FEB 6 — So the New York Times published a video on how to make Singapore Chicken Curry and frankly it was an absolute outrage. 

Taiwanese chef Clarissa Wei apparently followed a recipe from a Singaporean but the result was described by most local commenters as drain-water chicken. 

An insipid-looking stew, possibly soup, was produced but nothing that resembled a chicken curry anyone has eaten in Singapore.

On a deeper level, the whole thing was rather dubious. What is a Singapore chicken curry anyway?   


I mean there are Nonya curries, Malay-style curries, Chinese- and of course Indian-style curries — all of these make appearances in Singapore depending on the family and/or restaurant concerned, but I don’t think there is a Singapore-style chicken curry.   

And again the recipe presents this chicken curry as a common part of the multicultural table for Chinese New Year in Singaporean homes.  

While Singapore is proudly multicultural, I don’t think many Singapore Chinese homes serve chicken curry as an integral part of their New Year table. 


The Singapore Indian or Malay households that celebrate Chinese New Year probably don’t do so with chicken curry either. Certainly I don’t associate chicken curry with Chinese New Year and I’m not sure any Singaporeans do.  

Again these inaccuracies would not have been an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that it was endorsed by the New York Times and presented on its official cooking platform.  

Cooks are, of course, inspired by ideas from all over the world and if a cook in New York wants to create a Singapore-inspired curry — go for it. No one cares as long as it’s delicious.  

File picture shows vehicles driving past the New York Times headquarters in New York March 1, 2010. — Reuters pic
File picture shows vehicles driving past the New York Times headquarters in New York March 1, 2010. — Reuters pic

But the New York Times remains associated with the highest standards of journalism. In America, it is referred to without irony as the “Newspaper of Record.” In that case, this shouldn’t be recorded as a Singapore chicken curry. 

It’s just not right. 

And again the deeper problem of insensitivity and laziness when it comes to Asia. A few decades ago, we had to put up with Singapore fried noodles (common in US Chinese restaurants) though no such dish exists in Singapore. 

Singapore was then just a buzzword for something exotic — sort of like Crab Rangoon (another US Chinese restaurant classic which cannot be found in Rangoon).  

But today we live in a world with Zoom, WhatsApp or at the very least email. Singapore is now a major world centre and not some sleepy, sweltering entrepot people in America never go to.  

It can’t be that hard for someone at the New York Times to call a chef in Singapore and get them to present a version of chicken curry. Why the task of making the curry was left to a Taiwanese woman remains a mystery or is it the old “all Asians are interchangeable” trope.  

The point is we have reached the year 2022. There is no reason for countries’ names to be used just to add some sort of exotic value. Leading publications especially should eschew this backward practice.  

Meanwhile, of course, Singapore and our Asian neighbours must also bear some of the blame. 

The truth is we remain subject to these various gaffes imposed on us by Western editors because we still do not have strong media outlets of our own. 

The world still learns about Singapore or Malaysia via outlets like the New York Times, Guardian or CNN. Approaching a century after colonialism ended, we are still struggling to present our own narratives and strongly to a global audience.  

This is a major problem impacting much more than chicken curries. 

The global media remains astonishingly Western and Anglocentric. 

And he who controls the media sets the narrative, records history and to a large extent makes the world. 

We have to, at least, show the world how to cook our food correctly. 

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.