Can You Smell That?
In the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to try numerous cuisines and the one I always come back to is a heady union of garlic, onions, ginger with varying amounts of spice, fresh and dried. It is this bold use of aromatics that distinguishes the food of the largest continent from the rest of the world. And it is this simultaneous titillation of the olfactory and palate that has European chefs falling head over heels.
As anti-Asian hate crime is on the rise in America and our neighbouring countries continue the fight against Covid-19 and dictatorship, we find that it’s all the more necessary to acknowledge and celebrate the indelible contributions to food Asians have made especially the ones we often take for granted. For the whole of 2021, in fact, we’ll be exploring the cuisines we know and love in our quarterlies (yes, we are now a quarterly publication!).
Diving right into it, we examine this seemingly simple yet remarkably versatile blend of spice and aromatics used in Indonesian cooking called bumbu (p44), attempt to untangle the intricacies of cuisines in India region by region (p54), and trace a little part of Singapore’s colonial history that smells strangely like nutmeg (p66).
With the global spice market totalling US$33.1 billion in 2019, we wondered about the other people involved in the production line. Locally, we meet three next-generation spice makers adamant on adding their personal flavour to this age-old trade (p86). Abroad, we find three gamechangers (p78): Langit Collective that champions for indigenous spice farmers in Sabah and Sarawak; the international IDH Sustainable Spices Initiative advocating for fair policies and practices; and Cambodian chef and author Ratanak Ros who is reintroducing Khmer cuisine to the world.
You will also notice a couple of new columns: Hometown Heroes (p24), where we look for Singaporeans overseas who are making their mark; Recipes (p74) for all the gourmet home cooks to flex some culinary muscle; and Taking Notes (p32), a riff on chefs’ brainstorming process where we can finally answer the question — do all chefs have bad handwriting? As per our ethos that food is art and art is food, our photo story (p36) is a dreamy and almost gothic tribute to the ingredients that make our cuisines so tasty, and two poems (p62) that gets us choked up and sentimental.
So, what would life be without rich, fragrant gulai or the smell of garlic browning in hot oil? We sure don’t want to know.
Wine & Dine April-June 2021 ‘Spice & Aromatics’ issue is available at newsstands and Magzter.