Edible Nostalgia: 7 Foods that Make Me Miss Singapore the Most

A watercolour illustrator based in the Swedish countryside uses her art to relive fond memories of food back home.

By Victoria Moey | 9 Jan 2023

In 2016, I began travelling between Singapore and Sweden for a mentorship, and I’ve been based here since 2020, working as an art director. Currently, I live in the municipality of Staffanstorp – about 20 minutes from Malmö – where my neighbours include horses and sheep.

Most Singaporeans would probably find the food here a bit wanting (and really expensive). There are some hidden gems that serve authentic Asian cuisine, but I don’t have access to Singaporean food specifically, so I’ve definitely had to up my cooking game. However, what Sweden lacks in food it makes up for in its beautiful natural environment.

In my own time, I enjoy baking sourdough bread, and I usually share my bakes with my (human) neighbours. In return, when the season comes around, I receive apples or other fruits from their trees. It’s a nice way for me to interact with my neighbours, especially when everyone tends to keep to themselves here.

My latest creation: char siu buns from scratch!

Currently, I work mainly with two companies. One is Vilax, a family-owned business that makes high-end beds and seating. Their workshop is one of few remaining ones in Europe that still makes by hand the springs and mattresses for their beds. My job is to style marketing images and renderings for the web, and at times to photograph the completed set-ups at our clients’ restaurants or hotels.

The other company is InVitro Vista, a startup that specialises in in-vitro detection for health-related testing. I’m in charge of all marketing-related work. This includes photography, web design, training videos and publicity material.

At the startup, we’re a really international team, and we probably spend a disproportionate amount of time during lunch or coffee breaks talking about food. We typically bring our own lunches to work and have fun tasting each other’s cooking. In one lunch break, I could be sampling Szechuan, Indian and Indonesian cuisines! I’d say food is definitely our main bonding avenue.

Across the border in Denmark, a ‘Singapore Fried Chicken’ burger at McDonald’s.

Expressing myself through watercolour

While I’m always involved in digital design, filming or photography for work, I also enjoy painting – mostly in watercolour, and mostly for my own artistic expression. My style leans towards nostalgia and a sense of idealism, like what you’d find on old-school food packaging.

Occasionally, I do commissioned work. My most recent collaboration was with Mossery, a Malaysian stationery brand. I created a food-themed painting kit as well as cover artworks for their range of sketchbooks and planners. In Singapore, my last project was with Tiong Bahru Bakery, who tasked me with painting a number of their fantastic bakes for the in-store signage at their Foothills outlet.

For over a year, I’ve been participating in an Instagram illustration challenge where each artist paints a local dish from their country according to the month’s theme. Considering Singapore has no shortage of food choices, my difficulty always lies in asking, “Can this really be considered a Singaporean dish?”

I find that, the more time I spend away from home, the more I want to paint Singaporean food. Since I have limited time to paint, I’ve wanted to spend it creating works with more personal meaning. It’s become my way of expressing my fondness for Singapore, and for reliving the memories associated with each dish, drink or snack. A bit of a cure for homesickness, if you will.  

7 fond food memories of Singapore

1

Apollo Chocolate Wafers

My late grandma always had these in her pantry, ready to hand out when we came to visit.

2

Kaya Toast

Breakfast with friends and family over kaya toast is always something I eagerly look forward to.

3

Hiro Cakes

A favourite buy at the neighbourhood minimart when I was a kid. Or, if you were lucky, you’d get one of these in your Children’s Day goodie bag.

4

Ice Cream Sandwich

Singapore may have lots of artisanal gelato shops now, but I don’t think anyone who’s grown up there could look at one of these and not smile! This is also one of my favourite paintings.

5

Huat Kueh

My parents would buy a bag of these as an afternoon snack for my three brothers and me.

6

Chicken Rice

I don’t have a particular memory associated with chicken rice, but I’ve attempted to recreate my own version in Sweden. Tip: I’ve learnt that if you blend lots of fresh ginger, lime juice and sriracha sauce, you’ll get something really close to a hawker’s chicken rice chilli sauce!

7

Western Style Chicken Chop

I did my tertiary studies at Temasek Polytechnic, and the Design School canteen is famous campus-wide for their chicken chop! It’s a dish I always looked forward to when I finished a difficult assignment or exam.

About Victoria

Victoria is an art director and illustrator based in Staffanstorp, Sweden. Her watercolour works have been commissioned by clients such as Julie’s, Tiong Bahru Bakery, and the National Museum of Singapore.

Visit her website or follow her on Instagram at @plate.to.paper.

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