Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A bowl of Lor Mee set me thinking of the past ...

It's been decades since when I had Lor Mee 卤面 (the traditional Hokkien noodles in thick gravy with lots of garlic and vinegar) at Boon Tat St. Those were the days when there was a row of roadside stalls there and Lor Mee was one of the favourite ones of many. For us working in the vicinity, we would brave the heat and even rain to get to our bowl of Lor Mee.

Decades passed and the Boon Tat Street became very clean. First there was no more stalls. And then, the residents were no longer there. And now, there are shops and restaurants.

The good news is that Lor Mee is still around. In fact there are many in the hawker centres (now known as food centres) of Singapore. There is one in Amoy St Food Centre, which could well be from Boon Tat Street. It is here where with my family we could come for our Sunday breakfast. The kids learnt to like Lor Mee. And these days, they, already grown up, would suggest Lor Mee on occasional Sundays when we still have time for a family breakfast together.

And on this day while having Lor Mee, my thoughts led from the delicious noodles to Boon Tat Street to the tomb of Ong Boon Tat at Bukit Brown. Many would have read about the biggest known grave at Bukit Brown as that of Ong Sam Leong. Many might not know of his sons, one of whom is Ong Boon Tat.

Here is one post on Ong Boon Tat by the Rojak Librarian. Read about it to find out more about this man. Would you know that the New World (at Jalan Besar) was founded by him with Ong Peng Hock?

You can find out more about some of our pioneers who have been buried in Bukit Brown at All Things Bukit Brown and Bukit Brown: Living Museum of History and Heritage.

Thanks to KhooEH, one of the Brownies (the group of dedicated and passionate people who were "digging" and discovering more about our pioneers through the tombs in Bukit Brown) here is a picture of Ong Boon Tat's tomb at Bukit Brown.

While Lor Mee and Ong Boon Tat are not related in any sense, indeed, history brought them together. For people like me, food through taste invokes linkages in history. Perhaps, the next time when you eat a bowl of Lor Mee, it might remind you of Ong Boon Tat and through him, New World and history of Singapore in those days. Maybe, it might be a fun way to teach history? :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nostalgia through food

Last night with wife, we strolled through the old Chinatown (maybe a better name for the Cantonese part of Chinatown?) looking for food, dinner to be precise. There were many stalls but somehow they did not appeal at this time. As we meandered around the "lorongs" (alleys) in the Chinatown Complex Food Centre, we saw that there was still a queue for this Chicken Rice. I was not expecting it (Heng Ji 亨记) to be still open.

So, wife volunteered to queue and I chope (get) a place. There were nine persons ahead of her and soon, another ten behind her. Most conversations, especially with the regulars, were in Cantonese. Wife and I were trying to look for a trace of a familiar face in the people manning the stall. A man and a woman were taking turns to chop the chicken.

Ah, we were thinking if this was the Chicken Rice stall that used to operate on the roadside at the corner of Trengganu St and Smith Street, on the side facing the Art Deco block of flats (now gone). Wife (girlfriend then) and I used to get out in the evening to look for this Chicken Rice ("running" away from her mum's shop selling cloth in the old People's Park). At that time, I could remember that sometimes they would not give us our request for the Chicken Wings alone, probably a favourite then. Still a favourite of wife till today.

I still remember the unique flavour of the chilli sauce, which is different from those of the Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Alas, it would have almost been the same if the chopsticks and the plate had been what they were in the past, bamboo chopsticks and porcelain plates. Eating them (of course, we have had these for a couple of times, when we were in the FC for dinner and if we are lucky) was a like walk back in time, some 40 years ago.

Around the corner was another long queue. This time for various kinds of dessert. Wife spotted the Mun-Tao-Long, as written in the Chinese characters (but all the time I remembered it as Wang-Tao-Long). I am not sure if these are the jellies made from Bananas. I was told so long long ago.

Which brought me back to the late 1960s, when I was still in Kim Seng Technical School. Should I take the Hock Lee No.14 bus from Kim Seng Rd home at 15 cents or should I take the No.9 Bus (I cannot remember which bus company was this) and save 5 cents to eat the Wan-Tao-Long? Most of the time, I opted for this, with friends. We would alight from the bus at the side of the Majestic Theatre, ran across the road. Outside the open-air People's Park were two stalls selling Wan-Tao-Long. For 5 cents we could have a very small bowl of the Wan-Tao-Long. There was the metal spoon that came with in. On top of the shaved ice and the jelly was a cut lime to give a zing taste. And then, happy with the cool dessert, I would straggled home with my heavy school load along the old New Bridge Road to Cantonment Road where my home was. Wow, that must be 50 years ago!

Glad that these foods are still around to remind us of our old or rather younger days.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Lee Pan Hon from Sago Lane

Thanks to James Seah who unearthed a gem from our archives and put the stories together, I thought I should share with you, just in case you did not see it at his blog. :)

Thought I steal a little of James' blog by linking the youtube video here, but you must read the collection of stories that James has put together. Ah, the stories of old Chinatown.