Food Origins is a series of articles that aims to explore the history of a named dish, its origins and possible variations to gain an appreciation of the food cultures of the world.
Today, there are countless blogs, YouTube, social media for foodies. You want recipes? 5 second Google search and you got it. Recommendations? There’s 10 articles and 1000 Instagram posts out there somewhere.
But it’s also the worst time for misinformation. These recipes, reviews and recommendations also often spread unsourced or incomplete information. Don’t get me wrong – the best players are terrific at what they do, but the price for their expertise is the lack of in-depth research (mostly due to time constraints) for what they are eating.
Food Origins is changing that. All research will be properly sourced so you can verify the information yourself. Become a more informed consumer (pun intended).
Know what you’re eating.
Read Food Origins
When tackling a topic like Food Origins, the question of authenticity is bound to come up. After writing origin articles, and reading the opinions of others (Life in Chains: Finding Home at Taco Bell is a must read), an “authentic dish” is very hard to define, if it even exists. Something that is “authentic” simply means that it is real. But how far do you need to go to define that? Does “authentic” Chicken Rice mean that buying from a hawker stall with a Singaporean uncle wearing some old clothes, using the pots and pans from the 1950s, following a traditional recipe who cooked it in Singapore? Any restaurant/chef that borrows techniques from what other cultures they learnt from leaves everything they do to be “non-authentic” by that definition. And borrowing from other cultures is ironically also part of how dishes are formed.
I don’t really have a satisfactory answer, but I can say this: When a name is given to a dish, there is an expectation for certain ways of preparation or tastes (I am looking at you, Egg Stop). There are organizations in EU set up to regulate named products as such, so I think that is a fair enough criteria.
For someone to be asking for something authentic, it helps to be very specific. E.g. I want Hainanese Chicken Rice that can be found in a typical hawker center, during modern, about year 2018, Singapore. Chicken Rice, can refer to Wen Chang Chicken Rice in Hainan, or Singapore’s Hainanese Chicken Rice, or French Chicken rice, or Thai Chicken rice. All of those are quite similar, yet different enough.