I’m a mainstream kind of guy. I don’t think of myself as an early adopter. Nor would I dare say that I’m up to date with what the kids are talking about these days. If I’m being candid here, I’ve had to look up “LMAO” on Google a few more times than I care to admit. So imagine the surprise I got a few years back, when I read about how our humble “kopi” started taking hipsters in the West by storm.
Bulletproof Coffee, an American company, has staked its claim on this buttery coffee concoction and added a health junkie keto twist to what is otherwise a commonplace drink here in Singapore. It even comes with a myth-like origin story of its founder deriving his inspiration for this elixir after being offered yak butter tea by villagers on the frosty Tibetian mountain range. Very original.
So this led me to think about what other everyday ingredients I can find in my kitchen that have somehow become topics of interesting conversation for hipsters. Here’s what I found:
Have you heard of “Golden Mylk” or a turmeric latte? It’s a trendy brew made from cold-pressed turmeric juice mixed into steamed nut milk, usually almond or cashew. According to this article, it started gaining significant popularity in cafes from Sydney to San Francisco in 2016. A version of it was even introduced by Starbucks. Any “self-respecting” hipster would had abandoned it by then. It had clearly mainstreamed. It’s bright yellow froth no longer worthy of gracing the carefully twisted moustaches of our trendy friends.
Turmeric is a yellow-orange spice that is a relative of the ginger. It is very common in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. For thousands of years, it has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It’s proven to be a natural anti-inflammatory that can help to fight chronic inflammation. It’s also known to be a strong antioxidant that can help neutralise free radicals in our body. We use it almost everyday in our kitchen.
I’ve watched with curiosity as queues form for bowls of smoothie loaded with dried nuts and adorned with goji berries. The goji berry was touted as a “superfood” about 10 to 12 years ago. This is probably 50 in hipster years. Goji berry infused organic pure cacao muffins are now a thing of the hipster past. However, I’ve somehow managed to live through the entire hipster golden era of the goji berry being completely oblivious to its trendiness. I’ve always simply had it in my soup.
For me, the goji berry has always been the dried bright red raisin-like ingredient that we put into our everyday home cooked food. It’s what we use to sweeten the chicken soup for our Southeast Asian souls. We know it as the wolfberry mostly used in Chinese home cooking. Although not scientifically proven, many Chinese people have used it for generations to treat ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure and eye problems. What we do know is that it’s packed with vitamin C, fibre, iron and vitamin A. If it’s good enough for ancient Chinese hipsters, it’s good enough for me.
“Moringa is the super green more nutritious than kale” is the tagline for Kuli Kuli, a trendy food startup that sells moringa based supplements and health bars. Such is the brutal world of hipster food trends. One day you’re the blue-eyed boy of superfoods and then you get booted out for another more obscure one. The thing is, it really never went out of fashion here in Asia. Simply because it was never fashionable to start with.
I’ve been eating moringa pods in curries for as long as I can remember. It’s really quite common in most Southeast Asian kitchens. In fact I have two large moringa trees in my backyard. According to a WebMD article, moringa leaves have “7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas”. It’s also loaded with antioxidants and can help to boost our immune systems. Although there may not be sufficient scientific evidence yet, some scientists believe it can also help to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and also treat diabetes. And just when you think you can’t top something like that off, it also makes a relaxing and therapeutic beard oil for east London hipsters.
Plant based milk alternatives have gone mainstream much to the despair of anti-conformist coffee snobs. Even my conservative neighbourhood grocer now carries a decent range of nut milks today. However, if you take a closer look, coconut milk isn’t exactly stocked in the “dairy” section here. It’s normally labelled as “santan” next to the chilled asian herbs and local spice pastes. It’s a staple ingredient for many Asian families and not unlike how crème fraîche is used in European cooking.
Coconut milk hasn’t had a good reputation here in Asia for some time now. Well known for being high in saturated fats, our government has been pushing for the healthy exclusion or reduction of its use in everyday cooking. High consumption of coconut milk has been linked to higher levels of cholesterol. Although, there’s some evidence that it contains a lipid called lauric acid that can help support our immune system. That being said, the general consensus is, aside from it being lactose free, there’s little benefit to drinking it. This is probably the reason why hipsters didn’t stick around too long.
The jackfruit is my dad’s favourite fruit. He buys them every week ripe, peeled and ready to eat from the night market near their house. Admittedly, I don’t particularly enjoy eating the jackfruit as fresh fruit. My personal preference is eating it in a curry, preferably Indonesian. But never in my 39 years have I ever heard the jackfruit being described as having “a shredded meat texture that resembles pulled pork”. If you google “jackfruit”, you’ll see how it has, against all odds, become a vegan sensation meat alternative in the West. Pinterest declared it “the hottest food trend of 2017”. Just think about the amount of vegan tacos hipsters were chowing down in 2016 before it mainstreamed.
WebMD says that it’s rich in vitamin A, B and C. It’s loaded with carotenoid, an antioxidant which can help with protecting cells from damage. The jackfruit is also a great source of fibre and helps with you know what. It even has more protein per serving than most other fruits like apples and mangoes. I must say that it does seem like a pretty decent meat substitute. This may well be a trend that has gone mainstream that hipsters regret not having kept a secret for longer. Lucky us.
Below is a checklist with some meal ideas using the 5 asian ingredients mentioned above. Bon appetite!