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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Asian cuisine: Resilient like the people

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Talking to Singaporean foodie Sarah Huang Benjamin was easy. In her beautiful, off-the-shoulder black dress, with her flowing hair in a half-ponytail, the winner of the first season of Food Hero was excitedly listing down food recommendations that I and a fellow journalist were giving out—kansi soup made with batuan, sisig, lechon, chicharong bulaklak, and sinigang in watermelon, among others.

“Food should be fun and accessible. Food brings people together,” said Benjamin, who was in the country for the TLC Festival 2019 at the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City on Nov. 16.

“Asian food, in particular, is very interesting to talk about. Asia is a melting pot of flavors and cultures. The sheer number of spices, our history of colonialism—our cuisines are resilient like our people,” she added.

Laksa, a popular Peranakan dish, embodies the marriage of flavors of various Asian cuisines.

Her favorite dish, laksa, is a popular Peranakan cuisine which, for Benjamin, embodies the marriage of flavors of various Asian cuisines.

“Laksa has so many cultures in one dish—the noodles are Chinese, the curry is Malay and Indian,” she said.

Just like spicy noodle soup that she adores, Benjamin herself is a fusion of several cultures, both from the West and the East.

Born in Singapore to a British father and a Peranakan-Chinese mother, she grew up helping her parents and grandmother cook at home. Her Filipina nanny, Jobel, taught her to eat adobo and salted egg with tomatoes.

“We embrace fusion, but we have to look at our own food and culture not from the eyes of the West only. If we are going to combine foods from different cultures, we must do so in a thoughtful way, in a way that celebrates the heritage of both cultures,” said Benjamin.

Singaporean foodie and AFN host Sarah Huang Benjamin

Benjamin has joined other brand ambassadors of the Asian Food Channel, as the number one English lifestyle channel in Southeast Asia evolved into the Asian Food Network (AFN) over the weekend.

As AFN, it is embracing a digital-first approach curated for its growing four million-plus mobile-first community, promising a seamless digital and linear experience that offers entertainment, utility, and community for all Asian food lovers. provides a trove of tested recipes, cooking tips, stories on Asian food cultures and a growing set of features that will power their passion for food and cooking.

“In Asia, food is our way of expressing love and caring for the people that matter. Nothing beats a good bonding session over a meal together with loved ones,” said Rohit Tharani, head of products for Southeast Asia in Discovery Networks Asia Pacific.

Tharani continued, “The new AFN strives to make Asian food accessible for everyone: it is the ultimate destination for food inspiration, from recipes of grandma’s traditional dishes to trending favorites, and even the ability to mingle with fellow food lovers.” 

Asian Food Channel is now Asian Food Network.

Online content will focus on the latest dining trends and conversations, led by an exciting roster of food trend hunters, including Matthias Rhoads from the Philippines, and Joyce Ng and Magdalene Chow from Singapore. Singapore’s Charlotte Mei is Asian Food Network’s resident nutritionist.

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