Sunday, July 2, 2017

[Buildings] Oh What Rubbish!


The humble Rubbish Chute, who do not know what that is? Well, you'll be surprised that this is not totally common in the household of people around the world.

I had interacted with a foreign student who had stayed in Singapore's high-rise apartment for three weeks. He was here for an exchange programme. He shared about how he had to bag his rubbish everyday and from his 10-storey apartment, made his way down to the rubbish bin to dispose of his rubbish. He only found out that there's a rubbish chute in each apartment only on the last day of his stay. We laughed over the gaffe but in truth, we forget that having rubbish chutes in high rise is uniquely Singapore.

I'd also just returned from, my holiday in Sarawak. I stayed in a condominium which I'd booked through Airbnb. In this condominium, residents are able to also dispose their refuse on the level that they are staying. However, it's not a rubbish chute that they have, but elongated squarish green rubbish bins enclosed in a rubbish area.

Forfar House. Source: http://www.mycommunity.org.sg/heritage/princess-trail/38-former-forfar-house-3.html

So the Singapore version of the rubbish chutes is truly unique to our country. In-home rubbish chutes have been ever present in public houses since the 1950s. An example of rubbish chutes in a high rise flat can be seen in an article lauding the launch of this now famous building called Forfar House. This public block of flats was built by the former our public housing authority - Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). (Minister to open sky flats tomorrow, 1956)

"All kitchens are served by built-in refuse chutes running the full height of the building and discharging into removal bins at ground level".

That's me in 1977. Can you find the opening of the rubbish chute?

Of course, rubbish chutes are not unique only to Singapore, but with more than 80% of our population living in government-built high rise apartments, most of us would have experienced the use of rubbish chutes.

Modern Day Rubbish Chute Found In the Lobby Area

Over the years, there were interesting stories coming out from it, and it's not just rubbish we are talking about.

There were fires that were started from flat dwellers throwing charcoal down the rubbish chutes in the 1980s. Those were the time where charcoal stoves cooking was still a norm. It was reported that fire incidents rose during the Lunar New Year period as people threw charcoal down the rubbish chutes. What charcoal? The new generation of Singapore will find this unthinkable now as very few households now use charcoal to do their cooking. But there was a time where family matriarchs professed that the food cooked by using charcoal tasted better. Charcoal stoves were used to prepare food items such as boiling soup to preparing loveletters.

"...the rubbish chutes, which have been conveniently built into their flats, are an important part of their property, to be utilised in a proper manner" (Ministry of Culture)

In the same news release, residents were encouraged to bag their refuse using plastic bags.

How times have changed!

References
Ministry of Culture. March 13, 1982. Speech by Mr Lee Yock Suan. Press Release. 
Firemen to give talk at CCs. February 25, 1985. The Straits Times. P9.
Minister to open sky flats tomorrow. October 23, 1956. The Straits Times. P7.
Public Housing - A Singapore Icon. Housing Development Board. Retrieved on: June 26, 2017, from
http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/about-us/our-role/public-housing--a-singapore-icon
  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

[Food] Lai Wah Restaurant

When I first posted on Facebook about my dinner at Lai Wah Restaurant, I'd expected my friends to react to the post since this restaurant has been around since 1963. But I was pleasantly surprised that so many of them had personal stories to tell.

A few said that they or someone they knew stayed close to the restaurant. Another shared that this was his late grandmother's favourite restaurant where she'd celebrate her birthday. Yet another mentioned that he had his dinner here as his father's factory was nearby.

The recommendation of what food I should try came quick and furious - did you try the venison meat? How about the yam basket?

There were so many things we had wanted to order, just not enough space in our stomachs. So for my family of four, we ordered just four dishes - Venison fried with spring onions and ginger, garlic-fried kalan, seafood vegetable soup and their mandarin stewed chicken.

Well, the venison was indeed succulent and thinly sliced so that it's easy to chew. But the best dish was served last, and that's the mandarin stewed chicken. The stewed chicken was tender and that brought out a question from my daughter," Did they boil the chicken for long time?" I'm quite sure they did and the chicken tasted great. The chicken meat literally teared off the bones and the stew matched well with our bowl of rice.

