Friday, October 23, 2015

Foodie Read: Nini Eat First, Talk Later

For those who loves food, especially heritage food, this book, Eat First, Talk Later, is probably for you. It featured most Singapore hawker food which still survived today, such as Chicken Rice, Satay and Niang Doufu. Some food which probably had not heard off because they are already extinct. Eg Ice Ball. Some of the food, mentioned in the book, brought back memories and yearning because they are rare to find, such as Hakka Salted Baked Chicken.

Satay which was featured in the book

The story started with the Gang of Four descending from heaven, or rather storks, to embark on their gastronomic adventure. An extension of Nini in Changi Village, it is also by our local author Fanny Lai. This book focus more on food origin, recipe ,evolution of food and the conditions of the food that were prepared and served in the past. It contains the same colourful comical illustrations though.

The book also touched on Nini's genealogy. Her father was a Hakka. So naturally, Hakka food such as Mei Chai Kou Rou (Steamed pork belly with preserved mustard leaves), Niang Doufu (Braised tofu stuffed with minced meat) and Salted Baked Chicken were introduced.  The origin of these food were explored and some recipes were given but the amount of ingredients required were not indicated. Probably, due to the fact that recipes those days were passed down by word of mouth. It is a pity that my favorite Hakka dishes, such as Lei Cha and Yam Abacus Seeds were not mentioned. I think these are pretty famous and yummy Hakka dishes too. Both dishes, I must say, need pretty laborious preparation.

Leicha is believed to  be a very healthy food choice
The book also ofter an insight of  how life in Singapore was like, especially in kopitiam (coffee shop) and provision shops. Both of which are closely associated with food. People who frequent kopitiam those days were different from now. Women should not be seen in kopitiam alone then. Provision shops probably is now a dying trade in Singapore with the invasion of supermarkets. They used to be rather common in those days. Even in the 80s and 90s, they were relatively common. I remembered several such shops in my ex-neighbourhood but since the place undergo SERS development, the shops seemed to closed doors forever, not relocating any where else.
Kaya Roti (bread with kaya) and Kopi (Coffee) and soft boiled eggs are common food items that can be ordered from Kopitiam (Coffeeshop)
A small segment of the book was dedicated to Silver Sister, a self-combed lady. Self -combed ladies (Chinese ladies who vowed not to get married, many worked as domestic servants) were something of the past. From the book, I could sensed that the author was pretty attached to this character, Silver Sister.
Nasi Lemak (Coconut milk rice complete with chicken wing, fried egg, otah, ikan bilis and belachan) ,a delicious delicacy

Nonya Kuehs, (left: Tutu Kueh and  Right:Kueh Pie Ti), is one of the kuehs being featured in the book. Others are Teochew kuehs and Malay kuehs
We also learnt about evolution of food, for instance, from Ice ball to Ice kachang, and the many varieties and flavours of certain food such as Ang Ku Kueh (Some flavours comes in the form of durian, coffee and mango, of which I had never eaten or heard of before). Even the machines and appliances that were used to made these food evolved through the years.

Ice Kachang

I would suggest this book to be more suitable for primary school children because a lot more history is involved which the smaller kids may find the subject dry. Little One, a pre-schooler, prefers the first book because she thinks it is funnier. Nevertheless, she still flips through this book occasionally.
 Freshly made Chee Cheong Fun (Rice noodle roll) with Preserved Duck Egg porridge

Unlike for Little One, I find it a pretty entertaining book and allows me to know more about our food culture. To add on to that, the food mentioned makes my mouth watered. I am on a quest to look for the Salted Baked Chicken mentioned in the book. Any one who knows where to get this food, please do notify me!
Vanishing trade -street hawker

The Chinese version is available too! However, I have not got a chance to lay my hands on it yet.
Both versions are available in major book stores in Singapore.

You may want to borrow from the library
English version
Chinese version

Linking with:
Foodies Read 2015Growing with the Tans


  1. Oh this is interesting! I've never heard of it, but anything to do with food is always good for me, especially local dishes. Thanks for sharing and linking up!

    1. You are welcome, Adeline, and thank you for dropping by!

  2. Wow, Sweetday, this looks so delicious..great job with explaining and showing these foods. Wish I was there..and I have had Durian ice cream, which is already quite aromatic.. I can only imagine what the fresh smells like. I hear it is outlawed on public transportation, is that true?

    1. Yes, durians are ban on public transport because of the smell. In fact, hotels prohibit the fruit as well!


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