Robert Li’s column yesterday, “Our Foods and Culture,” identified Ivy Noodle as a purveyor of what Li terms “Singaporean cuisine.” We have no beef with Robert — as fellow chili-lovers from the East, we too just can’t get no satisfaction here — but calling Ivy Noodle’s ‘Singapore fried noodle’ or moo-shu pork real Singaporean cusine is nothing short of culinary blasphemy.
Singaporeans are not easily riled. We won’t mind much if you decry our ban on chewing gum, make fun of our accents or condemn our political system. But insult our food, and you’ll soon learn why every Singaporean male goes through mandatory military training.
Our food is our cultural inheritance, combining elements of Chinese and Indian cuisines with Thai, Malay and other Southeast Asian influences. The flavors in a simple plate of char kway teow (fried rice noodles with egg, Chinese sausage and soy sauce) are complex, varied and explosively delicious. The dozen spices in a bowl of rendang (curry-like beef stew) are to die for — and indeed, for centuries Europeans fought wars over them. Men have died for the foods we grew up eating.
We don’t condone violence for the sake of food, but we can certainly understand the sentiment. Like Robert, we too are ‘culinarily homesick,’ as The New Yorker labeled us in 2007. We would give anything give for a bowl of laksa (noodles with cockles in coconut milk curry), chilli crab and a good cup of teh-c (tea with evaporated milk)?
Unfortunately, while Robert can seek solace in Great Wall, there’s no Singaporean restaurant in New Haven (Bentara doesn’t even come close). The only thing arguably Singaporean about Ivy Noodle is the service, which we certainly don’t miss. The day anyone in New Haven starts serving real Singaporean food, we’ll be sure to let you know. ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.
Wen Yu ho, Zhipeng Huang, Tse Yang Lim, Dana Miller
The writers are, respectively, a senior in Calhoun College, a junior in Timothy Dwight College, a junior in Morse College and a sophomore in Berkeley College. Zhipeng Huang is a former Production & Design editor of the News.