But what is most important is that this is a heritage restaurant. One that generations have dined at. The restaurant kept to much of their 1960s origins as possible - Wooden signboard with carved gold wordings, old styled chairs and tables, and music from Teresa Teng played in the background. It was just so delightful that one can sit there and gawk at the incoming crowd. But of course, many a times you can't just walk in. You need to make a reservation in order to get a table. Yes, they are that popular. So if you have not tried their food, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

[Movies] The Way of the Dragon - In Singapore


Original Hong Kong Movie Poster
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29650656

Bruce Lee's movie produced in 1972 - The Way of the Dragon - was Lee's debut into movie directing. It was a big deal in Singapore. It was shown simultaneously, midnight on Saturday, November 11, in only THREE cinemas - Odeon, Cathay and Orchard (Currently Orchard Cineleisure). (1) The movie was shown later in the open air Jurong Drive-in. (2)

Tickets were all sold out on its premiere night and the movie was so popular that the government had to warn the public against buying movie tickets from touts (3) All these happened even before its launch. But still, you can't stop the desire of the public. The public stood in line for hours but unfortunately, many could not get hold of the tickets. The tickets at the box office were sold at S$1, S$2 and S$3 and each member of the public was only allowed the purchase of 4 tickets.(4)

"Touts sold the movie tickets at DOUBLE the price and people were still buying off them", shared my father.  

This martial arts movie reached out to people of all ages, gender and races and was shown in the cinemas for about two months.


References

1. The Straits Times. November 9, 1972. World premiere of new Bruce Lee film in S'pore. P15. 
2. New Nation. December 19, 1972. Miscellaneous Column 2. P2.
3. The Straits Times. November 11, 1972. Bruce Lee Film Tickets Warning. P20.
4. New Nation. November 10, 1972. Advertisements Column 2. P15.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Vanishing Trade] The Mamak Shop along Jln Todak

Mr Majid standing proudly in front of his mamak store
Tucked away along the five-foot way of Jalan Todak stands a provision shop or what we locally call, a Mamak Shop. I've passed by the shop many times but today, there was something about the shop that caught my attention.

The owner did not seemed too bothered whether there was business or not. In the 30 minutes that I'd observed the shop from the opposite coffeeshop. He sold just two packs of cigarettes and in between, he'd just plonked himself down on a plastic chair, looking out towards nothingness.

Looking out towards Lorong Todak
I cooked up an excuse to stop by his shop, saying that I'd wanted to buy some sweets. His shop offered none as he said that, "the sweets will melt. Maybe you want to go to 7-Eleven".

The ice was broken and this was the opportunity for me to have a closer look at his wares and at the same time, find out more about this interesting mamak shop.

Cigarettes, cigarette paper, lighters, lighter fuel

Looking at what Mr Majid has at his hole-in-the-wall shop, there were really nothing that interest me, actually. It's cigarettes, cigarettes and more cigarettes.

Though I did not buy anything from this veteran owner, he was still more than willing to talk about the nostalgic past. He claimed that he has been running this Mamak Shop for about 45 years. The building in which the mamak shop is located was said to be built in He's kept the shop opened 365 days a year. In his heydays, his shop used to span about twice its current length and to manage the shop, he used to employ four others, including his brother.

Mr Majid also mentioned that he indeed, sold more items in the past. But now, he has cut down on the items that he's selling. Business was booming in the past as there were popular coffeeshops and a market nearby.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

[Food] Heritage Dish of Johor: Laksa Johor

Laksa Johor [Photo Source: The Star Online]



When I first saw the headlines, I thought it must have been one of those arguments between countries over who has the heritage rights over a certain food. Though what Johor is saying here is that they want to gazette two of their local dishes - Laksa Johor and Asam Pedas. (Musa, 2016)

State Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage committee chairman Datuk Zulkurnain Kamisan vaguely explained the difference of Johor's Asam Pedas to that of the other Malaysian states, saying that there's a difference in terms of its "hot and spicy gravy".

Laksa Johor
 
It's much clearer a difference for the Laksa Johor dish. It is said that the late Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar, visited Italy in the 1800s. After that particular trip, he came up with the idea of replacing normal noodles with Italian spaghetti.

