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.

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