Singaporeans like to think of themselves as a nation of foodies but when you talk about chicken rice or Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) – two common dishes – the first thing people will say without even thinking is “Ah, that one, the chilli must be good.” And they will then proceed to tell you that they only go to certain stalls to eat those dishes because their chilli is “good.” That always prompted me to retort, “Oh, then why don’t you just eat only the frigging chilli?”
Freshly cut chilli (Cayenne) peppers in a small condiment dish of light soy sauce, to use as a dip for your fish balls, chilli blended with ginger, garlic and lime for you to dip the boiled chicken pieces of your chicken rice dish or chilli pounded to make a paste of sambal to go with your Nasi Lemak are all spicy condiments to accompany those dishes.
The problem is many Singaporeans can no longer eat anything without dumping a whole shit load of chilli in any form into a dish. This masks the real clean taste of the dish. Yes, why don’t they just eat only the damn chilli? Contrary to popular belief, the chilli does not a dish make. (One swallow does not a summer make, get it?) I even hear of people who carry their own bottles of chilli paste or sauce when they travel.
Yup, try going into a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe, order a dish and slather it with your own chilli paste or sauce from home and see if the chef will kick you out, especially when he has spent hours concocting his award-winning dish. If I were the chef, I’ll interpret that as an insult.
Are we a nation of foodies?
Hell no, there’s a difference between a gourmand and a gourmet!