I’m a rather good cook. It’s because I watch a lot of Youtube cooking videos. In just two years, I have picked up techniques you kitchen plebs couldn’t dream of doing.

Chinese roast duck, for example. Most sane people will buy the finished product from a stall and that will be the end of it, but where is the fun in that? You have not lived until you: a) go to a wet market and with limited Mandarin ask a busy shopkeeper if she has a thing called “maltose”, where every word is in Mandarin except for “maltose” b) or stuck your hand into the moist cavities of a slimy bird and c) let its pink naked body rest for a day with a fan pointed at it, like it was a Western tourist in Phuket.

In the end, I got something that was practically inedible, but you should have seen the Maillard reaction I got on that baby, and that is the point of YouTube cooking, really, to be able to drop “Maillard reaction” in casual conversation. It’s the answer to everything in cooking.

There are the ultimate challenges, the Mount Everests of Internet cooking fads. The Gordon Ramsey Beef Wellington, the Heston Blumenthal perfect roast chicken, the Japanese omurice (a plump yellow maggot of cooked egg that when sliced, bursts its creamy guts all over a bed of fried rice), the ChefSteps 5-day Peking Duck, and many, many ramen challenges, all needing days of laborious and complex stock preparation and considered inauthentic unless the cook contemplates suicide on the third day.

I’m a fan of the heroes of YouTube cooking, who each has a “thing” that makes them stand out, an idea they probably stole from professional wrestling.

There is Alex French Guy Cooking who is adorably French, and the Food Busker, who is like the poor man’s version of a Guy Ritchie London gangster, and Kenji Lopez-Alt, who is that nice science teacher who never got angry because you pinched your lab partner with forceps and left a red mark on his arm that looked like an “equal” symbol.

The king of all the science-y cooks is Alton Brown, a high-energy guy who breaks each dish down into parts, each one requiring, oh yes, a Maillard reaction.

I watch Adam Liaw because his voice soothes me and when I see his kind eyes and man-bun I think of a samurai who kills with a sword of kindness and love. There is Jun, the Japanese cook who I watch mainly because any day now, he will have taught his weirdly obedient cats how to sear and braise.

As you might guess, most viewers – a huge majority, based on the comments – do not give a toss about the recipe or techniques in the video. They are there to cheer on the success or pity the failure. They are there for the drama.

I might be into cooking videos because I grew up in a family where the kitchen was a cave of mystery and magic, and YouTube is the bright and open opposite. At the wet market, my mum bought raw, squirming things, which would be taken home, its wrapper of newspaper clinging on for dear life because it was soaked in fluids leaking from whatever it had been trying, and failing, to contain. With a wet plop, it would go into the fridge, newspaper and all, smelling of the sea or the muddy pond from which it came.

I would watch American television and see kids reach into their refrigerators and pull out exotic treats like “Twinkies” or “Jello”. Inside ours, the food still had eyes or feet, sometimes both, and poisonous unless gutted and steamed first.

That reminds me of a question I ask every time I see a video on Peranakan cooking. Buah keluak, the nut that gives the famous dish its name, has to be soaked in water for a week, with, like, a bajillion changes of water unless you want you and everyone you know to die.

How many people in history perished before this fact was discovered? “Jim soaked it for three days, now he’s dead, I guess I will soak it for four, but if I die, Gus, you go ahead and soak it for five.” How did they know they would get something edible at the end of that process? Singapore has strict gun laws, but where are our laws for owning and operating a buah keluak nut?

Anyway, these days I spend more time watching videos about cooking than actually cooking, in a ratio of about 100,000 to 1. I also have a cupboard stocked with gear beloved by YouTube chefs, such as sous vide water baths, cast iron frying pans and enormous stock pots you could float a container ship in.

I need them because one day, I hope to have watched enough videos to actually make my own ramen noodles or an omurice with a satisfying belly-burst and I will surprise everyone with my own YouTube channel. I’m not sure what to call it, maybe I will take a leaf from my mum and do it old-school. Would you watch a channel called First, You Remove The Head?

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