Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The shrine that travels from Zheng Hua to Jurong

The Jin Fu Gong is vast, with two huge courts for sports.
So thrilled to see a live chicken, even
though it's in a cage and not roaming
around in a kampung.
The chicken in the cage reminded me so much of the wet markets of my childhood. I have not seen a live chicken for a very long time. 

I wonder what a lone chicken is doing here in this temple called the Jin Fu Gong (Jurong West). For the next offering, I guess. 

Anyway, this temple had its origins in a shrine that was rather far away from the temple's current premises -- at Zheng Hua Village (Bukit Panjang). 

In the 1960s, residents of this village found a statue of Tua Pek Kong and a shrine was erected round it, known as Kim Hock Keng (Jin Fu Gong) -- Golden Luck Temple. It was known for its well -- people drinking its water were said to be cured of their cough. With development in the 1990s, the temple was re-sited in Jurong West.

In looking up the temple's origins, I came across this blog which described Zheng Hua Village so well, with such interesting anecdotes and lots of old pictures: Diary of a Singaporean Cabby. The author also described the wet market there -- which made me think of the chicken I saw at the temple.

Today, the Jin Fu Gong's main deity is still Tua Pek Kong. Other deities there include Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin), God of War (Guan Di), Goddess of the Sea (Mazu), Tiger God and Datuk Kong. 

Jin Fu Gong was originally a Tua Pek Kong shrine in Zheng Hua Village (Bukit Panjang).
Several "dragon" pillars offer firm support for the temple. 
Wall reliefs that tell of tales from The Three Kingdoms and more. 
Signboard at the temple appealing for donation to erect a new eco-friendly burner.
A lovely carp pond also graces the temple's compound. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Hooked on a little shop of wonders

Some useful hooks and stuff which I got from a provision shop in Jurong West.

Big glass jars with metal lids containing all sorts
of biscuits. You can still find them today
at some provision shops.
I can spend hours in a provision shop, pouring over their goods and visualising what I can do with some of them. The bigger shops combine hardware with sundry goods -- which is great. So you wander around the shop, from Brands essence of chicken, dish washing liquids to pots and pans and then to one of my favourites -- various kinds of hooks for hanging various things. These days, there are hooks and hooks.

But thank goodness, provision shops don't try too hard to keep up with the times. They play songs you can tap your feet to -- like Sukiyaki -- though most of them have cash counters and even Nets service.

But I know of at least one which still uses a rusty can and pulley, operating in the heart of a HDB estate. The boss insists that this relic be used instead of the cash register. Probably in his late 70s, he has a full crop of white hair. Hale and hearty, you can see him almost every day, fanning himself and seated on a wooden crate while his two daughters managed the shop. His wife occasionally emerged to help out.

Did you catch "The Provision Shop" on channel 8 last Sunday? I think the idea is great -- with the provision shop and the characters reflecting a rapidly changing Singapore. Indeed, the provision shop is one of the last icons in retail (and service) with the "personal touch". (I once borrowed a ladder from them.)

The telemovie's centrepiece (for me) was the honest look into the relationship between a Singaporean and a foreign worker -- and the rapport and understanding that came too late.

Overall though, I think the storyline is a little contrived and doesn't capture my attention as much as the interviews given by Royston Tan. He is a great storyteller and very captivating -- like when he talked about his childhood at his family's provision shop in Lorong Chuan -- and when he talked about his philosophy in film making. I love the props (some he had saved from those days) -- tikum-tikum, packets of snacks (are they still edible?), etc.

Wonder if he kept some of those tubes of gel that came with a small straw? You press the gel (which came in many wonderful colours) into a ball shape at one end of the straw. You blow from the other end and voila, the gel grows into a balloon. (Alas, to the disappointment of many kids, the balloons being transparent were not as colourful as the gel.)

Perhaps I'll find them at Rosyth Road, the provision shop where the filming took place.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

5-min dessert

I have always liked oats. Mum used to make oat porridge for us when we were sick. Those days, there were no quick cooking oats and she had to boil the oats for a long, long time. Then when it began to thicken, she added a bit of condensed milk, and beat in an egg.

Recently, I got some quick cooking oats. It thickens within 2 minutes when the water boils. Add a bit of coconut cream, then sprinkle brown sugar on top. Let the sugar melt a little before eating. Baristas can try making a pattern on top like they do with coffee :)

Monday, 4 July 2016

Chubby Chick

Isn't it cute? Meet my first egg cup, Chubby Chick. Cost me only $8 as it was the only one left on the shelves. And its beak (if you look closely at the picture) is a little chipped. Original price was $15.

I've never owned an egg cup in my life. When I was a kid, I would have my soft-boiled egg perched on a whisky glass. As the whisky glass was really tiny, the egg yolk would run over. I hated that.

The glasses, if I may add, had never been used by anyone for whisky or brandy except our "ancestors". Two such glasses were filled with a shot and offered to our ancestors on the eve of Chinese New Year -- together with a whole cooked chicken that would have a sprig of pine leaves (from the tree in our garden) in its beak.

Ye olde book shop, the best

The old MPH building at Stamford Road, now occupied by SMU Labs. Pic: June 2016.
There will never be another book store like MPH -- the old one at Stamford Road. Although there is Kinokuniya and bygone ones like Towers and later Borders. But nothing beats the old MPH with its heavy glass and wooden swing doors, a staircase with smooth wooden banisters that led up to the cafe. On a hot or rainy afternoon, you could take refuge in this cafe (I think it was called the Books Cafe) -- huddled up with a book you have just bought -- and a sandwich or some potato chips and a Coke. A bonus if you had a seat by the window. There was no place that could cheer me up as much as the old MPH.

Passed by recently and was reminded of happy days spent at this place. The last 'event' for me there before it closed was meeting a former colleague from long ago -- by chance -- drinking coffee with his wife. He hopped to my table -- a very earnest young journalist turned teacher. Not sure whether he is still teaching today though.

There used to be a branch at Parkway Parade which I visited everyday during lunch when I was working at the old Marine Parade library, eons ago in the 80s. While still enjoyable, it had a very different feel from the old MPH, But of course.

'Over the hill' ride at Chun Tin

I don't seem to be able to wind up my tale on Beauty World. Anyway, I think this would be the last on the area -- for a while. I just want to share this 'thrilling' ride I've got on the escalator at the MRT station. You see the tilted building in the picture? The escalator (actually a travelator) follows the slope up to the 'apex' and then downwards -- spitting you out at the exit at Chun Tin Road.
I have never ridden on a travelator like that. For elderly folk, it may be wise to hold on to the railing as you near the 'peak'. 

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Chun Tin spiral -- and toothy tales

Here's a lovely spiral staircase that leads up to a roof garden, belonging to the corner unit at Chun Tin Road. The road was named after a dentist, Cheong Chun Tin. He was the first qualified* Chinese dentist (born in Hong Kong) to have settled in Singapore. Educated in the States, he opened a dental practice at South Bridge Road. He had two sons -- also dentists -- running the Cheong Bros dental clinic.  Cheong Chin Nam also had a street named after him in the vicinity.
Somehow, couldn't find a Chin Heng Road or Street in Singapore. But the brother, Cheong Nam,  was more than a dentist. He was a land owner, rubber plantation owner and merchant (according to Singapore Street Names by Drs Victor Savage and Brenda Yeoh).
Just some trivial: A corner unit at Chun Tin Road was selling for $2m -- in 2014. A terraced house in the vicinity, for about $3 m. It should be very cool to stay in the area -- with the new Beauty World MRT station just completed -- and interesting eateries and shops nearby.
BTW, Pearlie White, the only Singapore brand toothpaste, is a family heritage dating back to 1869 when Dr Cheong Chun Tin started operations in Singapore. He didn't leave his heart in San Francisco and came to Singapore after obtaining his dentistry qualifications there. 

*Another BTW, there used to be "unqualified" Chinese dentists in Singapore. My friend used to tell me about one who operated on the upper floor of a shophouse along 6th mile, Upper Serangoon Road. He used a thread, she said, looped it round your ailing tooth and pulled.

Great treat on a rainy day

Tau sar piah from Poh Guan Cake Shop, Upper Cross Street, with very moist fillings. As you may have noticed, Mao Mao  (topmost in pic) already has its nose on the cakes before I did. Pic: 2 July 2016.
I don't know why, but I usually walked past this shop at Hong Lim Complex, looking at all its wares but somehow never got down to buying any. But it was raining after my bak kut teh lunch nearby, and I was still hungry. So I thought I should buy my favourite tau sar piah from the shop, Poh Guan Cake Shop, eat it quietly under a shelter, and watch the goings-on (which weren't too many) at my favourite watch shop (probably a very old establishment as well -- a small shop which only charges $5 for changing your watch battery). Oh yes, Poh Guan Cake Shop is rather old -- opened in 1930 making simple Hokkien goodies like peanut candy. Now, it has the widest variety of traditional kueh-kuehs in Singapore. OK, I may be overstating...  but it does look like it has a lot, from the simple steamed brown cakes to sticky flour nuggets called sak ke ma (Cantonese).