No, this isn’t one of those listicles about the best places to eat in Singapore. There are tons of those already. This is a how-to guide for Indians about eating here – the physical act of eating. Trust me, it’s different.
If you’re an Indian, like me, then you’ll know that food is a religion back home. Whichever part of the country you’re from, there’s never a dearth of things that will set your mouth on fire. Aromas that titillate you and flavours that make you forget your manners are abundant. Probably the best part about the food in India is the act of licking one’s fingers gleefully after eating. Yeah, if you’re anything like me, or a substantial portion of our substantial population, you eat with your hands and lick them off for good measure. Don’t roll your eyes. I know you do. Except maybe when you don’t want your date to be disgusted with you and walk out.
That won’t work here.
I ordered noodles at a local hawker center the first time I visited Singapore, and like a good little Indian boy, I dug my fingers into the bowl and stuffed it into my mouth. Strings of succulent noodles hanging from my mouth, sauce dripping down my chin, taste buds exploding in happiness at the flavours, eyes wide with happiness, I looked around to let everyone around me know just how close to a foodgasm I was. That’s when I noticed it. The entire hawker center had frozen in time. The music blaring from a nearby loudspeaker whined, screeched, and died. All the conversations stopped. A spoon fell somewhere and hit a wok to break the silence. All eyes were on me. Someone screamed.
I don’t want to tell you how I escaped because it’s too ugly to describe. The friend who was with me took pity on me and told me that I needed to stop acting like I haven’t seen food in a decade.
I was supposed to eat with chopsticks.
When in Rome, right? Well, Singapore, in this case. I decided to use chopsticks for eating. How hard could it be? I handle million-dollar marketing strategies daily, I could handle two thin, wooden sticks, right?
So, the next time I went out, I confidently ordered noodles again from a surly-looking hawker.
“Can you throw in some chopsticks too, my good man?” I said heartily.
He looked at me like I was crazy and pointed to a nearby table where a bunch of chopsticks and spoons were stacked. I nodded sheepishly, picked up my bowl of noodles, selected a pair of chopsticks that looked sturdy, sat down, and promptly poked myself in the eye.
TL;DR: If you are visiting Singapore, learn how to use chopsticks unless you want to be judged each time you ask for a fork and a knife.
Confession: None of this actually happened. But it could happen to you. This post has been written in the interest of public safety.