There are less than 15, 000 Eurasians in Singapore (yes, Joseph Schooling is one of them). If you want to learn more about their history, culture and FOOD, Cheryl Noronha’s “The Eurasian Table” is a pretty good place to start.
Eurasians are not “Others”. While Singapore’s population may be dominated by the Chinese, Malays and Indians, the Eurasians have always been an integral part of our history and culture. Generally, Eurasians refer to those with mixed European and Asian ancestry. With Joseph Schooling’s gold medal win at the 2016 Olympics, the community is now finding itself in the spotlight more than ever before.
For those of you who have always been curious about food like Devil’s Curry, Sugee Cake, and Oxtail Stew, we at Go Away would like to bring your attention to this wonderful book by 29-year-old Cheryl Noronha. “The Eurasian Table” is the result of three years of hard work where Cheryl researched, photographed, and interviewed her grandmother for the recipes. “Nan”, as Theresa Noronha is fondly known, cannot read or write so her recipes are from memory.
Cheryl (right) with Nan
We interview Cheryl about the project:
1. What inspired you to write a cookbook?
“My intention was never to write a cookbook. I wanted to compile all of my grandmother’s Eurasian recipes as she is the best chef I know. The more family and friends found out I was documenting and photographing the recipes, the more everyone wanted a copy of them. Before I knew it, I was writing a cookbook.”
2. What can readers expect to find inside “The Eurasian Table”?
“Singapore is such a young country that everyone has a fascinating story of how they came to be here and if you’re Eurasian it’s like you’re in a category marked “others”. The stories of what our grandparents generation went through is humbling and I found exploring the roots of my culture’s food a great way of exploring the history of Eurasians in Singapore. There’s also some amazing food recipes of many well known Eurasian classics and a few lesser known family favourites.”
Green mango and salted fish pickle
3. Growing up, your favourite Eurasian dish was …
“It’s Caramelized Chicken and … didn’t make it into the book! I could lie and name another, but I won’t. There was just too many recipes to all fit in. But, I’ll be putting the recipe up on eurasiantable.com soon.”
4. How did you first learn to cook?
“I grew up being told it was an essential life skill, but was then ushered away from the kitchen because my Nan or Mom or Aunty would cook instead. But, I did learn from them. Talking with Nan about the origins of the recipes was fascinating; each one she learned from a Great Great Aunt or my Great Grandmother or some other distant character, but she can remember exactly who taught her each dish.”
5. For people who don’t really know what “Eurasian food” entails, can you give us a crash course of the cuisine in 3 points:
“Eurasian food is unpretentious, smashing together ingredients and techniques from Europe and Asia. For example, our Eurasian Smore, which has all the elements of a Western stew but with an Asian kick of dark soya sauce, cloves, ginger as well as coriander, cumin and fennel seeds.
There are a lot of nuances in our cooking, which comes from the evolution of each dish, layering flavours on the previous generation’s interpretation. Curry Devil is the most famous Eurasian dish and it’s pretty representative of our love of spice.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about Eurasian food over the last few years is how it evolves so quickly. Many Eurasians – like my family – know very little about their roots and so don’t have an ‘original’ or ‘authentic’ version of a dish that we can refer to. Many other famous Singaporean cuisines have defined beginnings that a reinterpretation can be compared to and declared ‘authentic’ or ‘with a twist’. We don’t have that – the way I create a dish is as authentic as how my Nan did it, which is as authentic as how another family across Singapore makes it. I find that beautiful and it removes the pretentiousness from the cooking, leaving just delicious food.
Eurasian food is almost always eaten communally. It’s about sharing and enjoying a meal together with family and friends.”
6. Where are some places in Singapore to go for some great Eurasian food?
“Well, related to what I was saying about ‘authentic’ Eurasian food, it’s a difficult question to answer. I think the best Eurasian food is found in people’s homes.”
“The Eurasian Table” is $39 a copy (incl. free delivery) and can be purchased at www.eurasiantable.com