i Ate Tiong Bahru

by Stephen Black

i ate tiong bahru is a collection of essays and short stories about the food, history and culture of Tiong Bahru, an estate composed of historic Art Deco buildings in Singapore.

i ate tiong bahru book cover

"Black's love letter is one of the best introductions to a country and a state of mind that you might read."

Nirmala Deview

Art Review Asia

Topics include:

Singaporean History

i ate tiong bahru gives its readers evocative glimpses into the island's distant past, its colonial heritage, its suffering during the Japanese Occupation, and the dynamic changes which occurred before, during and after Singapore's independence. Attention is given to the fact that Lee Kuan Yew, the leader of modern Singapore, spent
considerable time in Tiong Bahru.

Singaporean Food

Tiong Bahru's reputation for great food is unsurpassed. Its hawker center was the first official hawker center in Southeast Asia, and the wet market associated with has attracted food lovers and the famous from around the world. The culinary style of the Peranakans is part of Tiong Bahru's culinary heritage, as are the native Malay cooking styles and those
of the Chinese and Indians.

Tiong Bahru Culture

Tiong Bahru had a vibrant kampung culture until the turn of the century. Even now, the Monkey God Temple and the Hungry Ghost Festival maintain their traditional presence. However, i ate tiong bahru is centered mainly upon the stories of everyday life during a simpler time. Avoiding sentimental nostalgia, the book chronicles memories of residents in surprising ways.

Excerpts from i ate tiong bahru

Downstairs, children walk by carrying fish-shaped translucent lanterns lit by candles. Our conversation is now about the men's underwear sold at the market. Specifically, "unclewear", the boxer shorts that some older Singaporean men wear outside, in combination with white sleeveless cotton tops and sandals. We debate whether the outfit is retro, avante-garde or just eccentric. Angela accidentally bumps me gently as she Googles the difference between 'quirky' and 'weird'.

We'd smash fluorescent lights so fine it looked like sugar. Then we'd get a milk can full of animal glue and mix it all up. Sometimes we melted a stick of glue. We wrapped string around poles and then painted it with the glue and glass. Let it dry. Then wind it all up, tie on the kite and go up on the roof.

After getting Soh Kee Soon's approval, I pinch a few shavings. Gula melakka is softly crystalline, like fine moist sand. Almost gooey. On my tongue, the shavings soon become a sweetly wholesome syrup with notes of maple and caramel.

What people think about i ate tiong bahru

 
"The Town Council for Tiong Bahru estate should buy this book and give it away to the residents..."
Anthony Koh Waugh
Writer and bookstore owner
“Food writing, local history and gossipy accounts of crimes and scandals… an unexpectedly engaging read – full of bizarre and fascinating tidbits.“
Ilbonito Blog

E-BOOK, AUDIOBOOK AND PRINT COPIES ON AMAZON

EBOOK, AUDIOBOOK AND PRINT COPIES ON AMAZON

From the Author

 

There is no one reason why I wrote this book. I had no publisher support, no university affiliation, no dreams of becoming a famous author. I simply wanted to create a reading experience about the place I lived, a place that enriched my life. It took three years to complete “i ate tiong bahru.

I listened to people who worked with Lee Kuan Yew, the man who led Singapore for decades. I read every book in the National Library, read hundreds of articles and stories from colonial era magazines and newspapers, and had articles translated from Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Local legends, personal stories, advertising, films, photos and recipes; I devoured them all. 

And drank a lot of kopi.

There is no one reason why I wrote this book. I had no publisher support, no university affiliation, no dreams of becoming a famous author. I simply wanted to create a reading experience about the place I lived, a place that enriched my life. It took three years to complete “i ate tiong bahru”.

I listened to people who worked with Lee Kuan Yew, the man who led Singapore for decades. I read every book in the National Library, read hundreds of articles and stories from colonial era magazines and newspapers, and had articles translated from Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Local legends, personal stories, advertising, films, photos and recipes; I devoured them all. 

And drank a lot of kopi.

Goodreads: 3.8, 30 ratings, 15 reviews

 

i ate tiong bahru is lovingly crafted by the author as a series of whimsical prose based on real-life characters in the Tiong Bahru district in Singapore. People and places come alive in this palm-sized book and you can feel that a lot of effort was put in observing and researching the area. A fun read.

Lorraine Koh

As I read, my senses were treated to the smells, sounds and tastes of Tiong Bahru. Woven into this experience was a history lesson. The author describes his work as a fact based, lyrical documentary. I did enjoy his use of language. I found myself reading some sentences two or three time just because I liked the way the words were put together.

Barb

If you thought that you knew Singapore like the back of your hand, think again..."So how?" Stephen Black has done a slick job, putting together the intricate details of Singapore's history and linking it back to the past/present Tiong Bahru estate. The details are too much to take in just one read. Go slow. Breathe. Relax and Tiong Bahru might just come alive.

E. Gunasekaran

About Stephen Black

Stephen Black's career has been filled with accomplishments in art, music, writing and spatial computing. He has made numerous personal films, as well as produced videos for companies like Cartoon Network, Fuji TV and CNN. His photographic work has been exhibited and published internationally. He has been an English teacher, as well as an instructor for both 3D gamemaking classes and poetry slam techniques. Stephen is now focused on Augmented Reality, developing projects with Bubiko Foodtour, and giving presentations worldwide. Stephen now focuses on Augmented Reality, develops projects with Bubiko Foodtour, and gives presentations worldwide, live and on online.