Singapore tau huay too low class for French upscale event Diner en Blanc?!

24 Aug 2012




Diner en Blanc will be taking place next Thursday at a secret location and even though there has been a lot of positive buzz and general excitement, I am somewhat disturbed upon finding out that fellow blogger Daniel from DanielFoodDiary.com has been asked to modify remove his blog post in which he has suggested some local food (which are white, to suit the all-white theme of this event) to bring. Specifically, his suggestion of soybean pudding aka tau huay is deemed by Diner en Blanc organizers to be “not up to par” with the event’s upscale nature.

Whoa. Are they implying that tau huay is too low class to bring to and be eaten at Diner en Blanc?! There has got to be a misunderstanding and some serious miscommunication here.

Diner en Blanc | The Moonberry Blog

What is tau huay?
It is soybean pudding. I dare say it is the Asian equivalent to panna cotta, but it is made from soy milk that has been curdled and processed to yield its gelatinous texture. Tau huay is eaten as a dessert, traditionally served warm with boiled peanuts and ginger simple syrup, or chilled like a pudding. Tau huay is a very modest dessert that has a long history in Chinese culture and back in the days, it was sold by food vendors traveling on foot or bicycle. In modern Singapore context today it is sold in many hawker centers. The most notable hawker stall vendor of late in Singapore who has popularized this well-loved dessert for the younger consumers is Lao Ban Dou Hua and it has been so well-received that one should expect a very long queue outside the stall just to buy a serving of this delicate, mildly sweet, protein-packed dessert.

I understand that the organizers of Diner en Blanc reserve the right in keeping the event classy, and due to its humble nature, tau huay might have been seen as an inappropriate food item to be present at the elegant mass picnic. But I personally feel that there is no logical justification to classify a food item as low class and therefore banning it from the event. Given that Singapore is the first Asian city to be hosting such a grand public party and the event itself is a mass gathering of people who celebrate food, I am of the opinion that all the more local food with heritage and cultural value should be regarded with respect and appreciation.

I am a lover of food and I don’t believe that anyone should impose a class system on what we consume. We eat food that we enjoy eating, regardless of how much it costs or our social status. No matter how wealthy we are and how much we can afford, take for example when we are sick and not feeling well, the food we Asians usually go for is a bowl of congee (simple rice soup made of rice grains and water simmered over low heat; incidentally also a white food item). We enjoy it because it is simple, meaningful, and it makes us feel better. There is nothing wrong with that and I don’t see how congee, again as an example, would be considered low class just because of its humble nature. Sure, you can dress it up with fancy fixings such as scallops or premium fish slices, whatever… And in the case of tau huay, it can be served in a pretty ramekin, crystal goblet or whatever. It is up to you and your preference, but my point is it would be wrong to classify it as low class. Or any class, really. To be able to sink our teeth into any food that we emotionally connect to, be it simple tau huay or fancy congee, as long as we enjoy and respect the food that we eat, this is a blessing not to be taken for granted. I can eat foie gras with a shiny silver fork in a swanky Michelin-starred restaurant or be gnawing on scraps of duck meat off a bone with my hands at some dingy nightmarket… Who are you, or anyone, to say that one food is of a higher or lower class than the other? They are all equally delicious to me and I enjoy eating them, so there. Ghetto-fabulous, baby. Don’t slam the food, please.

Back to Diner en Blanc. I think the organizers have already set the ground rules as to how food should be presented during the event, by stating that attendants should not be eating food off paper plates and such. That I understand, as there is a certain image of exclusivity and elegance that Diner en Blanc wishes to convey and I am all for it. This is not a nightmarket or street festival after all. Being a visual creative type and a branding professional, I 100% agree that presentation and desired event theme must always be cohesive and kept consistent as much as possible, yes. But it is unclear why certain food items are allowed or not allowed at Diner en Blanc, and the way some are class-ified as “low class” sounds condescending to me. Sadly, there hasn’t been any clarification from the organizers. The debate is no longer about food, but about whether the line of cultural respect has been crossed.

I have been informed that the latest development in this incident involving Daniel’s blog post is that the organizers have decided to uninvite all bloggers from the event. From what I heard, the Diner en Blanc organizers feel that there is little value in inviting bloggers because they do not regard social media influencers to be that influential anyway. Everyone on the social media invitation list, specifically bloggers, has been nixed. Except for me. (._.)”

