02 – August 2021



Of all the festivals we celebrate in Singapore, Hungry Ghost Festival might be the most divisive, one that reveals the cracks and crevices of multiracial and multireligious living in Singapore.

For the duration of the entire seventh lunar month, there would be the smell of burnt incense in the air, flyaway joss paper on the roadside, and performances for the visiting ‘hungry ghosts’. Complaints of noise, ash, and melted candle wax are not uncommon during this period, and can well be cause for religious tension.

For non-believers, it is easy to dismiss much of these practices as mere superstition, a perception exacerbated by the media’s focus on the supernatural elements of the festival. What is less known is the tremendous amount of filial piety, devotion, and compassion that underpins the rituals carried out by individuals or religious groups.

In this issue, we use food as a lens to explore the universal themes of togetherness, remembrance, love, and legacy during the month of Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore.

In this Issue

Life and Love Beyond the Grave
A primer on the origins of Hungry Ghost Festival, and the Chinese perspective of life after death.

Remembering My Mother
Syndris Goh celebrates her mother’s life through vignettes of food, auction dinners, and puppet shows.

Baby Steps
For Soh Wee Ling, learning Teochew sugar-glazed taro from her mother is a beginning on the road to understanding traditions. Recipe for sugar-glazed taro.

Inheritance, The Shape of a Tortoise Shell
Pamelia Chia shares about the enduring history of ang ku kueh, and food as a tangible way to honour memory.

Ku Kueh and Kueh Koo Masterclass
All you need to know to perfect tortoise kuehs at home. Recipe for ang ku kueh with mung bean filling.

Meat of the Matter
A history of meat and vegetarianism in China reveals the complex ties between animal offerings and morality. Recipes for vegetarian duck roll and chap chye.

The True Meaning of Hungry Ghost Festival
Alan Chan shares about developing a newfound understanding of the ‘Ghost Month’. Recipe for cai buay.

Breathing New Life
A collection of no-recipe recipes to make the most of prayer foods.

The Christian Chinese
With offering food to ancestors being a Chinese ritual that spans centuries, Christianity can be perceived as a threat to the moral virtues of the Chinese household.

Singaporean Ghosts
Cassandra Teo explores the unseen in Singapore society through film photography.

Last Words?
In many cases, a culture dies with its words. The loss of dialects in Singapore has threatened artforms such as Chinese opera and puppet theatre. Yet, there are two troupes that choose a path of tradition.

Loud and Proud
In the face of getai’s demise, Sylvester Tan and Rose Ong talk about what it means to them, and how design can be used to change minds.

Seventh Month in Tiong Bahru
To Kelvin K.E. Ang, Tiong Bahru is not just a ‘cool’ housing estate with beautiful architecture – it brims with life and culture.

No Banquet Without Chicken
Showing respect to your guests in Chinese culture can be understood through white chopped chicken, the quintessential altar dish. Recipe for white chopped chicken

Of Grave Importance
The demand for land in Singapore has led to the exhumation of cemeteries, but what remains unchanged are the remaining graves that bear witness to our history, heritage, and traditions.

Coming Home to a Feast
Krisada Virabhak recounts how the Straits Chinese demonstrate filial piety and respect for their ancestors through the preparation of an elaborate feast. Recipe for apom balek.