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:
Update 1/7/2019: I went through another 117 posts dated between 18 and 28 June 2019 to find out if any of these observations (done in August 2015) has changed. I will be presenting my research on Singapore Noodles at the National Museum of Singapore in the coming August so an update is necessary.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: Of the 117 posts, 45 are by Instagrammers who provide an image of themselves in their profile. Most of these 45 people are presumably Caucasians, based on their self-introduction, skin colour, and last name. 9 of them are Asians, mostly Indians, and a couple of Chinese and one Korean. At least half of these Asians reside in the UK or US when they posted the image. It seems that Singapore Noodles is still popular among the Caucasians, although Asians living in cities that are predominantly white are increasingly eating this dish too. There are a handful of Africans and Hispanic people behind these pictures too.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: This is still true. 20 out of 35 Instagrammers who posted the pictures and whose location I could identify are from the UK and the US. The others who stood out in numbers are from India, Australia and Nigeria.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: None of the 117 posts are of a Singapore Noodles from Hong Kong, or Singapore and Malaysia. It seems that Singapore Noodles is considered less Instagram-worthy in these cities, which means that consuming the dish is not worth boasting about or mentioning at all.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: This still stands. 35 of the 45 Instagrammer who posted the pictures and whose gender I could identify are women. That is 77.78%.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: Till today, Singapore Noodles is often tagged “glutenfree”, “vegan” or “vegetarian”. It is common to see an image of Singapore Noodles topped with only vegetables such as capsicums, baby corn, mushrooms or broccoli. This suggest that the combination of any noodles with curry powder is what makes a dish Singapore Noodles to these people. The Slimming World-craze has died down since although I still found two posts featuring its ready-made Singapore Noodles.
There are at least 5 images of Singapore Noodles from India (Delhi and Mumbai), and all of them are made of what looks like wheat noodles. Such noodles seems to the standard recipe for the dish in India. Obviously, they weren’t tagged “glutenfree” but there is also no sign that the Indians are associating Singapore Noodles with any diet.
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.
Update 1/7/2019: There is still a significant number of home-cooked Singapore Noodles on Instagram, and the Instagrammers behind these posts tend to emphasise how healthy and easy to make their version is. Out of the 117 posts, 19 are of homemade Singapore Noodles.
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.