Thursday, February 3, 2011

Singapore's Airport Food (and a little family history)

I spent a lot of time in airports backpacking through Southeast Asia last year. But the first time I visited Singapore Changi International Airport was when my Uncle Edward and I picked up my cousin Sue Ann and her husband from a short trip to Bali, Indonesia. (I arrived in Singapore from Malaysia by train.)

I never met Sue Ann before and knew little about her. You see, my Uncle Edward is my father's first cousin but we didn't know any of them until just under 10 years ago when they found us in Toronto through the Internet—before Facebook or Twitter was ever an idea in any university techgeek's mind.

My grandmother's youngest sister was given away as a child (they grew up in Calcutta, India, which is another story to tell another day because I'm of Chinese descent) and apparently wound up being raised and getting married in Singapore. Her family and ours always knew of each other's existence but just had no idea where in the world we were. When we did discover our families, we had a big reunion in Toronto, considering most of my father's cousins live here. Ever since then, we've been family. Most of my aunts and dad have visited and stayed with my Uncle Edward in Singapore, and vice versa; and Sue Ann travelled to Toronto for the first time in her life this past Christmas.

It may seem unusual to be estranged for so many years then suddenly welcome each other in our homes but that's the power of family sometimes.

I was nervous to meet Sue Ann, as I would be with any new person in any setting. But it's a particularly curious feeling when you're thousands of kilometres away from home and asking near-strangers to give up their time to show you around. Luckily, my aunt from Toronto informed me that Sue Ann and I had two brilliant things in common—an insatiable love for food and a high metabolism to keep us tiny.

My first meal with Sue Ann didn't turn out to be at the airport—that will come later—but the brilliant thing about most, if not all Singaporeans is they love food.

That is why their version of airport food would of course be this:

This is referred to as "dry noodles," though to me the distinction between wet and dry noodles was not obvious at first. In my mind, dry noodles doesn't come with anything "wet," such as a sauce. But in Singapore, wet noodles means soupy noodles and dry noodles are indeed saucy. It's inspiring how simple and elegant noodles can be presented at an airport.

I was also introduced to tea with sweetened condensed milk that day. I've yet to recreate the concoction since returning home (it's almost been a year now!) but as I read on a younger cousin's Facebook profile, "Condensed milk makes everything better. I think it's the secret to world peace."

Undoubtedly it very well may be—and the hospitality of loved ones doesn't hurt either.

No comments: