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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pork Jelly and Shark Meat

There are not many place left in Singapore selling traditional food. This stall here on the 2nd floor of Hong Lim Complex in Chinatown is one of 3 left in Singapore still selling pork trotter jelly and cold shark meat. The other 2 stalls are in Smith Street Chinatown and Jalan Berseh Cooked Food Centres.

The pork knuckle jelly and the shark meat
The pork knuckle jelly
The Shark Meat
I like the chilli dip and the peanut mix that comes with the 2 items. Put them together with the yam rice and wow! An absolutely satisfying lunch!

In addition to selling the pork jelly and shark meat, the stall also sell braised pork and,kway chap and  Kiamchye duck. The kiamchye duck is one of the best I ever tried and it sells out pretty fast.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Punggol Waterway

After many years of waiting, I think the people of Punggol are finally one step closer to the vision of Punggol 21 that the gahmen announced like a zillion years ago. After last year opening of the Punggol Promenade, the Punggol Waterway is now completed! The 4.2km waterway stretch across the edge of Punggol from Punggol Way to Sungei Serangoon. It connects Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon and was build at a cost of S$234m (+/- a couple of million). So is it worth the money?

Was there to take part in the Punggol Waterway Fiesta and first impression, I must admit I was impressed. Just like the Alexandra Canal, the HDB has created a beautiful little stream that wound through different section of the park. Each part of the park has a different theme with something for everybody including a place to catch the setting sun, a sand play and water play area for children. There is even watersport available!

One thing that irks me about our public parks is that Nparks or whoever is in charge of the project loves to cut down every single tree leaving the area bereft of shade. Then they plant those tiny little saplings which will turn eons to grow into matured tree and so in the end the park become underutilised in the day due to our hot hot weather.

Anyway, back to the waterway. The Punggol MRT station is just 10 minutes walk to the start of the waterway here

Shelters of all designs are provided along the entire stretch. Some are position right up the slope providing a nice view of the setting sun

There are also various crossings like this one along the  way to cross to either side of the bank

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chinese Opera

Have not seen a Chinese opera or wayang in Singapore for a long time. So was excited when I came across one at Chinatown. However, hope of getting a closer look was dashed when the way to the front of the stage was blocked by this burly broke who asked for a ticket! And since I didn't have one, could only stand from the side of the road and took this snap with my mobile phone.

I believe the opera was staged more for the "enjoyment" of the deity, whichever that was for this particular occasion, and I don't see why the organiser should want to charge admission. After all, there was hardly anybody watching the opera from the paid seats. It was day time after all. There were however, a few old folks who were standing, squatting where I was, in the sun, trying to catch the show and the organiser should have just let them in so that these poor folks don't have to stand in the hot afternoon sun.

But I guess not. Sad to say, the opera like everything else here in Singapore, had gone commercialised.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What ails our Toilets?

I mean public toilets. Not my house toilets. Toilets that are used by the public especially those in food centre, coffee shops, parks etc. Singapore has a first class economy. The WTO or World Toilet Organisation is headquartered here.Yet despite all these, we have 3rd world toilets. Okay maybe except for the zoo, bird park, airport and a few posh malls, the rest of the toilets here are craps (pun intended)!

Just go to any parks on a weekend and visit the toilets and you know what I mean. I was at Admiralty Park recently. This is a pretty new park. Yet the toilet which was next to a restaurant was a major stinkhole! The basins were so dirty. And let's not forget the toilets in the coffee shop and food courts! And I still shuddered when I recalled the time I walked into a shower cubicle at the then newly renovated toilet at MacRitchie Reservoir and saw a pile of shit on the floor!

So why is it that Singapore cannot get its toilet act together? If Japan, Korea, Hongkong can why not Singapore? Let me try and list down the reasons:

Public toilet at Punggol Promenade
1. The design of our public toilet. Firstly, those in open areas like park are not lit up in the day and the only light going into the toilet are from the small ventilation vents at the top of the wall. A bright airy toilet somehow will inspire people to take more care of it. Just like dark gloomy places attract cockroaches, damp dark gloomy toilet somehow cause people to not bother too much with the cleanliness .act like cockroaches. Just look at the toilets at the East Coast Park in the day time. They are so dark and gloomy! And the location of the hand dryer! Where are they found? Right on the other wall away from the basin. After washing the hand, you walk to the dryer and in the few steps you take, the water will have dripped all over the floor. The result, wet floor! And what is it with those fancy wash basins that are so shallow the water just splash off onto the floor. The basin at MacRitchie is a good example! Then there is the lack of a proper store room for the cleaner. So all the cleaning tools are dumped all over resulting in a very cluttered looking toilet which again doesn't inspire people to keep it clean.

2. The cleaning crew. Have anybody seen how the cleaners clean the toilet? Just take a hose and spray water over the whole place including the wall and toilet bowls. The result is everything is all totally soak and people who want to use the toilet ends up squatting on the bowl cause you don't know whether the liquid on top is pee or water! And wet floors meant footprint all over. Also, most cleaning company do not provide their workers with proper cleaning detergents. Most of them simply give a perfunctory scrub to the toilet bowls and the stains start building up faster than you can pee. The other problem is the lack of toilet paper so people who are too stingy to buy the minuscule paper from the vending machine ends up using all sort of paper including newspaper which ends up choking the toilet!

3. Finally the user. There are 3 main groups of people I blame for the state of our toilets

- The beer uncles. You know those old men who gather at coffeeshop and drink the whole night or even day long. These are the people who will spit everywhere, throw litter all over and never wash their hand after going to the toilet. And they are the main culprits for the newspaper in the toilet bowl and wet floor caused by their pee flying in all directions! They are the one who grew up in kampungs and the older buildings where the toilets facilities are not that great and their habits have continued into their old age. These uncles account for most of the dirty toilets in coffeeshops and  food centres.  I know these people all too well because my FIL is one of them!

- The pampered brats. These are like the beer uncles. Just much younger. People who have never had to do any housework or cleaning caused there is always the maid or parents to do it for them. These people think that there will always be somebody to do the little work for them so they do not flush the toilet, do not throw the tissue in the dustbin and generally leave a mess after using the toilet. They are the heck care and the can't be bothered! Somebody will clean up after them. These people are responsible for the filthy toilets at the fast food outlets, the parks and malls.

- Finally there is the hygiene freak! Yes people who are obsessed with cleanliness. Why do I say so? Cause they are so freaking clean and scare of germs that they will not touch the toilet flush so they do not flush the toilet. They will squat on the toilet bowl because God knows what is on the toilet seat. And they throw the used hand wipes on the floor because they dare not touch the dustbin cover. These people will even teach their children to pee and shit on the floor and not into the bowl because it is too dirty! I should know cos we used to have such a guy in the office and he would just leave the used tissue on the wash basin because the dustbin has a swing lid and he dare not touch it. He also wash his hands so vigorously that the water splashes all over creating a mess all over

Will we ever have clean public toilets in Singapore? Sure, just as long as we have a legion of foreign workers on standby 24/7 to clean up, like at the airport. Otherwise, hold your breathe, do it and don't leave a mess!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tew Chew Street Tew Chew Porridge

I loves to eat porridge and I have it for lunch almost like 3 times a week. This is one of my favourite Teochew porridge stall but also the one I frequent the least due to its distance from the office.

With a very unoriginal name, the name itself can tell of its origin. Tew Chew Street presumably is a street in old Chinatown where the Teochew stays. Anybody know which exact street is it? So anyway, this stall is now in Chinatown Smith Street Food Centre. To find it, you got to look hard because it is quite non-nondescript and dinky. There is only a small display case unlike the other normal Teochew porridge stall in say Geylang or Havelock Road with its long array of food.

But what it lacks in look and variety, it more than make up for with its very original porridge and fares. The porridge here is not the watery type. The rice grain are cooked till it is soggy but yet firm enough. It is almost sticky like glue. Apparently according to a newspaper report some time ago, only this stall cooks the porridge this way! The porridge are kept in an earthen pot and ladled out upon order. And this is absolutely the best porridge ever. 

Of the limited food available, there are the usual steamed yet kept until cold fish, fish cake, squid, cabbage, haebihiem(spicy dried shrimps0 and minced meat. Its specialities include the 3 layer meat but this is served not braised but steam/boiled with a generous helping of chincalok. It also has the black soya shark meat which is my absolute favourite. Oh and did I mention the pig trotter? 

There is usually a steady stream of customers, mostly old fogeyies like me, and the food sells out fast. Best to go before 12.30 pm to get to pick from more varieties. And yes, one final difference with the modern day Teochew porridge stall. It is cheap!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bukit Brown Cemetery 2

Bukit Brown has more than grave and tomb stones. In fact everywhere we walked, we can hear birds chirping away. There are beautiful flowers everywhere and plenty of insects. I managed to snap a few pictures although it sure was darned difficult to get a good close up without a macro lens.

Noni fruit

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bukit Brown Cemetery 1

Have been reading a lot in the papers about Bukit Brown Cemetery and its impending 'destruction' to make way for a road and private development. I guess even the dead cannot be left in peace in small little Singapore. Anyway, with the running curtailed for the time being, managed to find some time to go down (twice in fact) to see the place for myself.

First thing that we saw and which is one of the most recognised landmark of the place is the main gate. The gate is now permanently open. Look neglected and it evoked memories of those cemeteries in the Western movies. Luckily we were there in broad daylight. 

The Cemetery Gate. A little bit of effects to make it look its age
Once inside, I was surprised at the vastness of the place. Other than the many graves that dotted the whole left, on the left side of the road was a sprawling piece of forest. To many developers, this would definitely be prime real estate. No wonder the government is so eager to redevelop the place. After all, the  cemetery by itself is a unproductive place. Not only does it not generate income, the government has to incur cost to maintain the place, although from the look of the vegetation growing wild, they have obviously not been doing much! I can't imagine how much the gahmen will make if they slice up the place and sell it bit by bit to developers to build 'angmoh chue' instead of the current 'kwee chue'.
Just one view of the green

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CB Leave

A long long time ago, while I was serving NS, one fine day during a camouflage training session as a recruit,  the trainer shown us this plant and told us it is a no-no to use its leave as camouflage material.

I recognised its leaves as those that are used for wrapping nasi-lemak. But the instructor than proceeded to tell us the name of the plant: the CB plant! I am sure botanists are going to scratch their heads over the name. The people in the know will be able to identify it as Dillenia suffruticosa or by its common name Simpoh Air and definitely not a CB plant. What in the world is a CB plant? The trainer than proceeded to show us why it is called the CB plant:

This is a close up of one of the leave

Right at the base of the leave where the main stem meets the stalk there is a sort of gap:

 Press it open and this is what you get:

Errr get the picture now? No? Still don't get it? Do I really have to spell it out?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Johore Bahru Bau & Tim Sum

Almost all Singaporeans are familiar with the Malaysian's tim sum and especially their version of bao or pau. 

 So I was excited when I chanced upon this shop in Changi Village that proudly proclaimed "Johor Bahru Pau" one evening. Will it taste like those in Malaysia? As it was about 5pm in the afternoon, there were no customers in the shop but at that time I didn't feel like eating what to me is "breakfast" food. So I left it for another time which came just the week after.

A closer look at the various signages at the shop and it was rather promising.

There was the Amy Yip bau. Amy Yip or 葉子楣 for the uninitiated was an Hongkong Actress in the late eighties and early nineties who was more well known for her pau errr I mean bosom than her acting. So the pau are obviously named after a certain part of her anatomy.

Then there was a Chinese paper article with the famous Bruce Lee tucking into what presumably was from the parent shop in Malaysia?

So the pau and tim sum must be good? 3 of us sat down to eat. But I had these nagging feeling that something must be wrong. It was about 10am prime breakfast time and yet there was no other customer. The mainland Chinese manning the store seems very disinterested even when we were peering at the posters and ads. In the end, we ordered 1 Amy Yip pau, 1 tray of siew mai and 1 har kow just to try. When the sidekick bought back the food from the counter, I knew straightaway it was a dud . There were no proper fork for us, just toothpick and the chilli sauce were those packet type. Bad sign. True enough, the siew mai and har kow were too salty. The pau was too soft and the whole skin just gave way when we picked it up. Certainly it was nowhere close to the Johore Bahru pau that I tasted at those pit stops in Malaysia. And if I were to compare it with our own Gozilla or even the Red Star pau, this Amy Yipc could have been totally flattened by Gozilla!

No wonder the shop was empty both time I was there. At this rate, I think the next time I go back to the area, the shop should have close down by then. And good riddance to bad rubbish food.