Reimagining Tradition

We tell stories with our food. Oftentimes passed on for generations within families, these stories become sacred rituals we cherish.

The chapters of these stories — the cilantro we cut, the wild rice we boil, the tortillas we lovingly craft by hand from masa with our Abuela — they are the chapters of our lives.

Food comforts us. It connects us. It ensures the promise of tomorrow. In that way, our food stories are the most important, perhaps, of all our stories.

But what do our food stories say?

Are they long treatises, heirlooms dog-eared and weathered with age, the recipes only existing in Grandma’s memory? Are they fusions of cultures, creating a brand new story from multiple ones told long ago?

Maybe they’re all these things. Maybe they can be more.

What if, instead, our food stories told the tale of a revolution, of a better future? And what if we began that story with food steeped in centuries of cultural history?

Through hundreds of years, chicken rice has become one of Singapore’s national dishes. Its simplicity – poached chicken and seasoned rice – allows for a family’s individual flair while giving comfort and consistency all at the same time.

In March 2021, that story began a new chapter when a well-regarded Cantonese restaurant in Singapore, Madame Fan, replaced conventional chicken meat with cultivated chicken.

It wasn’t merely an option to order cultivated meat; it was the only choice.

For the first time in history, Singaporeans ate their beloved national dish of chicken rice that didn’t require harming a single animal or using antibiotics. The chefs assembled a pillow of wok-fried rice, bok choy and edible flowers – all topped with crispy cultivated chicken.

“It tastes exactly like normal chicken,” one early Singaporean diner said. “In fact, I think it tastes even better.”

Another Singaporean added, “And the best part is no animal had to be harmed.”

For one GOOD Meat chef, whose father was a butcher for 35 years, meat has a long history in his family. Cultivated meat is merely the next chapter in that ongoing story.

“I don’t know that there will ever come a time when human beings don’t at least desire to eat meat,” Nate Park, a GOOD Meat chef, said. “It hits all of the senses.”

For GOOD Meat’s debut, Park wanted Singaporeans to be able to feast on the familiar comforts of home, and for Singaporeans that means chicken rice.

“When we thought about designing dishes, it was important for us to begin with chicken rice, something that Singaporeans have eaten for centuries,” Park said.

This wasn’t just meat for meat’s sake. The meat was a chapter in a much longer food story, wrapped in thousands of years of culture and ritual.

“The question is, ‘How do we approach eating meat in a 21st-century way that makes sense for everyone going forward?’ I think about this a lot with my newborn son,” Park said. “What kind of planet is he going to have in 25, 30 years? If we don’t change this process, the answer is: not great.”

These early diners, as they bit into a new, delicious version of traditional cuisine, began writing our future food story. That food story — our shared food story — continues today and on into the future until one day Park’s son, Jack, seasons cultivated beef tips or bakes cultivated chicken pot pie.

The rest of the story is ours to write.