“As the night fell, people started coming back to the hostel. They couldn’t wait for the dinner party to start. We told them we needed help in the kitchen; the Italian hostel owner was making his best dishes and his wife was teaching everyone how to make Sangria. When you have a group of like-minded fun-loving people cooking together, teaching each other, trying different cooking methods and learning something new together, it just made everything so enjoyable.”
You don’t need the most extravagant meals to be happyKian Chee
It was also a special night as a couple staying in the hostel just got engaged. The hostel owners had bought the engagement couple a cake! They didn’t know it was a surprise for them. Before the couple arrived, everyone was planning to surprise them as it was also the girl’s birthday. For me, that was the best experience as you can’t plan for such occasions. It was the most touching day of my travelling journey. It’s so different from working in a corporation when it was all about the numbers. That night touched the deepest core of my heart. Hopefully, I can move people in a similar way in the future.
Kian is a 27 years old Singaporean whose doing in life is to seek truth and thrill. He shares with YoRipe stories of his solo travel in Europe last summer and how a simple hostel stay in Barcelona inspired him to start cooking and realise that you don’t need the most extravagant meals to be happy.
Do you have a favourite food?
“Laksa and Bak Kut Teh. Very fragrant and has a long-lasting taste; it feels like all your taste buds are awakened by the spices. For laksa, you can actually taste the coconut milk, it’s different from how it tastes in curry chicken. And there was a good laksa place near where I used to live, so I tasted it when I was young. I guess childhood has a big part to play in food that you like.”
Do you remember the first time you cooked?
“It was during home economics class in secondary school, I made fish ball soup, but it sucked because I didn’t want to cook! I couldn’t be bothered by the class and didn’t even feel like eating what I made. Actually, I threw it away!”
But you do enjoy cooking now, what changed?
“I was travelling on my own in Europe last summer. I remembered it was in Barcelona and I had a short day so I came back early and caught my hostel owner who was going to the market. Because he throws a party every Friday, and any hostel goer can come by, it was free. He told me he was going to cook his best dishes so I followed him. He introduced me to many new ingredients. Most of the time he was speaking Spanish or Italian to me. I had no idea what he was saying, but it was fun! Because I was the first guy to do the whole cooking process, I saw everything. And I was learning from a top chef, he explained all the techniques very well. I think it’s important to have a good guide it makes everything easier and you get instant feedback from the chef.
As the night fell, people started coming back to the hostel. They were waiting for the party to start. We told them we needed help. The hostel owner’s wife taught everyone how to make sangrias. I was surprised by the meal we can make with the grocery we bought. There was another element of surprise. When you have about 20 people cooking together, teaching each other, trying cooking skills and learning something new together, it just made everything so enjoyable. We were all having fun, instagramming and showing off our newly acquired cooking skills. When we cook alone, we feel entitled, when we cook together, we live the experience together, the pain and the gain.
Oh, by the way, there was this dish. The chef opened the wine (I can’t remember the name), smelt it and poured a cup. Then he poured the wine in the dish, stirred and tasted it. It wasn’t by measurement, but by feeling. He said that his wife doesn’t allow him to put wine, but he doesn’t care. This is what gets people talking. We both laughed out loud.
It was also a special night as a couple staying in the hostel just got engaged. Some of us bought the engagement couple a cake! They didn’t know it was a surprise for them. Before the couple come, everyone was planning to surprise them as it was also the girl’s birthday. For me, that was the best experience as you can’t plan such an occasion. It was the most touching day when I was travelling. It’s so different from corporate when it was all about numbers, it touched my deepest part of my heart. Hopefully, I can also move people in a similar way in the future.”
Why do you cook now?
“I realized cooking is fun, cooking can be for myself, for an event or when I just want to cook something. It’s like an achievement, a skill. When I’m able to cook for myself, I feel a sense of accomplishment. For instance, when I was with the chef in the hostel, we were making empanadas, this reminds me of my family making ‘Peanut puff/Gok Zai’ for CNY. So when I succeeded in my first empanadas, everyone exclaimed and I felt proud! I also enjoy the process of learning to make a new dish and seeing my effort paid off.
Cooking is also an experience with your friends, instead of a chore. Once you create that friendly atmosphere and cosy interaction, people will be drawn to that. “
What would be your last meal?
“Malaspina. It is a very fulfilling dish, I believe you don’t need the most extravagant meal to be happy. I tried it in the streets of Madrid: bread with tomato, ham and lots of melted cheese. It was simple, but the most satisfying and delicious food I’ve ever eaten. Brings back memories. I was feeling a bit emotional at that time and I had it and it perked me up.”
What is an absurd thing you love?
“Surfing. I tried surfing even though I hardly swim. I remember when I went into the sea, I was so scared. and I have to overcome my fear every time I go into the water. And every single time I overcame it, it felt so good. And I feel like I went back to being a kid. I really enjoy the novelty, thrill, and adrenaline aspects of the sport. I guess I’m quite a risk seeker. Oh, and I like to travel alone too.”
Who is the person you want to be?
Someone simple and kind who can inspire others in so many ways they can’t imagine.