Whaaaaaaaatttt??? Uhm, I… I…

Tsk, I have been singled out as the only blogger who can attend Diner en Blanc. AIYAH! Am I supposed to be happy and feel privileged that the organizers regard me/my blog as “high class” and I have somehow made the cut to attend the event while the rest of invited bloggers got dissed? Right from the very beginning, I am thankful for the invitation and still genuinely flattered by the organizers’ high regard towards me (they have very kindly publicised and linked my Pinterest board to this event on the Diner en Blanc Singapore Facebook page— merci bien; Diner en Blanc London has also been repinning my pins, hi guys and thank you!). I am excited about this event and for the opportunity to experience such a grand occasion in Singapore. However, in regards to the tau huay blog post incident, there is something about the way this matter is being handled as well as certain principles that do not sit quite right with me. Attending Diner en Blanc as a sole blogger, after knowing that others are no longer invited, puts me in an extremely awkward position. And even though I am generally a neutral person who minds her own business, I am compelled to put in my two cents regarding this matter and sorry, I must decline this invitation discrimination.

My blog bio reads:

An influencer on style and well-being of today’s modern woman, Moonberry faithfully journals on chic, glamorous, luxe yet unpretentious living with authenticity and substance. The Moonberry Blog, winner of the 2011 Singapore Blog Awards (Best Beauty Blog) is a candid lifestyle blog on art & design, fashion & style, food & travel, beauty & wellness, with a dash of sass coz ya know, once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker.

Uh huh, I love all the good things in life. The chic, the glam, the luxe. The bling-blangin’ baubbles, the trendy designer wares, the exotic vacations, the couture dresses, the penthouse apartment, etc. I have also had the good fortune to spend my formative adult years in a hip-and-happening metropolis called New York City — big city, bright lights — and acquired many valuable life experiences (read: not over the top certainly, but I’ve gotten by just fine and dandy for many, many years). People usually don’t understand what I mean when I say we should all strive to live authentically and this is what I mean: No matter what lifestyle you choose (which generally is a good comfortable one for most people; hey, who are we kidding here?), just remember to take a step back from time to time, be grounded and have some empathy towards those who may not have the same good fortune as you. I frown upon those who live pretentiously, and get so seduced by the glitz and glamour that they forget about the real world. The real world as in, beauty and happiness are not neccesarily defined by monetary currency or material acquisitions. Doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon or you’ve busted ass working your way up. Be humble, be kind, be generous as much as you can – especially the more well-off and comfortable you are in life.

So in summary:

1. I feel that this tau huay matter is attributed to a grave miscommunication and to a very large extent, a cultural misunderstanding, which can be resolved amicably and not tarnish the joyful intent of this event. Daniel is a Singaporean blogger who is passionate about food and he freely shares his gastronomical experiences with the public. I know that many readers find his blog to be a useful reference online on what and where to eat in Singapore. He has made a list of suggested white-colored local Singaporean food to bring to the event out of good intention (and to celebrate Singaporean food culture proudly), certainly it was not meant to “cheapen” the Diner en Blanc event.

2. It is a shame to exclude Daniel as well as other bloggers from Diner en Blanc Singapore because of a misunderstanding like this. Having lived both overseas and presently in Singapore, having a long history in (plus personal and professional interest towards) social media and online marketing, I can affirm that social media in Singapore is extremely different than how it is anywhere else in the world. It is not wise to undermine the broad reach and dismiss the influence of social media in this country. Many smart local marketers have long jumped on this bandwagon reaping social media’s benefits and advantages to give their marketing initiatives an edge in order to get one step ahead of their competitors.

With all that said, what are your thoughts on this incident?

Tau huay too low class for an upscale event such as Diner en Blanc = a cultural blasphemy?

Singapore bloggers are not to be taken seriously because they do not have adequate social media influence… agree or disagree?

Peace out,
MB.

Image source: Panna Cotta, Dou Hua.

PS: I know I don’t usually write such a long wordy post and readers of this blog are generally more accustomed (maybe even prefer) my posts with pretty photos and whatnot, but I do live by certain principles and people who know me well in real life aren’t strangers to me expression my opinions vocally. If you have taken the time to read every single word I’ve written in this post, thank you very much and I hope I haven’t scared anyone off. If I have, well…. too effin’ bad! Heh. Keep. It. Real.


UPDATE: I have been booted off the Diner en Blanc guestlist as well, so I am now also officially UNINVITED from the event. C’est la vie!

 




55 Responses to Singapore tau huay too low class for French upscale event Diner en Blanc?!

  1. Jacob says:

    I believe there is no low class food, if presented in a fairly upscale manner, it maybe passed off as high class? Class is a matter of perception, an avant garde dish can also been seen as jumbled up messy food on a oversized plate.