According to Makansutra, this dish is not commonly found even in Johor as it is tedious to prepare. The website then went on to provide the addresses of places that are offering Laksa Johor.

Even in the Johor Istana, the dish is only served at "special occasions and Hari Raya celebrations" (Loh, 2016). I'm pretty sure that our Singapore Ministers would have the opportunity to try the very best of Laksa Johor when they visit the Sultan during Hari Raya.
only at special ceremonies and Hari Raya celebrations.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/07/158409/rich-and-royal-taste
only at special ceremonies and Hari Raya celebrations.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/07/158409/rich-and-royal-taste

So other than being a favourite dish of royalty, what else makes Laksa Johor a heritage dish? I like how this article puts it - it's a heritage dish when it helps to Bind Generations. (Ismail, 2016)


References

Ismail, S. September 22 2016. Dishes that bind generations. New Straits Times Online. Accessed on October 2, 2016. http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/09/175063/dishes-bind-generations

Loh, P. July 15 2016. Rich and royal taste. New Straits Times Online. Accessed on October 2, 2016.
http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/07/158409/rich-and-royal-taste

Makansutra. November 26 2013. The Royal Laksa Johor. Accessed on October 2, 2016. http://www.makansutra.com/stories/5/1029/TheRoyalLaksaJohor

Musa Z. September 30 2016. The Star Online. Johor to gazette ‘laksa’ and ‘asam pedas’ as heritage dishes. Accessed on October 1, 2016. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/30/johor-to-gazette-laksa-and-asam-pedas-as-heritage-dishes/

Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Food] Blk 644 Hougang Mee Chian Kueh

Freshly-Made Bee Chiang Kueh

People live and die for food. People will also defend the origins of some of these food and this peanut pancake is something that some countries in Southeast Asia and even Taiwan lay claim to.

The Chinese name it 面煎粿 (Mee Chian Kueh or Min Chiang Kueh) or Apam Balik in Malay. Though the name may be similar, the end product differ from country to country.

Peanut-filled, the traditional ones that we see in Singapore are fluffier. Seasoned opposition leader Mr Chiam See Tong is said to be a lover of this tasty snack. (1)


The Mee Chian Kueh of Hougang

Making the First Slice

The timing was just perfect. Mr Lee, the owner of the Mee Chian Kueh stall at Blk 644 Hougang Avenue 8 had just put the final touches to his first batch of Mee Chian Kueh. Freshly made!

Focused on Cutting it Right


Having a go at the Mee Chian Kueh, I'd just wished that there were more grounded peanuts within. But I guess customers always want more of the best stuff.

Other Old School Peanut Pancake Stalls

Tiong Bahru Mian Jian Kueh
30 Seng Poh Road, Tiong Bahru Market
#02-34, Singapore168898

Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake
48, Tanglin Halt Road, Tanglin Halt Market
Stall 16 Singapore 142048 

References

1.Lee, M. K. August 23, 2015. Cheap & Good, How does Chiam See Tong's favourite peanut pancake taste? The Straits Times.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

[Art] Singapore's $50 note: A work of Art





Do you realise that many of us have been carrying around works of art in our wallets and purses and yet not know it? Well, I came to realise this truth only after visiting the National Gallery Singapore.

Opened in 2015, the gallery is located within the Old Supreme Court building and the City Hall. The gallery houses the largest collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian art collection.

Now let's get back to the crux of the matter - our $50 note.

If you were to take a look at the reverse side of the Singapore $50 note, you will see two very distinct work of art. One is of gibbons by artist Chen Wen Hsi, and the other are of people in the market with hanging dried fishes by Cheong Soo Pieng. Both of these paintings are now housed in the National Gallery Museum.


Chen Wen Hsi's Gibbons. Picture source: arthop.co (1)

Cheong Soo Pieng's Drying Salted Fish. Picture source: Straits Times (2)



References

1. Hong, G. April 1, 2015. Lee Kuan Yew: The man and his art. http://www.arthop.co/blog/lee-kuan-yew-man-and-his-art

2. Ong, S. F. November 30, 2015. 7 things to know about Singapore pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng. The Straits Times. http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/arts/7-things-to-know-about-singapore-pioneer-artist-cheong-soo-pieng