S’pore – the resourceful land of good food June 17, 2022 Another day, another war on food. It’s as if we are not dealing with the chicken ban (more of this later), dengue and the rising cost of living. Malaysian comedian Mr Nigel Ng, you may know him better as Uncle Roger – the one with the orange polo t-shirt who went viral criticising a BBC food video on cooking egg fried rice – was quoted by The Straits Times saying: “You guys just do a weird, less good version of what we do (in Malaysia), to be honest. Your bak kut teh is pale, it’s transparent. I think there are more similarities than differences, but Malaysia has better food, especially in Penang. I don’t think any region here can touch Penang – it’s too good.” Shots fired. All about the palate If there’s one thing that will make Singaporeans band together, it is probably our love for food – especially in the arena of defending Singaporean cuisine. And this tango with our neighbours up north has been around since… whenever someone wants to be in the limelight. But these days, it’s a little tiresome, especially when we have bigger fish (or rather chicken, I promise we will get to the chicken ban soon) to fry. That said, Uncle Roger isn’t wrong in saying that and that’s because Malaysian food has a taste and style that he’s familiar with. Look, how many times have you introduced something you swear by to a friend only to have an are-you-serious face staring back at you? So in a macro sense, we don’t assume everyone will like Singaporean food because ultimately, to put it in local parlance: “We shiok can already.” And like what Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said during a meal with Malaysian counterpart Khairy Jamaluddin: “We are one epidemiological zone and we are also one hawker zone.” Of chicken and diversification Moving on to the next subject on food – Malaysia’s chicken export ban that started on June 1, 2022, a move that aims to stabilise production and prices within the country. I don’t know about you but at first I was worried that I will miss my chicken rice (I know I shouldn’t say this but doesn’t Singapore has the better chicken rice?) but then I realise I don’t eat chicken rice that often anyway. Not that it matters because after just three days then Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment (and now part of the NTUC’s leadership) Desmond Tan posted a video announcing the impending arrival of more chicken from Australia, Thailand, Brazil and United States. Then on June 8, The Straits Times reported that chicken can still be found at wet markets. And more good news: it was reported on June 15 that Malaysia has partially lifted its ban on chicken exports, allowing live kampung and black chickens to come into Singapore. It’s like nothing happened but that’s taking away credit from the Singapore Food Agency, which secured more chicken from the aforementioned countries and is currently exploring the option of sourcing chicken from Indonesia. I mean, do you really have any doubts on Singapore’s ability to diversify and safeguard resources? It’s the same for energy supplies. The Electricity Market Authority (EMA) yesterday announced that it will be further extending measures to enhance Singapore’s energy security and resilience until March 31 next year. The measures include: a. Established a Standby LNG facility (SLF), which power generation companies (gencos) can draw from to generate electricity when their natural gas supplies are disrupted. b. Directed gencos to maintain sufficient fuel for power generation, based on their available generation capacity for power generation. This is in addition to the existing requirement of having fuel reserves that gencos are required to maintain under their licences. c. Modified Market Rules to enable EMA to direct gencos to generate electricity using the gas from the SLF pre-emptively, if there are potential shortages in energy supply in the Singapore Wholesale Electricity Market (SWEM), to maintain power system security and reliability. According to the EMA, such measures have helped to ensure sufficient fuel and electricity supply and stabilised the Uniform Singapore Energy Price (USEP) to around the cost of electricity production. Don’t take it for granted All these don’t happen naturally, far from it. It’s the result of the good work from the various agencies which continue to give us access to the basic necessities, so that we can carry on debating on things that matter to us the most, giving us the opportunities to continue to be Singaporeans with real opinions. Come again? Which country has the better food again? Cover photo credit: NEA Facebook page and Desmond Tan Facebook video.