Faced with tight profit margins, mounting costs of ingredients, and high rentals, you’d forgive local hawker centre vendors for not caring about the sustainability and eco-friendliness of their food sources.

Organic farming practices? Free-range? All things that are just not ingrained in our food culture. Unfortunately, an anonymous French exchange student at the National University of Singapore who was blissfully unaware about it had to experience the wrath of a chicken rice seller after she tried to ask a couple of confronting questions about the sources of the ingredients. 

In a post on the NUSWhispers confessional Facebook page, the self-proclaimed “health-conscious” French student shared a “bad experience” at one of the stalls on the National University of Singapore campus. 

What she apparently did was order a plate of chicken rice before probing the seller about its ingredients.

“I asked the lady if she could tell me where the rice and the chicken came from, how they were reared, and if she knew the producer,” the student shared. “I want to make clear that I asked the question very politely and in a friendly way, and that I didn’t intend to hurt that lady in any way.” 

Though it’s unclear just how exactly her queries were phrased, it was apparently enough to raise the ire of the hawker. 

“She seemed really angry after I asked her the question, and started scolding at me in Singlish, and unfortunately (or fortunately maybe) I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I interpreted it as ‘you are insulting me and my food, and if you are not happy, you can go find food elsewhere’,” noted the French student. 

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Though it might be no fault of hers (cultural differences and stuff), her explanation behind her confusion makes it seem like the Singaporean population is ignorant about the origins of food. 

“I noticed that food culture in Singapore is very important (which is great, as it is the same in France, and I love that!), however, it seems to me that Singaporeans don’t pay a lot of attention to the origin and quality of the primary ingredients, which is a paradox to me as from good ingredients results (sic) tasty and healthy food,” she wrote. 

The confessional post prompted an outpouring of comments by netizens who sought to educate the French girl about the complexities of Singapore’s food culture. 

ilyas@asiaone.com





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