    Even the top chefs in the world, who create culinary marvels and run top notch fine dining joints frequent greasy uncouth little joints serving “low class” food. Not because they are uncouth or low class, but because they are delicious. Just because the chef at those joints don’t have the skills to present it better or perceives class in a different manner, does the food become low class then?

    How did that dim sum place(Tim Ho Wan) in Hong Kong receive it’s Michelin star? A place with no fine dining trained waiters, a small squeezey venue? Isn’t dim sum a food for “commoners”?

    Does Tau Huey need to receive a star to be perceived as high class food?

    Sorry for my ranting. I’m not sure if it even makes sense to anyone. But yes, that’s my take.

    • MB says:

      Very true and many good points you’ve added here, Jacob. I have yet to try that dim sum place but definitely must try to do so next time I go to HK. :9~

      Thanks so much for your comment. I love having this sort of interaction with blog readers and get to know other people’s views.

      Cheers,
      -MB.

  2. kirsten says:

    That’s ridiculous! I don’t see how food can really be classified as “high class” or “low class”. Presentation can change a lot of things. Take filet mignon for example. Sounds atas, looks atas, but at the end of the day it is a slab of a meat on a plate. That’s it. It’s just the branding and presentation. And who gets the right to decide what is acceptable and what isn’t?

    The whole decision to disinvite bloggers is also in bad form. If they really thought that they were not that influential and weren’t inviting, then they shouldn’t have invited the bloggers in the first place. Since they’d done it, it’s just rude to disinvite because bloggers aren’t influential enough. And apart from that, it’s just stupid – now they’ve given themselves so much bad PR.

  3. Cloudywind says:

    ppl that eat snails have no right to complain about ppl that eat tau huay. SIMPLE.

    • Piggie says:

      If not mistaken, there is a local organiser involved and this no-tau-huay was from the local organiser…

  4. David says:

    I think the organisers should simply apologise if they did say that local food is not high class enough for their event, and certainly to the bloggers for inviting and then unceremoniously uninviting them. (I don’t even think the bloggers would miss just another event on Singapore’s culinary calendar.) I just think it’s a gracious thing for the organisers to do to undo the negativity underlying what could have otherwise been an interesting event.

  5. Zixin says:

    Kudos to you for declining the invitation/discrimination, what an outrage. It is extremely condescending to impose the Western definition of “upscale” whether on food or anything for the matter. I’ve heard more than once that Western desserts are “more sophisticated” than Asian desserts pfft.

    • MB says:

      I personally think that one of the ways to gently correct people with this kind of mentality is to introduce fusion food, which I really love btw. For example, stuff like Bak Chor Mee Pasta and Beef Rendang Pizza at Wok&Barrel are fantastic to me, because this concept creates cross-cultural opportunity for folks from both Western and Eastern cultures to appreciate and respect one another.

  6. Alex says:

    I don’t think its a matter of high class or low class. But tao huay, by nature, is very affordable and not considered a luxury food item. Therefore, saying its not up to par is perfectly understandable.

    • MB says:

      Thanks, Alex. I don’t disagree and my issue isn’t so much about the ‘not up to par’ commentary, especially since I believe that we are all tasteful folks to begin with. But we are Asians and for a picnic like this, say if people wanna bring their own appetizers and desserts, and only have access to local food…. then how? Besides, not everyone likes panna cotta or macarons, so for an event that’s held in an Asian city, surely there’s gotta be concessions made for bringing local Asian desserts? Perhaps it’d have made a difference if the tau huay is served out of ramekins or a crystal goblet? Now that’ll be a fun fusion twist, wouldn’t it? :)

    • Evonne says:

      I think if something like panna cotta, which is essentially an Italian milk pudding, can be allowed because it’s a western dessert, I don’t see why tau huay, which is essentially an Asian soy milk pudding, is not allowed. Is it because the local organiser sees a local dessert as being “low class” simply because it does not come from overseas? If an Italian or French chef had made it, would it suddenly then be allowed?

      I think it’s all about presentation and perception. Some dishes that are considered ‘high class angmoh fare’ is pretty standard home cooking, or just regular food back in its home country of origin. Shouldn’t we take pride in your local specialties too?

  7. Sorry I misread your post babe. Now I finally get it… HAHA!
    But still, it’s seriously stupid that just because there’s no nice fine dining presentation for our local hawker affair here, they are disregarded totally.

    The event might be a high end, elegant dinner or whatever but frankly speaking, how many places can we get these kind of “atas” food as requested by the organizers for the event. I think the organizers should try and blend the event into the culture of whichever country they are bringing the event to yeah?

    Are they getting commissions somehow? HEHE!

