Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nanyin Concert in Thian Hock Keng

Each year, for the past decade or more, Siong Leng Musical Association has performed a Nanyin and sometimes Li Yuan Opera performance in the Thian Hock Keng in commemoration of the three celebration days of Guan Yin, 2M19, 6M19 and 9M19.

And it did on 17 Oct 08 which in the Chinese lunar calendar is 19th of the 9th Lunar Month. Without fail, its faithful fans turned up to watch the performance. It is one of those Hokkien operatic performances that is getter rare these days.

While most of the younger people might enjoy these performances with the aid of the Chinese lyrics being shown, the older ones apparently didn't need them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My favouriteTeochew Fish Porridge (Broth)

This must have been in the mid 1970s. That was when I had started working for a few years. I was working late and getting involved in work related activities. It meant late dinner. I could not remember how I came across these food stalls on the street, but I did find them. Since then, it was like my open air dining place.

There were two stalls lined up side by side at Carpenter St. Like many hawkers of yesteryears, these stalls just appeared when the sun set. They sold the same things, fish - pomfret (chiew heu) and Ikan Batang (tabang heu or heu-kao in Teochew). They had their loyal clients. Both sides had their tables always occupied.

For whatever reason, I always had dinner by the stall that was nearer to South Bridge Road. It was almost like my orders had been carved on stone (they don't have PCs in those days). I would always have my bowl of Heu Kao (must have been 70 cents I think) with a plate of duck meat cooked in soya sauce (I have been going around to look for this dish and have never found the same one again). There are other extras such as fish roe. Now earning much, I stuck to my standard pair.

The fish was always fresh. Although the pomfret is the more expensive fish, I preferred the batang heu (Ikan Batang) with its coarse and yet still oily meat. Cooked in teochew style, there was always a piece of the dried fish or two (known as ti-porh) that added the flavour.

Teochew fish porridge or broth (I think the Japanese Zosui might be the nearer description) is not like the Cantonese porridge (jok in Cantonese) or Muay in Teochew (Beh in Hokkien). When one orders the fish porridge, the chef would put his pot on the gas-stove, using a big scoop, he would take one scoopful of the "arm" (the cooked rice water) and put into the pot, and another scoop of cooked rice. When the rice in the water comes to a boil, he then throws in the slices of the fish and let it boil for a few times. And with the ti-porh and other condiments, it is ready for eating. Probably less than 5 minutes' work, or even less. Dipping the freshly cooked fish into a small saucer of light soya-sauce with cut chilli, it was sedap (delicious).

With the stalls having one or two of the pressured kerosene lamps and depending on the street lights, we sat and ate, enjoying the warm night air. People from all walks of life dropped by, probably for supper, unlike me. Towkays in Mercedes dropped by with their girlfriends (I think) or even their "barbers". There were two (maybe only ones in town) barber shops manned by ladies nearby and was a hot favourite with the Towkays. Some could be passerbys and yet some who went pat-tho (dating in Cantonese) who might ended up here for makan (food) before going home.

Alas, such a wonderful place was just too good to be true and soon, the stalls were no longer to be found. And I have lost a good place that saved me from gastric problems. Fish porridge or Heu Muay will never be the same again.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sri Mariamman Temple celebrates Navarathri

On the evening of 1 Oct 08, with friends, I visited the Sri Mariamman Temple at South Bridge Road, said to be the oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore. The temple is celebrating the 9 days of Navarathri. And on this night, there were dances performed by various students from different Indian Classical Dance schools.

I was there partly because Arul Ramiah was going to dance. (^^)

It was an evening of the community of devotees of the Sri Mariamman Temple. One could feel the energies and atmosphere sitting on the canvas covered ground with a small stage placed at the corner of the temple courtyard.

Indian Classical Dance and the temple have a very strong symbiotic relationship and I could sense the story and devotions by the dancers as they depicted stories of the Hindu deities. Alas, my lack of understanding of the Tamil language deprived me of a deeper understanding of the dance with the songs being sung. But still, the hand gesture, the eye movements and the movements of the body did give much for visual and audio appreciation.

The final performance must be, for me, the grand finale as Arul Ramiah performed a series of dances, some with two lovely girls who had undergone just six weeks of intensive training in Indian Classical Dance! What a typical cosmopolitan Singapore in display as Arul's Chinese friend did the introduction and two Dutch girls dancing with her!

The opening dance to the Shiva Chant was, to me, the most powerful with the song, music and movement synchronised to tell a story.