Monday, November 21, 2011

More ways to "Chope"

There has been so much discussion and debate about the uniquely Singaporean behavior of "chopping" seats at Food Court and Hawker Centres. "Chope" is a term used in Singapore to mean seat is taken, It is a simple, unwritten rule. Simple because you simply place a packet of tissue paper on the seat you want to reserve. I must say I've note done that. does that make me less Singapore, I wonder? Whenever a discussion is generated in Forums you get lots people expressing unhappiness about such encounter. I am of the view that the people who does that isn't selfish even if they appear to be so. I mean we all know how crowded the popular Food Courts are during peak hours, especially lunch time. Now if you don't do the "Chope" thing before you buy your food you'd be walking around or standing carrying your food tray for awhile. So this is an invention out of necessity. Nothing to be ashamed of. 

"Chope" is also used in the context of reserving something or booking the services of someone. One thing for sure is that when demand is more than supply the ugly Singaporean is likely to "Chope"!

Here is a funny video of a victim of "Choppin". No not in Singapore but a foreign country USA. Maybe some of us can learn a thing or two here. Enjoy!

Headache - Finding a Seat

Definition of “chope”

Friday, November 04, 2011

Home cooked Teochew Muay (rice porridge) lunch

Last Sunday we were invited by my elder sister to a home-cooked Teochew Muay (porridge) lunch at her place. What made her decide to host such an event was a call I made to her one day  to notify her during the airing of the TV program, Food Hometown 2 in which Chew Chor Meng 周初明, brought us from Singapore to China, 朝州,汕头,sampling and searching the origins of typical Teochew delicacy. Coincidentally another younger brother called her as well so that got her motivated. You see my elder sister Huang has been our family Sous-chef in our childhood days. She helped in the kitchen and learnt from our late paternal grandmother as well as our parents so she is an expert in many traditional Teochew dishes and Kueh (snacks). We grew up eating this comfort food for breakfast, accompanied by a lot of salty preserved dishes such as Salted Eggs, Fermented Toufu, Pickled Caixin, Pickled Mustard, Salted Fish. I guess the best compliment to the cook is the excitement and enthusiasm of the guests.

Ours is a big family of 10 siblings so she could only accommodate half the number which means about 15 guests altogether with the wives and kids tagging along. It came as a surprise that the kids (nieces and nephews) all acquired the taste for Teochew porridge as well. Most of us polished off at least 3 bowls of porridge. It was a really satisfying meal with family members.

The dishes brought back lots of happy childhood memories. Each dish connects us emotionally to the past with a story to tell. We relished the almost forgotten Pork Belly fried in Hay Bi Hiam (Chilli Dried Shrimp) and the Koo Chye (Chives) Omelette. These you rarely see them in the eateries. And there was the Salted Black Olive - something I've never touched for a long long time. It was the saltiest thing on earth.

Hay Bi Hiam
Koo Chye Omelette
Fried Garlic Chicken

We had Steamed Pek Tor (rabbit fish), Chinese Sausage, Stir Fried Sambal Long Beans, Stir Fried Cabbage, Steamed Fish Cake, Braised Pork with Taukua and Hard Boiled Egg. It seems nowadays you don't have to wait till Chinese New Year to get your hands on Pek Tor because it is being reared in fish farms. My sister specially included Fried Garlic Chicken for me even though this is NOT typical Teochew porridge fare, knowing it is one of my favourite. Not forgetting the all important condiments Vinegar Garlic Chilli sauce and Taucheo (fermented bean sauce). The porridge was of course cooked to perfection, the way it should be, not overcooked and with just the right amount of water in it.

Steamed Pek Tor (rabbit fish)
Stir Fried Sambal Long Beans
Stir Fried Cabbage
Braised Pork with Taukua

Some dishes we remembered from the old days with fondness were Cuttlefish (thinly shredded) Omelette, Prawn & Potato in Tomato Sauce, Starchy Green Peas with diced Chicken. CaiPo Omelette is one but it is very common.

Happy faces. The cook is 3rd from right.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Old Singapore Airlines (SIA) TV commercial

SIA Stewardesses - "Singapore Girl" (credit: Wikipedia)
An early TV advertisement of Singapore Airlines (SIA) shot to promote its tag line Singapore Girl - 'A Great Way To Fly'. Singapore Girl was coined in 1972 when Pierre Balmain, a French haute couture designer, was hired by Singapore Airlines to construct and update the Malay "Sarong Kebaya" as part of the cabin crew's uniform. Since then, the uniform has gained worldwide recognition as part of SIA's recognizable signature branding. Stewardesses dressed in the distinctive "Sarong Kebaya" SIA uniform remains a prominent element of SIA's marketing. Scenes shot at Colleyer Quay, Boat Quay, Paya Lebar Airport, Orchard Road.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A visit to the railway tracks

Following an agreement between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore last year, railway operations at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station ceased from 1 July 2011. KTM's (Keretapi Tanah Melayu) southern terminus will be relocated to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint. Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was also called Keppel Road Railway Station or Singapore Railway Station.