  8. Hisfoodblog says:

    Tau Huay is Soy Milk Pudding aka Soy Milk Panna Cotta… overturn it on a nice plate… add some sauce and add a piece of mint leave then one will have nice atas dessert… problem solved.

    But un-invite the bloggers is simply no class.

  9. Why so atas? If they wanna make it so high class, might as well keep it within France?

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  11. Vivus says:

    Inviting and then dis-inviting the whole lot simply because… someone wrote things from his perspective…

    Here’s an excerpt from Diner en Blanc’s very website
    “Beyond the spectacle and refined elegance of the dinner itself, guests are brought together from diverse backgrounds by a love of beauty and good taste. Le Dîner en Blanc recalls the elegance and glamour of court society, and diners engage one another knowing they are taking part in a truly magical event.”

    They should edit out “diverse” out, and as well as “glamour of court society” as there is nothing glamourous or gracious about this withdrawal with the citing of a weak excuse.

  12. ninipoo says:

    I wonder wat they’ll say abt ppl bringing birds’ nest. atas enough?

  13. Shawn says:

    Good on you for not attending the event.

    I don’t care about a bunch of snobs having their little picnic, but when you insult the culture and the food of a country, you cross the line…

  14. Alvinology says:

    They never uninvite you cos you are an expat from New York. Atas in their view… LOL

    • MB says:

      D’OH!!!!!!!! :P This event is not for expats-only what. Although I’m almost certain there will be majority expat attendance. :x

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  16. Cheryl says:

    Michelin starred chef Fergus Henderson serves the pig from nose to tail, every part of the pig, none goes to waste. Even ‘humble’ parts are given the respect of being presented beautifully on his plate. So why not our humble local fare.

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  19. GS says:

    Pointless, pretentious snobbery. If you pooped on a plate and dressed it up pretty with some mint chiffonade, give it a fancy french name and tell people it’s what the fashionable people in NY or Paris are into now, they’ll eat it. Give me Tau Huay any day over having to be around such clowns.

  20. ESTHER says:

    I think the event is just too pretentious. you have my support! I love my local dishes! #KeepingItReal

  21. Jo says:

    Their “my cuisine is better than yours” attitude clearly demonstrates that the event is all snobbery, and not about the food anyway. Wonder why they bothered to invite real food lovers in the first place… Good food is good food regardless of how much it costs. Let these elitists enjoy their picnic. Consider it time and stomach space saved for better use. :)

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  24. Calvin says:

    100% Support. For those who are proud of our local food and culture, read this. As Singapore globalizes, we need to put our foot down and let them know we are as good as them. Foreign elitist mentality ends now.

    I also wrote the following on their page.

    This is a PR disaster. For a PR company you have totally destroyed the image of this event. Anybody can tell that you uninvited the bloggers not because of lack of space, but you want to shut them up. That’s totally dictatorial and it spoils the whole idea of being creative and witty. By all means, bring in a foreign event, but respect the local culture if you want it to succeed.

    Our food is equally as good as yours and anybody else’s. p.s. Have you seen white char kway teow with abalone and lobster meat?

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  26. Rendall says:

    “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”…… So when in Singapore, eat what we Singaporeans eat. The Frenchs seem to forget that they are guests in another country and have no rights to dictate what we Singaporeans eat. They should get rid of their ancient colonial master mindset.

  27. Mann Marie says:

    I am French myself. There was a diner en blanc page for Singapore and they received over 250 comments by 11:00 (an hour ago from my comment here with you). Well they decided to delete the page and all comments just now. They had been badly insulted but then hey, they started it. They didn’t get the point that Singaporeans are very proud of their food culture and they are right. If they wanted to keep it secret and a closed circle, they had no point in making such a rule and stupid publicity. but their arrogance tried to shout it loud thy they will conduct the first Asian dinner, and they did it foolishly and at their own loss! Stupid people, snobbish and dumb! I despise them truly.

  28. Chow Ang Moh says:

    This is just a STUPID chow ang moh. I always wonder why Asians have a need to kow tow to the Ang Moh culture. We are in SINGAPORE. We are not in France. We are not in Europe. WE ARE IN ASIA. And lets get one thing straight – They dont rule us.

    Stop kissing their white ass.

    Its no wonder the Arabs and Middle East people hate them all.

