A Taste of O.P.E.N. Kitchens

Published on 10 July 2017

Home cooks share stories behind recipes close to their hearts at SIFA’s O.P.E.N. Kitchens.


Food brings people together – whether it be preparing a meal together in the kitchen or sharing stories around the dinner table. Inspired by Lebanese culinary activist Kamal Mouzawak’s philosophy of ‘Make Food Not War’, O.P.E.N. Kitchens (part of the Singapore International Festival of Arts’ pre-festival of ideas) presents 27 home cooks – participating across 20 sessions – who will be opening their kitchens and their hearts to audiences.

Not only will they be whipping up a meal from recipes close to their hearts, they’ll also be folding in their personal stories behind these recipes and seasoning them with audience participation. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help with the preparations!

Before O.P.E.N. Kitchens throws open its doors from 11 to 30 July, we hear from some home cooks what inspired their dishes.

“We’re cooking Chicken Peratal, which is a dry chicken curry. It’s my late mum’s recipe and she was famous for it. In the old days, before cell phone and pagers, overseas friends would give her a trunk call to demand for the dish if they were heading home! Before she passed away, my husband Chris tasted the dish and one day he decided to recreate it. It’s exactly like how my mum used to cook it! For my family who grew up with this dish, it’s like Chris has revived it. A taste is something you don’t forget, it’s tagged to memories, and this is really my mother’s gift to us.”

– Rose Sivam

My Mother’s Gift by Rose Sivam & Chris Choo. 16 July, 10.30am, Serangoon North.

Menu: Chicken Paratel, Vegetarian Keema with three flavours of Chutney, Pulut Hitam for dessert, Masala Tea

Credit: Pamela Ho

“I’ll be cooking three dishes that are reflective of what I think of myself. I think of myself as an immigrant, as a third-culture kid, and as a Singaporean all rolled into one. While that might sound confusing, it’s not, because I’m all of those things and that has affected what I eat and how I eat. The three dishes are all from my childhood in Bombay. I grew up with the idea that these were my family’s dishes, but later, I realised that because we come from a long line of immigrants, these were everybody’s dishes. Khao Swè is a Burmese dish, Patrani Machi is Parsi, and Falooda is a Muslim-Persian dessert my grandmother used to bribe me with! Food is life, food is art.”

– Anita Kapoor

My Mumbai Childhood by Anita Kapoor. 22 July, 6.30pm, Lorong 24A Geylang Road.

Menu: Ohn No Khao Swè, Patrani Machchi, Falooda

Credit: Pamela Ho

“We’ll be cooking a traditional Malay vegetarian spread – like vegetarian Rendang and Sambal Goreng. I’m not vegetarian but I thought it would be nice for vegetarians in Singapore to get a taste of Malay food. And vegetarian Malay food is very unique!”

– Nurhasana Kamaruzaman

(Nana is a single mother of three who is part of Bakers Beyond, a project under Beyond Social Services. She now runs a stall at a school canteen. Rusnah is her mentor)

Standing Strong by Nurhasana Kamaruzaman & Rusnah Sajee. 28 July, 6.30pm, Ang Mo Kio Ave 6.

Menu: (Halal, Vegetarian) Beef Rendang, Sambal Goreng, Begedil and Agar-Agar

Credit: Pamela Ho

Kuih Keria is a Malay dessert made of sweet potato. Traditionally, it’s sprinkled with icing or castor sugar, but this recipe by my grandmother is made with a Gula Melaka (palm sugar) glaze. It’s a special recipe for me because my Nenek was a huge part of my growing-up years – she took care of me when my parents separated. We spent a lot of time cooking together. Through cooking, she taught me a lot about life, values and things like that. My session is called ‘Coming Full Circle’, just like the shape of this sweet potato donut. At 27, I’ve come to a point in my life where I can fully accept myself; my past doesn’t define me.”

– Asha Adnan

Coming Full Circle by Asha Adnan. 30 July, 10.30am, Bedok North Road.

Menu: (Halal) Nasi Kerabu, Kuih Keria and Blue Pea Flower Tea

Credit: Jeannie Ho

O.P.E.N. Kitchens runs from 11 to 30 July. Admission is free, but limited to O.P.E.N. Pass holders only. Each Pass (purchase them here) entitles you to one kitchen experience. Registration required – click here.

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