Tanjong Pagar railway station was completed on 3 May 1932 and officially opened by Sir Cecil Clementi. I have lived in Clementi the last 30 years and I wonder if Clementi Road was named after him. The four marble statues at the exterior of the building represents the four pillars of the Malayan and Singapore economy - Agriculture, Commerce, Transport and Industry, with the initials FMSR (Federated Malay States Railways). 

The past month, particularly on weekends I've seen Singaporeans from all walks of life hiking along the Railway tracks. Groups of people were seen along the tracks at Stagmont Ring, near Hillview, Rail Mall and Bukit Timah Station near King Albert Park. Many articles have appeared on the newspaper and blogs, with many calling on the government to conserve the railway line. A group -“We support the Green Corridor”was formed by conservationists and nature experts to promote awareness in this respect. The stretches of lush greenery with it's fauna and flora provides a invaluable recreational space within our concrete jungle. The retention of the structures could serve as a reminder of our historical link with Malaysia.

I have missed the train so to speak but I told myself to at least join the bandwagon to experience the railway tracks and blog about it. What better way to have such an outing than to have canine companions. Two weeks ago I made the long overdue trip to the Bukit Timah Station. It is heart warming to see three generation families among the crowd of shutter bugs, nature lover and others there just out of inquisitiveness.

Three generation family

Bukit Timah Station

The doggies stole the show.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

3 Dimensional Printer

This is definitely the most revolutionary product I have ever seen - a 3 Dimensional Printer. Most printers will print things in two dimensions. A 3 dimensional printer will take that into the third dimension and make it into something you can hold in your hand.  It is sure to alter the way you think. The parameters of possibility have just overstepped the mark. 
3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. It is generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. 3D printers offer product developers the ability to print parts and assemblies made of several materials with different mechanical and physical properties in a single build process. Advanced 3D printing technologies yield models that can serve as product prototypes.

Things you can make with a 3D Printer

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ukulele music

Ever since I came across this Youtube video sometime last year of a cute little Japanese kid playing the Ukulele I have wished that one day soon I'll take up Ukulele lessons. In fact you could say I fell in love with the Ukulele when the song "Somewhere over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo 'ole was a hit some years back. It sounded so nice. I Recently I noticed a photo of my old friend Gerard posing with a Ukulele on Facebook. This was followed by a series of events which triggered in me a greater urgency to follow this through. My friend Carl Homan from Oregon USA was in town early this year. Somehow he popped into Ukulele Movement (UM), a shop which specializes in Ukulele, while touring little India and chatted with one of the partners of the shop Ms Glyn. He is a really friendly and talkative guy. He'll strike up a l-o-n-g conversation with any stranger in the street in an instance. He came to visit me after that and told me about the Ukulele shop. I Googled on the subject of Ukulele in Singapore and found a number of people teaching this musical instrument. I thought I should seek advice from someone who have some experience so I asked Gerard. He recommended UM as their lessons are more structured. I checked UM's and other websites and found out that Ukulele courses were really popular. Most classes are fully booked and there's an average waiting time of about a month or more. Yesterday Gerard forwarded me a newsletter from Ukulele Movement about forthcoming workshops in June. There were Sunday sessions and that's perfect for me because weekdays are almost impossible. This is a 2 hours workshop. Having learned to strum the guitar when I was young I hope it won't be too difficult. I am really excited and looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Gem among election candidates

By now I am sure most of us would have come to know the name Nicole Seah, a young 24 year old candidate of the National Solidarity Party standing for the election in Marine Parade GRC up against PAP team led by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. She is now the second most popular Singapore politician online after Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. To date she had amassed close to 31000 fans. I am not going to compare her with PAP candidate Ting Pei Ling as many have done online. I simply think she is a Gem among all the election candidates. In my younger days I used to listen in awe the speeches made by Minister Mentor, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Never would I have thought being moved in the same way listening to a young girl her age. No one would think that she's just another pretty face. I am so very impressed with her sincerity, maturity and conviction in this undertaking. She handles reporter's question like a seasoned politician. Her parents are so blessed to have a daughter like her. They ought to be proud and so too Singapore.

All the best Nicole and may God bless you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chinese Magic

We are all familiar with Magic from the west and the form of magic from th likes of magicians (sometimes called illusionists) like Houdini, David Copperfield and many others. We often refer to magic as 'the hand is faster than the eye'. In reality the hand is not really faster than the eye. The skilled magician draws the audience attention to where he wants it at a specific instant. The success of magic lies in the ability to create illusions that have the appearance of reality.

