Instagram, the public platform for sharing pictorial details of one’s life, and a place to show off financial and social clout through food pictures, is a perfect source for sussing out who are the people and why they are eating Singapore Noodles. To date, there are over 5000 images hash-tagged “Singaporenoodles.” Even though the application is not an accurate representation of the larger real world, the sample size is sufficient to reveal patterns of consumption. Here are my observations:
An estimated 80 percent of those who hash-tagged “Singaporenoodles” are Caucasians. Race is important here because it gives us an idea of where this dish has travelled to and to whom it appeals. It looks like the majority of those who enjoy this noodles are not the Asian immigrants but the locals in the Western countries. Another way to explain this is that the Caucasians are more likely to find the noodles Instagram-worthy, because eating Asian, a cuisine outside their comfort zone, suggests that they are adventurous and sophisticated.
Mostly from the U.S. and U.K.
Amongst those who geo-tagged their pictures—about 30 percent of them, a majority are from the United States and the United Kingdom. The regions from which these pictures were taken spread all over the U.S.—New York, California, Texas, Wisconsin, and Oregon, but in the U.K. it is concentrated in London. Next come Canada and Australia, and a small number from Dubai, Nigeria, Spain, India, and Venezuela.
A few pictures were taken in Hong Kong, where I assumed Singapore Noodles originated. The reverse is happening there: most of those who took the picture are Asians, presumably Hong Kongers.
About 80 percent of the users are women. One could argue that those who share food pictures on Instagram tend to be women, but it may also have something to do with the following observation.
Almost every other picture is hash-tagged “healthy,” “glutenfree,” or “vegan.” A few usernames even carry words like “wellness” and “diet.” It is hard to believe how a plate of greasy stir-dried noodles can be healthy, but most of those who had cooked the noodles in their pictures piled vegetables on top. There are frozen peas, baby corn, broccoli, bean sprouts, cabbages, onions, snow peas, scallion, carrots, peppers (capsicums), coriander, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and the most jaw-dropping of all—avocados.
The gluten-free phenomenon also seem to have brought an unexpected popularity to Singapore Noodles. An Instagram user who responded to my query said, “In all honesty Singapore noodles doesn’t really have a huge significance in my life. I made them because I love noodles and they are made with rice vermicelli which is gluten free (I try to avoid gluten.)”
There are pictures after pictures of a ready-made Singapore Noodles by UK-based weight loss company Slimming World ever since it was launched in February this year. The noodles stand alongside other choices like the British national dish Chicken Tikka Masala. Interestingly, it comprises not of rice vermicelli but wheat noodles. The British seems to like it nevertheless.
Three in every 10 Singapore Noodles are homemade, and the cook emphasised this fact with a hashtag or in the captions. Being able to replicate this dish that is usually bought from restaurants and takeouts appears to be something worth boasting about in public.
This story is a part of my research about Singapore Noodles’s origins and how it has impacted the lives of those who eat it and also those whose identities it has been associated with. Other related stories can be found here.