Natalie Tan



“As our conversation continued, we revisited the unresolved nature of [Will] Pham’s practice. Little Vietnam, while it begins with the flash and crackle of the film and finishes with a fade to black, never quite has a resolute finale. Some of its last scenes depict an ancestral shrine, and a carousel mid-turn with Pham’s nephews–the next generation–waving excitedly. Then to the restaurant in South Wimbledon, where slow pans of the front of house décor contrast with scenes of the hot and fast-paced kitchen. The more I watched the video, what first seemed like a fragmented narrative in actuality was a representation of this dichotomy that we can’t seem to shake from our conversation.”

Simmer Down

A bi-weekly reflection on food and memory.


“Emerging in the 1940s/50s, cha chaan tengs were an outcome of the impact of British colonialism in Hong Kong. One of the many hybrid facets of Hong Kong’s daily life borne from its society’s varied elements, cha chaan tengs contribute to a highly precious, resilient and distinctive Hong Kong culture.”

Imagine This, You’re in Hong Kong…, 04/13/2020

“A simple meal of siu mei, rice, and vegetables, topped with ginger scallion sauce when desired, is a stellar showcase of the principles of Cantonese cuisine. During a time when I didn’t know any better, I declared Cantonese food boring until I learned to appreciate, what we call in my family, “clear” (清) foods–uncomplicated and light, with subtle seasoning that is meant to highlight the natural, fresh flavours of the ingredients. This, in combination with refined techniques, elevates each component in a Cantonese dish to star status.”

Cantonese (BBQ) Eating Master, 06/23/2020

“I didn’t need to look for accounts of what the pizza tasted and smelled like–I promise you, I remember it, and when I do it’s like the memory is a sensory burst in my brain. I’m a kid sitting with my family on a metal chair at a plastic table, the chairs are connected to the table and the seats swivel left and right. It’s all light blue and white, and my thighs have goosebumps because it’s summertime and I’m wearing shorts and we’re basking in the welcome chill of the air conditioning. To my left is the colourful indoor ball pit and playground where I lost my butterfly ring upon first dive when I was 5. The manager is named Robin and she always wears light pink lipstick and her black hair half up, half down.”

In Memory of McDonald’s Pizza, 08/17/2020

“A side effect of waiting out a global pandemic is having to endure, amongst other psychological obstacles, nostalgia. I think about the comforts of home, Saturday dinners at my grandma’s, slurping grass jelly and fresh tofu fa during a heat wave. I listen to Dua Lipa’s album Future Nostalgia; while we are sucked into an archaic time loop she bursts in, in a 00’s-era bandana top and loose cargo trousers, claiming to disrupt our repetition (masked as timelessness) like John Lautner building a geometric house on the side of the Hollywood Hills. [...] I think of McDonald’s pizza. I think of Supreme Pizza on Victoria Drive. I think about buying Wing Wing lap cheong, the lap cheong travelling from East Hastings Street to the Asian supermarket in Alperton that I travel to by red double decker bus. I moved halfway around the world, to the colonizer, to eat Wing Wing lap cheong.”

Strawberry Jam-Tinted Glasses, 09/02/2020  

“The smell of a Chinese bakery is not simply that of bread, but rousing yeastiness supported by mellow tangzhong, rounded off with sweet sticky sugar glaze and an undertone of sesame, char siu, and scallion. It’s a fragrance (most likely) universally recognized as enjoyable, but is also one that reassures me that while I live halfway around the world in a place that doesn’t want me, I can always find familiar and welcoming locales. ”

BUNZ, 01/19/2021