Tuesday, 13 November 2018


Singer, actor, entrepreneur...Chef  Nic. His kitchen is one of the most delightful places on earth. Creativity and re-engineering is the name of his game. His determination though, must be the biggest factor. 
WHEN watching Chef Nic on YouTube, I always look forward to hearing Nicholas Tse's "service!" as yet another dish in his kitchen is ready to roll.

No other chefs I know (in cooking shows which I have watched) say this with such an air of confidence and authority -- even the way he slams the service bell -- is unique.

I am talking about the son of Hong Kong star Patrick Tse, who has his own cook shows. I am a great fan of the father and watched all his movies on YouTube. Now in his 80s, he still holds his charms. But I must say his son absolutely beats him in this department, and I guess in many other departments as well.

It's such a pity that McDonald's doesn't sell his designer burgers here. And one can't find Chef Nic's packet noodles here as well, alas! And worst of all, one can't find his cooking shows on TV here except on YouTube -- and most of those are bits and pieces -- precious excerpts :(

But still, am so glad the kind folks uploaded them. An interesting aspects of the series is the Chef taking his celebrity guests through a gamut of experiences all over the world weathering sun, snow, slush, rain -- the works.  Too bad, Nicholas' Chinese name being Ting Fung (which in Cantonese sounds like "stop wind") -- sun, rain or snow is outside his jurisdiction -- as he used to joke in the shows.

A sense of humour, a very important ingredient too. Cheers, Chef!

My earlier post on the father: https://bitspiece.blogspot.com/2015/06/something-about-patrick-tse.html

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Pearl of a hill

On a cool evening, it may be very nice to sit here and watch the home bound traffic below. In days of yore,  you might perhaps be able to see the Chinese Pauper Hospital (which was moved to Balestier and became Tan Tock Seng Hospital), the Seamen's Hospital which moved to Kendang Kerbau -- and Outram Prison which wasn't demolished till the late 1960s to make way for Outram Park which was in turn pulled down, along with the char kway teow stall that everyone loved. 
Pearl's Hill is one hill I have never climbed until recently. I have climbed almost all the hills in Singapore, from Bukit Batok, Bukit Timah to Mt Faber -- but I have never been to Pearl's.

It was not at all difficult, a mere 147 ft. (It used to be higher but the top was sliced off with the help of Chinese coolies because there was fear that the enemies might attack Fort Canning from Pearl's Hill as it overlooked the fort). So, all it needed was plain walking. I took the path from where the old Police HQ used to be in Chinatown.

I was almost at the top when a strange figure in the distance grabbed my attention. He seemed to be doing some kind of strange exercise which reminded me of the gait of a dang-ki (Chinese temple medium) -- swaying from side to side. This guy was in exercise gear and even had a Good Morning towel round his neck -- so I thought he was probably practising some newfangled walking exercise.

Then he stopped and definitely did a Monkey God pose -- I have seen many mediums doing this when they were seemingly possessed by this deity. I quickly side stepped to let him pass and he proceeded to sway peacefully on his way.

Maybe it was indeed a new form of workout. These days who knows.

This is the path that leads to the top where the Pearl's Hill reservoir still provides water to Chinatown.  
Anyway, just a bit of background on Pearl's Hill. It was owned by Captain James Pearl, commander of Indiana, the ship which carried Raffles to Singapore. In honour of Raffles, Captain Pearl named the hill Mount Stamford. But Captain Pearl decided to name the hill after himself when Raffles got upset with him for acquiring the hill without his consent.

Just as well, as Pearl's Hill sounds rather nice -- there are so many things in Singapore already named after Raffles.

 Preservation is apparently not on the cards for Pearl's Apartments -- probably reduced to rubble soon as a new project is slated to take their place at the foot of Pearl's Hill in 2019. Picture taken from Keong Saik Road, August 2018. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple, a vastly popular temple for all races and tourists, is in the foreground.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Who's that elephant running along the corridor?

This was what my primary school looked like. Schools are no longer built like this. Signboard pointing to this building says MOE Adventure Training School but it doesn't look like this building is in use.
 Picture taken out of a bus window.
(May 2018).

MY old primary school, Serangoon Garden South School looks pretty much like this -- three storeys with nice long corridors for running up and down when waiting for the bell to ring. Teachers would pop their heads out of the saloon doors to ask who was that elephant outside? (The doors were made of wood and painted a light blue -- and yes, they did swing.)

And on the top floor, right at the end of the corridor, was Nature Corner. The most exciting thing here was a snake in a bottle. There were some dried up insects of course. But the snake in its murky bath was what we always wanted to see when we ran up to Nature Corner.

The canteen was on one end of the ground floor with long wooden benches for seats and long tables with tops protected by metal sheets for easy cleaning. My favourite food was a small bowl of fish ball noodles (plump yellow ones) laced in ketchup, with a small bowl of soup on the side. 

My other favourite food was mee siam -- the dry sort with very little gravy -- sold by an Indian who was so skinny that they said he was actually lifted up from the floor a few inches when strong wind blew.

