Singapore Instagram of the Month: @Dabaogram, Styling Hawker Food as Atas Plates

After a hiatus, the Singapore food blog or instagram of the month is back! Every month, we feature a Singapore food blog or instagram: (1) to cultivate goodwill and camaraderie among the online community; (2) to encourage more people to blog and instagram about food; and (3) to empower bloggers and instagrammers through an insight and understanding to their lives.

“Da Bao” means “takeaway” and @dabaogram styles takeaway hawker food into fine dining. They have plated briyani, mee siam, cai fan, laksa, and hokkien mee. I’ve seen several instagrammers from other countries doing it but this is the first Singapore account I’ve come across and @dabaogram deserves to be known widely. Since I’ve a deep passion for both hawker food and fine-dining–actually, I like food, period–I shamelessly emailed them although I don’t know them. And they are kind enough to reply my questions.

Who are the people behind @dabaogram?

We are a newly opened media production team, Casual Media, that focuses on content production for social media platforms and @Dabaogram is one of the projects that we’ve recently started. But really, we are just a bunch of friends working together on passion driven projects during our free time.

Our dabao team comprises of die hard cai fan lovers, entrepreneurs Josh (@joshtzm), Daren (@darnyap), university student Brian (@brianxdon) and a chef who has requested to only go by the alias, Vanesse (for reasons we have yet to uncover).

What is the inspiration behind @dabaogram and what is the purpose of it?

Dabaogram is an explorative project for us to visually experiment with our local hawker food and also to our love for it!

The idea was sparked off from a debate we had about how hawker food seemed to taste better when you consume them at the hawker centres than when you “dabao” them. Hence, we decided that we wanted to try restyling hawker dishes, “dabao-ed” from our favourite hawker centres and get the internet to decide if it still looks tasty enough for a like or a follow.

Do you eat the food after the shoot? Or is it too cold to be edible? Research shows that food tastes better when it’s presented nicely. How is the taste after styling?

We reserve portions of each dish for own consumption before the shoot. We do make it a point to not work on an empty stomach, especially when we are working with food.

It has proven that making something look more presentable makes it effectively taste better and this was one of the many reasons why we started dabaogram!

Honestly, we wish we could have consumed every single dish we have shot. However due to the nature of food photography, dishes will be left out in the open for a period of time thus, it is not advisable to consume them.

Some food stylists use satay sticks to prop up the food, or hairdryer to change the color, or nail varnish to give it a sheen. Do you use any special props for the styling? Do you only use food from the hawker stall or do you add in garnishes (tomatoes, etc) on your own?

We like to keep it as improv as possible with the way we style and shoot the food, thus we do use props and extra garnishes to keep some of the dishes looking their best but some dishes just speak for themselves without the need for any extra ingredients or props. We always try our best to stay true to the original ingredients used in the dishes.

Recommend your favourite eatery in Singapore.

It’s a really long list but we’ll have to say the next meal with the team would be our favourite eatery! Right now it’s at Joo Bar.

Thanks for the interview, guys!

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