For JWU Providence culinary teaching assistant Jared Kent, heading to Singapore and Thailand for Study Abroad’s Pan-Asian Cuisine and Culture this past summer was rewarding on so many levels — from learning the secrets of wok cookery from Singaporean master chefs at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy to sparring in a Thai boxing ring.
“My biggest culinary takeaway from At-Sunrice was getting to learn and practice my wok skills,” Kent said. “Wok cookery is so essential in Asian cuisine and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn that methodology from true experts in that area. They took us through all the fundamentals of handling the wok, from how to stand, how to hold the wok, and how to control the heat. They also taught us some traditional wok dishes.”
The month-long trip — led by advisor and JWU Providence Chef Branden Lewis — mixed intensive culinary instruction at At-Sunrice and Dhara Devi Cooking Academy with cultural excursions to give students a broad foundation in the incredibly rich and diverse cuisines of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India and China.
My biggest culinary takeaway from At-Sunrice was getting to learn and practice my wok skills.”-JARED KENT
Kent loved the opportunity to really experience life in Singapore and Chiang Mai — bolstered by a fun and challenging treasure hunt designed by Chef Lewis to encourage exploration + to (gently) push students out of their comfort zones.
Chef Lewis “gamified” the hunt by awarding points according to the task’s level of difficulty.
High-point items included consuming a fried insect (5pts), ordering a dish “Thai hot” (20+ chiles; 6pts), and trying a bite of the notoriously stinky durian fruit (7pts). (Bonus points for capturing the iconic “Durian face” on Instagram for all to see.)
While the majority of tasks were culinary-related (eat at a Michelin-starred street hawker stall like Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle; try a whole fried fish), a good number were all about getting out and experiencing the city like locals. For example:
- Take a photo in front of the building colloquially known by locals as “the big durians.”
- Buy a Merlion statue, statuette, or image, and record the Merlion’s meaning, height, weight and age. Take a selfie with it and Marina Bay Sands in the background.
- Figure out how to hold the Sultan Mosque in your hand for your photo.
The best way to maximize this experience is to do some traveling afterwards in Southeast Asia.”
“My favorite discovery from Chef’s scavenger hunt was attending a Muy Thai boxing match in Thailand,” noted Kent. “It really felt like a true moment of cultural immersion to be in Thailand, watching a Thai fight.”
Kent has some advice for students who are thinking about going on the trip next summer:
- For your knife kit, pack very light. In all honesty, you probably really only need one good chef knife. Anything else that you’ll need to cook with can be found in the kitchens there. Knives are heavy and weigh down your luggage, so keep it small.
- One of the most useful things to bring with you is a small, water resistant towel of some sort to carry around and wipe your face off during the day. In Singapore and Thailand, it’s very hot and humid and you’ll do a lot of walking and sweating, so a small towel could save your life.
- In my opinion, the best way to maximize this experience is to do some traveling afterwards in Southeast Asia. From Singapore, flights to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other surrounding countries are cheap, quick and easy to find.
Save up some money before you go and plan to visit some other places. It is not cheap or quick to get to Southeast Asia from the US so take advantage of the easy travel in that region while you’re there!