Another favourite food was ice popsicles. After you finished it, you could use the stick to draw patterns on the sand patch near the canteen. This small patch was not intended as a play area. Somehow no grass was able to grow here -- so it became a sandy patch. But it was great for playing tit tat toe using ice cream sticks to draw the notch and crosses.

A grass field separated Serangoon Garden South School from Serangoon Garden North School. There was some invisible division I think. It was a thrill to cross this "line" -- as there were talks that if you were caught "on the other side" you would be hauled off to the principal of the "other side" and then you "will gena".

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The egg beater

In the process of making a souffle pancake. You have to whisk the egg white till peaks form, i.e. when you turn the bowl over your head, nothing drips.
BACK in the days of my childhood, the "tock-tock-tock" sound of pounding chili and belacan was not all that common. At least not in my household. It was more the sound of "flop-flop-flop" -- that of the spring egg whisk working very hard.

My mum was into making cakes. We weren't always that successful. Our old oven was not able to heat up evenly. Often, you get only one side of the cake well risen. You had to open the oven door after a while to turn the cake around so that the other side would rise as well. This needed precise timing. Too early, the cake would just sink when you open the oven door.

More often than not, our cakes were lop sided. Cakes which never rose also happened once in a while. These were fed to the stray skinny black dog which foraged our dustbin regularly. He always lapped them down with great gusto.

I was the chief egg beater, a task I enjoyed very much. The whisk we had was a giant one with a huge spring and red wooden handle. You flop it up and down on the eggs and sugar mixture till they are white in colour and quite firm in texture. Then you sieve in the flour and melted butter.

These days, it is rather hard to find such a whisk. More common are the ones shown in the picture. Most people use the electric egg beater of course, which gets your egg whites to peak within minutes. 

But I don't own one and much prefer to hand whisk -- preferably one with a huge spring and red wooden handle.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

House on Mt Faber slope

Anyone home? One of the two "mysterious" bungalows I see on my left each time I clamber up Marang trail.
I always stop to see whether there's any thing happening inside or around this house when I  clamber up Marang trail. Anyway, it's always time to take a breather after climbing all those steps. (According to a write up I found online, Marang trail which leads up to Mt Faber, is about seven storeys high. So this spot here must be about four storeys high  according to my own estimation).

But each time, I saw absolutely nothing, no matter how hard I peered. No one hanging out the laundry or such homely acts. Except for once when I saw a very busy grass cutter clearing the lawn in front of the house.

Much of the view of the house was obstructed by trees, being nestled on a slope of Mt Faber. There's another house lower down the slope but it is even more hidden by the thick foliage.

I wonder how the occupants (if any) go in and out of these houses. Surely, they didn't have to bash through all those undergrowth each time they want to go to the market.

Recently I seemed to see something being constructed though I couldn't really decipher what in the world it was. And today, I saw the construction was done and it seemed to me to be a little bridge! Can't be sure though.

More updates next time I go up Marang :)

Map showing Marang trail and Mt Faber Park. The "You Are Here" spot is near where my blogger friend, Streetsing emerged from his "Keppel Hill lost reservoir" trek once. 
Just a little note on the first time I heard about Marang trail: A former colleague, just before he resigned, when asked what he was going to do, said he was going to smell some roses first. One of the things he would do was to explore Marang. There are so many things to do in Singapore, he says. No need to travel out of the country. Time flies. That was 12 years ago? 

Of course, one does not have to resign or retire before one goes on this little trip. On weekends, tonnes of people scramble up. It is a wonder the trail doesn't get eroded down to five storeys.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Desker's gable

Gable at Desker Road. Pic taken 4 Jan 2018.

I haven't been gable hunting for some time in Singapore. But recently I came across this nice one at Desker Road. See, it has a nice design on the side. The steep knob at the tip of the gable suggested wood element or water element.

In Chinese architecture, the five different shapes of gable ends denote the five elements: wood, fire, metal, water and earth. (Reference: Handy Guide for Appreciating Chinese Architecture). Apparently, different gable ends were employed to counter the adversity of the land which the houses were seated on.

The region around Desker Road was once swampland, so the wood element depicted by the gable ends may be used to counter the earth element. (Purely conjecture on my part!)

Desker Road, with its rich history, was named after a butcher, Andre Filipe Desker, a resident in the area who opened Singapore's largest butchery during the 1860s. BTW, I have great respect for butchers since I was a kid when I trotted to market with mum. The butcher with his blood-splatted white singlet rolled up to his rounded belly, would nearly always slip a bonus piece of pork into the the lot that mum wanted, quietly wrapping them up with newspaper. (Many a times, I would be sent back to the market with the "bonus" as mum insisted that we need to return it to the dear old butcher.)

Anyway, back to the story of this Desker Road butcher -- he was from Malacca, married in Singapore and eventually had 13 children. He was known for his generous donations to schools and churches.

Old Gables Again: http://bitspiece.blogspot.sg/2015/06/old-gables-again-along-havelock.html

Old Gables: http://bitspiece.blogspot.sg/2014/06/old-gables.html