When it’s time to eat, we say “SIK FAN LAH!”
“SIK FAN LAH!” means “Let’s eat!” in Cantonese and is also the name of a new TV show on TVNZ. It is a culinary adventure across Aotearoa, uncovering hilarious and hearty stories of modern Kiwi-Chinese life through a universal love of Food. Amazingly, the show was also directed and produced by talented UoA alumnus Jess Wong, Jack Woon, and Abba-Rose Vaiaoga-Ioasa.
This show is the first of its kind in Aotearoa, focusing on kai and the unique experiences of Chinese tauiwi. Interestingly, the release of the TV show early this February coincided with Lunar New Year and the recent official government apology. The latter was for the infamous Chinese Tax Poll delivered in Cantonese. This reminds us of the struggles and discrimination many Chinese-New Zealanders faced back then and recently during Covid-19. Though Chinese people have been here for centuries, our existence and contributions often fell silent. “SIK FAN LAH” hopes to shine a light on forgotten stories of Chinese people in New Zealand; from Otago’s gold rush history, Pukekohe’s vegetable farmers, fish’n’chips, and takeaway owners.
Jess Wong, the Sik Fan Lah Producer says; “Food is a universal language. It speaks to people in many ways and reminds them of family, gathering together, and embracing traditions. It transcends barriers and is a tasty way to educate and expose people to new cultures. My upbringing was centred around food, and Sik Fan Lah has been a beautiful journey to explore the many layers of Chinese identity throughout Aotearoa.”
MY SIK FAN LAH STORY
Fortunately, I am one of the presenters on an episode of “SIK FAN LAH.” For me, Sik Fan Lah helped navigate through my mixed-identity of being Indonesian-Chinese. In the 1960s-1990s, Chinese culture and language was suppressed in Indonesia, similar to how Te Reo Māori is in Aotearoa. Many generations lost the ability to speak, listen and read the language. However, food was the only universal language that Indonesian Chinese people could connect to. Embarrassingly, I did not learn how to speak Chinese and therefore I felt like a deficient and bad Chinese person. So, I started learning Chinese in Uni, but I am far from fluent. However, moving to Auckland and learning the language made me feel as though the puzzle pieces were connecting. It was Chinese food that made me connect to my Chinese heritage. And being on this show, meeting Chinese people from different walks of life and bonding over Chinese food, felt like my puzzle had been completed. Experiencing authentic Chinese traditions such as making mooncakes with the aunties, fulfilled something in me. The experience that “SIK FAN LAH” graced me with, made me more secure in my identity and also my life journey. I learned that being Chinese means something different to everyone. I realised that there is no such thing as being less Chinese just because you do not know the language. Even though I may struggle for the rest of my life speaking Chinese, I can confidently host a dinner party and say “SIK FAN LAH!”
Episode 1 –
Sam Low vs. Her Highness
Masterchef and barista champion, Sam Low, follows the rumours of a newly-crowned Chinese queen to Rotorua uncovers a secret menu in the geothermal mists.
A Path More Evil
Entrepreneur sisters, the Evil Twins – Nat and Steph Chin – eat their way through Wellington’s wildest land and sea produce with the help of fellow rebels.
Tyla’s Homegrown Challenge
In Auckland, rugby star, Tyla Nathan-Wong, powers through the physical challenges of a Pukekohe market garden and the emotional challenges of cooking with a Chinese mum.
Janice’s Southern Migration
Albatross educator, Janice Huang, relives the hardships of the Otago goldfields, while gorging on delicacies by migrants new and old.
Pig Out in Palmy
Meme queen, Abigail Masengi, heads to Palmerston North to battle towering flames and the roasting of a 65 kg whole pig in a traditional Chinese earth oven.
Return of the Prodigy Son
Playwright and poet, Nathan Joe, samples new takes on classic dishes and rediscovers his childhood growing up around a fish and chip shop in Christchurch