In preparation for when people can travel, Singapore pushes Zi Char-style cooking

AKIN to our very own bihon, rice vermicelli is the centerpiece of this tasty dish which is usually served with many toppings: shrimp, pork, and veggies.

AS WE remain in our homes thanks to new restrictions, we long for a taste of the world beyond.

The Singapore Tourism Board is launching a new campaign called “Singapore Reimagined,” designed to give virtual tourists a view of Singapore they may not have experienced before. “Studies have shown that the first wave of travel for people will be domestic travel,” said John Conceicao, Executive Director for Southeast Asia of the Singapore Tourism Board. “The next wave of travel, when we open to international travel, the interesting thing is that the studies have shown that people will actually start travelling in the proximity regions that means in our Southeast Asian region.”

He also said that when people travel again, they will choose familiar and safe destinations. “I think Singapore has these two characteristics: familiarity to Filipinos as well as safety will be very attractive to tourists.”

In relation to dining, they’re anchoring the campaign on Zi Char, a less well known Singaporean cooking style that is “influenced by home-cooked food,” noted a press release from the Singapore Tourism Board.  The cooking style unique to Singapore is predominantly Chinese, with imprints of Malay, Indian, and Peranakan; reflective of Singapore’s multicultural nature. Zi char is molded by home and family, shown in its big servings and its familiarity in hawker stalls where the dishes are regularly seen. The cooking style gave the world dishes such as Cereal Prawns, White Bee Hoon, and Coffee Pork Ribs.

Zi Char dishes are cooked to order and customized to one’s liking and are hearty yet easy on the pocket — food meant for sharing. And sharing a meal is one thing Filipinos love doing,” noted the press release.

Zi Char is pronounced something like “tzu-cha,” as they showed in a video starring Filipino actor turned chef and restaurateur Marvin Agustin, husband-and-wife celebrities Yael and Karylle Yuson, and comedian Victor Anastacio.

“It’s a popular go-to for many Singaporeans, like myself,” said Ruby Liu, Area Director for the Philippines of the Singapore Tourism Board. According to her, it’s a pick-me-up after work, or else eaten with friends and family. “Sometimes they want to eat something really hearty and share. Zi Char is really something we would choose for such a meal,” she said in a webinar on Mar. 12.

While Mr. Agustin demonstrated how to cook the White Bee Hoon meal sent to us for a taste of Singapore (you’re supposed to saute the noodles first), we’re bound to see more of Mr. Agustin in a web series demonstrating how to make Cereal Prawn, Coffee Pork Ribs, and Seafood White Bee Hoon. He’s co-starring with Singaporean chef Bjorn Shen, one of the judges for the first two seasons of MasterChef Singapore.

The video for the correct pronunciation of Zi Char is on, as well as the announcements for the series’ premiere.

“We want to bring a slice of Singapore to Filipinos despite the lockdown. We hope that during this period, we can show you lesser-known aspects of Singapore and that you can get to know us a little bit better, so that in the future, when you visit Singapore, you can try something totally new and fresh,” said Ms. Liu. —  Joseph L. Garcia