Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nan Yin 南音 at Tian Hock Keng

On Saturday night of 18 March, 2006, Tian Hock Keng (Guan Fu Gong 天福宫) opened its door to one of the rare concerts on Nan Yin 南音 - Southern Music. Once popular with the Emperor's Court from Tang Dynasty through Qing Dynasty, today, it is heartening to know that there are still groups of young people and old involved in practising and keeping this arts alive.

Organised by the Xiang Lin Music Society 湘灵音乐社, with the participation of the Fu Hai Monastery Choir 福海禅寺 and the support of Hokkien Huay Kuan, we got to listen to a very elegant and ancient music. Apart from the VIPs, the audience's median age must be 70! (^^) Ah, the music will remind them of their young days in the villages in and around Quan Zhou, China, where the Minnan Hua (Hokkien as known here) is spoken.

I think Tian Hock Keng is the appropriate place to perform such concerts as it also remind us of our ancestors who came to this temple upon touching the shores of Singapore. They brought along the cultural heritage to Singapore. Last night, some of the younger members, probably in the 12-16s, were also singing and playing in the Chinese Orchestra for Nan Yin. We know that Nan Yin will survive in Singapore. (^^)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Life is just as Precious

In a dark cubicle of an equally dark pre-war house, somewhere in Kong Sai Kai (Keong Siak St) , some fifty years ago, a girl was born. She was born mute. And somewhere in Chinatown, another boy was also born. Mute.

Like a typical Chinese tale .. they were match-made. When this mute girl was growing up, her mother was concerned about her future. And so, she had long decided that she must get a husband for her. And so, these two mutes got married. Life was not easy but they got on. Husband was working on odd jobs. Wife worked as helper. In between, they had lovely kids, yes, they talk and are normal, thankfully.

If life was tough in Chinatown in the 60s to now, theirs would probably be more challenging. But each time when I met the mute lady, she was always happy and using her hands and whatever sounds she could make to communicate. She was a distant relative, probably linked all the way to this tiny village in China. And so, wherever we could, we would share something with her.

Unknownst to us, our Indonesian maid was also helping! We were wondering why she was keeping all the used drink cans in the house. Oh, she washed (to avoid the ants from making a mess) and saved them for the husband to sell!

And then, one morning, she waited and waited. In vain. She could not see him at the usual place. Then, we knew that he had passed on. When my wife met the wife, she was describing with her hands and sounds how she cried for days. (^^;

Now, each time I finish a can of drink, I think of these lives in our midst. A garbage could well mean a possible warm meal.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lor Mee Anyone?

I suppose Lor Mee (or Lu Mian in Mandarin) must be a very Hokkien dish. It is one of those sticky gooey gravy over oily noodles (known as sic mee in Hokkien, meaning cooked noodles) complemented with chunks of fish meat (Ikan Merah fish?), sliced fatty pork and deepfried plain batter (like tempura), garnished with plenty of grated garlic, and if you like, at sliced chilli and a dash of black vinegar.

It is also interesting to see the stick gravy going watery, depending on the acidity (?) of the saliva. (^^)

In the old Boon Tat street, along a line of hawker stalls, there was once a famous Lor Mee Stall. It used to be one of my haunts when I worked around that area, well, not exactly near .. at Peck Seah St. For food, distance is not too far. once I travelled from Raleigh to Chapel Hill in North Carolina, USA, just for some good Indian food. (^^)

Now, at the Amoy St Food Centre, next to the famous old Sian Chor Keng (Xian Zu Gong) - temple more popular for Tua Pek Kong than its main Deity, Lu Dong Pin - each Sunday morning, from about 9am, one sees a long queue for the Lor Mee. It used to be the case of angry customers complaining when their orders were missed. These days, life is made simpler for the stallholder as the customers have to queue up to buy their noodles! One cannot appreciate the good customer service until now. (^^;

Each Sunday, parents bring their parents and their children to this place for breakfast. While the older folks relish on being able to taste and eat the same bowl of noodles that they had taken, maybe, some 60 years back, their 1-2 year old grandchildren have also been introduced to this dish. And so, the tradition of carrying on the taste and customs of how to each the Lor Mee is being transmitted.