Ever since I was young I have never had one true home. Growing up in Hong Kong and moving to London as a teenager – then travelling back and forth all my adult life – I have felt truly bi-cultural all my life. I feel at home in both locations but often miss the other on the other side of the world. On top of that, I have third ‘homes’ – Malaysia and Singapore, where my mum’s family are from. These places are home in the sense that they are places I spent a lot of my childhood visiting, and where I had the happiest times of my life getting to know my huge extended family.
Food was as important then to us as it is to me today – and even more so now, because only when you have the hindsight of nostalgia do you experience food memory; food’s nostalgic ability to transport you back in time and place in one whiff or taste can indeed be more powerful than looking at an old photo. I think that’s why I love food so much, particularly Chinese food – it takes me straight back to my other homes when I can’t just hop on a flight. Luckily, there’s so much good Cantonese food in London – though it’ll never be as good as you find in Hong Kong!
In December I went back to Singapore and Malaysia for a big family wedding, and aside from spending time with my family I had a great time rediscovering my love for Malaysian and Singaporean food. My aunty gave me these wonderful cook-at-home kits as a parting gift, so that I could cook up a memory of Singapore if I ever craved it. Well, in this current miserable British weather I certainly crave that close heat of that tiny tropical island.
I used the free range chicken drumsticks from my Farmer’s Choice meat box to make a Singapore chicken curry, and although I can’t offer a ‘real’ recipe today, these kits were as good as you can get. And as the curry bubbled away, it was like I was sitting in my aunty’s kitchen, or visiting a food centre, or wandering the streets in Singapore. For me, this sounds like a naff, even stupidly obvious thing to say but I really have only just realised it: cooking a recipe that means something to you is one of the most powerful ways to recreate a memory.
What are your happiest food memories?