  29. Mann Marie says:

    Hi there, I agree with you on the arrogance of French Parisians. But not French are like this. The city guys are snobbish and stupid for many of them. Again, not all and please dont mention the middle east and so on France haters. They have been ruling our own lands and more than that, spread terrorism and kill all nations innocents in France. I understand your anger and I dispise the organisers (mix if snobbish dumb French colons and singaporeans “betrayors”) but for example, me or my French friends/colleagues and acquaintances have deep respect and love for your nation. I want to maintain a friendship between the two nations. Not spread arrogance like “diner en blanc” nor aggressive comments about France. It s still a nice country. Just that a handful is misrepresenting it. Too bad. Hope you will get to know nice westerners along your path, mate.

  30. Mann Marie says:

    And you know what?!
    Ok: it s about food.
    Ok: it s about network as well.
    Got it…
    But is it also a stupid date thing?
    The Facebook page has mentioned that it will be a nice chance for women to meet the son f founder, C pasquier, as h is looking for a female date to attend the party.
    A female date of a local cute girl?!!!? They wrote “apply and try your luck”!
    Such idiocy cannot be!!!….
    Such a pervert!
    It really is a shame.

    • moon says:

      @ Mann Marie: thanks for your comments! this is really not colonial period anymore and it’s a shame some people still behave like that. i have a few close friends from France (incidentally, one is a Parisian), and they are not like that at all. it really depends on the individual. we take pride in our own culture (i’m Singaporean), and both sides need a healthy dose of mutual respect to learn from each other. i don’t stand for xenophobia, but i really detest this snobbish attitude as well. if not for my friends, I can’t imagine why i would ever want to pick up French

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  32. PK says:

    Pai Kai fight with atas! Haha!

  33. CSI says:

    Head organiser of Diner en Blanc is no other than the “Dr” Clemen Chiang, who got sued for misrepresentation.
    http://www.asiaone.com/Business/News/My%2BMoney/Story/A1Story20090319-129590.html

    Not sure if the folks from Diner en Blanc International knew that their Singapore head organizer is a crook!

  34. ProudOfMyPeasantRoots says:

    Thank u for a thoughtful, well-written and civilised article. I admire the French and their love and respect for food. The white pickynickers do not represent the French, but they DO represent the minority who are so desperate-to-be elite that they dont realize how silly they are. Know who you are and be proud of it. If u want to lounge about and stuff your face with truffles and foie gras all day, that is your prerogative, but my love for humble foods deserves equal respect in return.

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  36. Diana says:

    Hi there,

    Since the commenters on this blog definitely seem pretty informed, you guys might want to check your sources a little more closely before hurling insults at the French. Umm… the name is French, Dinner en Blanc originated in Paris, but this is now a global phenomenon and it looks like it was a major FAIL from a PR company rather than a decision by some Parisians to look down on Singaporean food.

    So by all means, let’s be outraged, but let’s try and direct our reactions at the right people rather than insulting an entire country.

    Cheers

  37. Aeskywan says:

    Actually the organisers are not doing REAL french food justice. French food is not just about the small portions in large plates that many people think it is. French food is also about country food, farmers meals that are still eaten today even though not many of of us are farmers. Bouillabaisse for example was essentially a mix of left over fish that the fishermen couldn’t sell and not some up market soup. Escargots ala snails I need not say more. Hence this whole saga is about a company that messed up and not about the French looking down on other cuisine. My French friend for instance, loves local food and especially durians.

  38. Christel says:

    Daniel is not wrong to suggest local food in his capacity. To put it in the least crude way: it’s like asking Hugo Boss or Louis Vuitton to put our iconic Merlion (for argument sake) in their apparels sold in Singapore boutiques.

    I honestly wouldn’t blame them if the bloke is asked to F*** Off in German and French, accompanied with a mega-watt designer smile. In conclusion: yes you can be proud of your culture/heritage, but there are instances it’s a pure (no malice intended) mismatch.

    It is nobody’s fault but a blatant case of different wavelength. The whole event is organised by the French, guidelines such as what kind of cutlery and attire were prescribed. Though no specific colour of food is dictated, I would believe (or expect) Daniel has gotten a fair idea of what to expect.

    • emmy says:

      Actually, you would be surprised. Louis Vuitton if I recall, have used chinese dragons on one of their bag releases a couple of years back.

      Interesting enough, when asked if he had done that to appeal to the booming chinese middle/upper class that can afford Louis Vuitton’s, the spokesperson said absolutely not, because he couldn’t imagine anything more that would turn the chinese off than something local.

  39. emmy says:

    Thank you so much for your insight. I think the main problem in this case was the poor PR skills of the organisers.

    Who are they to ask someone to “remove” his blog post? I think they could have handled this so much better, perhaps simply pointing out that since this is a french themed dinner, only french or french fusion food would be allowed.

    Lovely event idea, tongue-in cheek remark by Daniel, horrendous PR management by the organizers of the event.

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