Not Spicy: Takeaways From Watching Mark Wien’s Recent Singapore Food Videos

Mark Wiens is, like any content creator, everything all at once. There’s a lengthy page (a novella, really) about himself and his journey into food on his website. 

Let me try and condense him into one sentence, then. He’s a gentle, nomadic foodie with millions of subscribers on YouTube. 

There’s a certain cadence in his videos that is unusual relative to what we’ve come to know of as a lifestyle YouTuber. Where we might think of the food vlogger’s output to be prolific (glossily edited, with drone shots and silky transitions, hardly a moment to catch your breath), the Thailand-based foodie is cut from the Jamie Oliver cloth. He’s quietly charismatic, not desperate for the viewer’s attention.

What becomes clear while watching his videos: this man loves food. He loves talking about it, sharing meals with friends old and new, doing a dish justice, and giving it a chance to succeed. He can go on a whirlwind food tour for an entire day without slowing down. 

And if you watch enough of his videos, you’ll know if he actually likes the food or not. This comes in handy when you skim through his recent exploits across Singapore. 

A pearl of wisdom, brought to you by HardwareZone’s EDMW. Image: Screengrab from HardwareZone.

Not Spicy, Not Eating

As one of the biggest food travel YouTubers on the planet, his recent sojourn isn’t his first spicy rodeo here. The man might as well be a local, considering he’s not that big of a Tian Tian Chicken Rice fan.

As Singaporeans, we’re always more than happy when someone with international clout brings attention to something near and dear as our food. He’s no Anthony Bourdain (i.e. waxing poetic about the culture and spirit of a dish), but that’s not the point for Mark Wiens.

His style is simple: find a spot to eat, order some dishes, react on camera. It’s a wholesome formula that earned him over 9 million subscribers on YouTube alone.

But what does he actually have to say about us and our food? Nothing that we don’t already know, but points for his intentional effort to go multicultural—the man makes sure to showcase Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines.

Perhaps food reviews on YouTube don’t have to be deep or spicy; sometimes you just want to consume content and/or eat vicariously. But underneath his head-tilting effusions and closed-eye responses to first bites, there are some unexpected takeaways (and perhaps even lessons) from Mark’s videos on Singapore.

Think About What You’re Eating

“Man, I love tendons,” Mark exclaims a few times while chowing down on a $4 bowl of beef brisket egg noodles at Chinatown Complex. In a wide shot, he picks up and plops down the “springy” egg noodles––carefully mentioning the various components of what makes this meal one of his favourites. He comments specifically on what sparks joy about this dish throughout his meal.

His approach reminds me of ‘mindful eating’, a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) tool that reconnects the brain with the body when it comes to food. The tenets are simple and seemingly obvious, but good to remember when trying to stay more present in general life. Eat with your senses. Check on your hunger level. Slow down. Appreciate the food.

Put the Phone Down

In his video on “the best chilli crab in Singapore,” (arguable) Mark explores our most famous dish with guidance from a local. His friend, Ray Tan from Daisy’s Dream Kitchen, accompanies him on this journey and describes eating chilli crab as a ‘feasting occasion’ or even just ‘something to enjoy.’ Indirectly, the pair make the case for putting your phone on airplane mode at dinner.

Chilli crab is a particularly social dish because of the hands-on manoeuvring required. Cracking the shell. Peeling the soft, fleshy meat. Dousing the scraps in sauce. All best done without the distraction of your phone (or dirtying it), which is on a mission to absorb your every waking moment.

Resist the temptation. Using your phone during meal times negatively affects your enjoyment. Give yourself the gift of good food in good company.

Find New in the Familiar

Singapore is a small country. At certain times, it can feel like you know the whole island like the back of your hand. During the pandemic, many of us felt slightly trapped—like we had discovered everything we hadn’t before in a couple of months, and there was no juice left in the tank.

Wiens’ video on ‘street food in Singapore’ reminds us of just how much there is yet to discover. Even in the places we know so well, say your favourite hawker complex, there’s always that one stall in the very back that has never caught your eye. Why not give it a go?

Or even make a day of it. On one excursion, Wiens ate at Hong Seng Curry Rice in Redhill, downed some fried Hokkien prawn mee in Geylang, and snacked at Original Vadai in Joo Chiat.

The culinary exploits of Mark Wiens have, indirectly, made a good case for slowing down and taking stock. There are good things abound, should we take some time to look. Even if it’s not spicy, just eat.

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