I start with the Star Bar, Blue Lagoon, and Ranjit’s Kitchen, moving onto Dumpling Monkey, Paesano, and Pizza Hut Strathbungo. Nando’s nestles between China Sea and Fusion Palace. It takes effort to restrain myself from listing every restaurant in the index, because I find it all so delicious and feel slightly frenzied looking at it.
How often do you pick up a poetry book and start salivating? But my immediate reaction to flipping open the cover of this volume from Verve Poetry Press – illustrated with a waiting table in an upscale Chinese restaurant, photographed by Karlie Wu – is a mix of hunger and contentment.
Food tells us lots about identity: where our heart belongs, and how its health is. It’s an experience everyone has.
I wrote about food and class for the anthology Know Your Place, and after events, readers would come up and tell me what their own comfort foods were and how they trailed back to childhood. Here Wai Keung sets out to explore the notion of "belonging” to a city, and his relationship with food, migration, and family.
In the stellar titular poem, wafting nostalgic longing on breezy delivery, relatably desiring to see the world safely and anew, I learn sikfan means “your food is ready”. “As soon as I would leave my room I would smell it / freshly steamed rice or vegetables with oyster sauce / or a pie crisping up in the oven – don’t you miss that…
"…the eagerness / the hunger / the sense of mystery / the not-knowing exactly what would be waiting on the table / but knowing that whatever it was – it would be delicious.”
The poems are personal but joyful, earnest and often funny, offering unexpected poignancies from everyday life. And it’s moving to see these local places, more fan favourite than fine dining, immortalised on paper.
Now they’re settings for scenes. I tweet a picture of the index and an ex-pat Glaswegian, decamped to London, replies with the words, "Why did I cry reading this?”