Wartime Kitchen - Food and Eating in Singapore (1942-1950)


Text by Hong Suen Wong, Contributions by Christopher Tan
144 pp, 240 mm x 170 mm

ISBN: 978-981-4217-58-3
RRP USD25.00 buy from amazon

Category: Food & Drink, History
Theme: Singapore

Wartime Kitchen examines the experience of people during the period following the fall of Singapore in 1942 up to 1950. The author presents an in-depth yet lively research comprising anecdotes, personal reminiscences on food and eating and a collection of recipes in wartime Singapore. How did people cope with the food regime of rationed goods, bureaucracy and unpredictable supply? How did they sustain themselves by exploiting opportunities in varied and imaginative ways? Atmospheric and nostalgic in retrospect, it examines how hunger and the need for food became an impetus for creativity.

With references made also from the Oral History Department of the National Archives of Singapore under the Japanese Occupation Project, this book is a miscellany of memories, valued for how they reveal the textures of everyday life, lend an immediacy and vividness to events and flesh out the details embedded in archived records. It focuses on the memories of the local population rather than that of officers and men of the British and Australian military forces and the European civilian internees.

In reconstructing a history of food and eating in wartime Singapore, the book has taken from personal accounts including Chin Kee Onn’s Malaya Upside Down (1947); one of the earliest and most detailed first-hand accounts of life under the Japanese occupation; as well as comprehensive studies that have drawn from both personal memoirs and archival records, statistics and newspapers.


Wong Hong Suen has been a curator at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) since 2001. She is curator of two permanent galleries of NMS namely Modern Times (Singapore History Gallery) and Food Gallery (Singapore Living Galleries), which focus on the history and sociology of food and eating in postwar Singapore. She curated the exhibition on 19th-century Singapore landscape paintings, prints and photographs.

Hong Suen is an established writer on the social memory of food and colonial photography, contributing to publications such as History of Photography by Routledge, Food and Foodways in Asia: Resource, Tradition and Cooking, Singapore: The Encyclopedia, Vintage Singapore: Souvenirs from the Recent Past, The Past in the Present: Histories in the Making and Time Out London.


Christopher Tan is a Singapore-based writer, photographer, food consultant and cookbook author. He also contributes articles, photographs, and recipes to many periodicals and international publications including Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, Saveur (US), and Appetite magazine, among others. He has presented talks focusing on cuisine and culture at the National Museum of Singapore and The Peranakan Museum, the Culinary Institute of America's Napa campus, and has authored and contributed to several cookbooks.


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