re quite predictable. Unfortunately, they’re also affecting the youth’s affinity for heritage food growing up. Think mayonnaise, chocolate, peanut butter, cream… the obvious list goes on.
The tastes that many Asian young people are exposing themselves to are repetitive. Sugar, for instance, takes on so many forms of finished products- it just comes in different appearances, thus appearing “diverse” when the products are actually very similar. Let’s see what other basic flavours and products are“re-modeled” into.
Oreos: These became a hit in Asia over a decade ago. They were once a treat, being imported and all, so with their hard-to-get status, they became a sort of children’s status symbol. There are now Oreo ice cream cakes, Oreo cheesecakes, Oreo smoothies, Oreo shakes, Oreo waffles, and the list goes on. We consumed a few of these Oreo things, and we paid at least $3 for each Oreo-something, but after every item, we felt like including Oreos was an easy way out for eateries that just couldn’t care more about tempting the complex palate, like creating a drink with a balance of sour and sweet or utilizing the power of fresh or a sundried fruits (do the people making your Oreo shakes even know how to pick fruit?). Oreos can be a quick, thoughtless way to lure customers in.
Chocolate: Chocolate is adorable and sexy, don’t get us wrong, but there’s a difference between really good chocolate (at a place like Awfully Chocolate) and then there’s just the label “chocolate” for anything brown and sweet, with some cocoa content. Some food forms that have been with us for a while, like flaky egg tarts, have lately celebrated the birth of a new generation, pleasing chocolate version. For these tarts, the egg and the chocolate variety just don’t compare: the egg tart still maintains an aromatic sweetness, but the chocolate lacks the fragrance. The chocolate tarts just look brown and taste like white sugar. We’re not upset that there’s a chocolate version for tarts, but there are so many other ways to sell chocolate, and using it in egg tarts is like a cop out and easy way to tempt the juvenile palates.
Pizza: Pizza is a taste. One could argue that there is the distinct taste of pizza, released in the combined texture of bread and toppings, particularly when the bread is baked and the crust yields that “pizza feel”. We found rendang pizza and laksa pizza here in Singapore, and we admired the shop’s attempts to include local elements into this seemingly western dish, but we just had to wonder whether the people eating such pizzas knew what good rendang and laksa per se were. The pizzas tasted more like a mistake than like rendang or laksa, and we’re just afraid that people who have not tried either dish will go away thinking that mindless experimentations of pizzas is the way forward with local food heritage. Have the classic pizzas, then have some rendang or laksa separately. Enjoy them at maximum value.
Ultimately, we advocate this: Eat everything. Try every form of a food. We won’t judge if you really enjoy Oreos, chocolate, and pizza (they’re lovely), but we think you’d really be missing out if those were the only items informing your taste.