Chinese magicians ares really a class of it's own. In this magic show performance which was part of the Lunar New Year Show 2011, you see this incredible feat of commanding gold fish in a tank to swim in formation. Later a painting of gold fish is transform to live ones. You watch before your very eyes the fishes swimming from the painting into a fish tank and come alive. This is done without the usual suspicious props. It's miraculous!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Stranded tsunami dog rescued in Japan

Another story that will touch your heart. A canine survivor of the Japan Tsunami. A dog stranded at sea for three weeks being rescued by Japanese coast guard and American rescue team. The dog was found about a mile off shore among a huge pile of floating debris in the north of Japan, Katsunuma prefacture.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Yesterday evening as I was driving out of the Church of the Risen Christ in Toa Payoh after Sunday mass I witnessed a rainbow in the sky across the road. It's not everyday that one gets to see a rainbow and it's been awhile since I last saw one. I took out my nifty mobile phone, the Sony Vivaz which have a 8MP camera in it and took a picture, a rare capture. This is the first time I've ever taken a rainbow picture. Too bad I couldn't stop to take a better full arch one because I was in a queue of moving vehicle leaving the church. I noticed a number of parishioners too whipping out their mobile phone and snapping away with great excitement.

Picture taken by me.

I've heard it many times that seeing a rainbow is good luck or something good is coming your way so I did a little research. The rainbow symbolises good news, hope, redemption and the ending of gloom. The rainbow is a bridge between heaven and earth, between your earthly self and your higher enlightened self. The gypsies believe that to dream of a brightly coloured rainbow means a happy change is coming. Whatever it is I hope that there are some truth to it.

Picture Credit: Jerome Lim

This rainbow seemed quite a 'big' one so it came as little surprise to me that a number of people have also witnessed it. One of my friend said he saw it too. On Facebook Jerome Lim posted the above shot, beautifully taken. Jerome is the winner of the Best Individual Blog 2010 Runner-Up (2nd Runner-up) - Singapore Blog Awards 2010. His blogs are filled with gorgeous photos.

Photo credit: Facebook group YourSingapore.

Another photo of the same rainbow posted on Facebook group YourSingapore.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

I am saddened to receive news that the holywood actress Elizabeth Taylor has died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 79. A woman of great beauty she is remembered by many of us for her movie role as Cleopatra and her colourful private life, which saw her married eight times to seven different men. She won two Best Actress Oscars over the course of her career. She was married to Richard Burton twice, and often referred to him as the love of her life. Elizabeth will reportedly be buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, next to her mother and father. RIP Elizabeth Taylor  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Japan Tsunami Dog

The recent tsunami on March 11, 2011 in Japan claimed the lives of thousands of people. Animals were not spared. A news team found a wet, muddied and seemingly shivering dog in the Arahama area of Sendai, Japan. The dog ran toward the cameraman to investigate when they approach. After that he returned to an injured fellow canine, lying among the debris caused by the earthquake and tsunami. It's another amazing animal story. We have all heard stories of dogs coming to the aid of humans in distress. Here we have a dog standing guard over his injured pal. This act of empathy by one dog to another of their own kind is really touching.

We are in Arahama area. Looks like there is a dog. There is a dog. He looks tired and dirty. He must have been caught in the tsunami. He looks very dirty.

He has a collar. He must be someone's pet. He has a silver collar. He is shaking. He seems very afraid.

Oh, there is another dog. I wonder if he is dead.


Right there. There is another dog right next to the one sitting down. He is not moving. I wonder. I wonder if he is alright.

The dog is protecting him.

Yes. He is protecting the dog. That is why he did not want us to approach them. He was trying to keep us at bay.

I can't watch this. This is a very difficult to watch.

Oh. Look. He is moving. He is alive. I am so happy to see that he is alive.

Yes! Yes! He is alive.

He looks to be weakened. We need to them to be rescued soon. We really want them rescued soon.

Oh good. He's getting up.

It is amazing how they survived the tremendous earthquake and tsunami. It's just amazing that they survived through this all.

According to the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support Facebook page, both dogs were rescued and are doing well.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monkeys business


I spotted a family of Macaques Monkeys at Hua Guan Avenue recently. As monkeys do, family members preening each other. Besides the business of preening each other adults mate rather freely.  I recall from my visits to Botanic Garden as a child witnessing with some degree of embarassment the mating of these primates. They are totally uninhibited nor disturbed by the presence of other monkey families or humans in the park.

There are a few popular places that Singaporean Chinese visited during Chinese New Year in the 50's and 60's; Botanic Gardens is one of them. You can buy peanuts form hawkers at the entrance to feed the monkeys. As the years goes by the monkey population increased and became aggressive. In the 70's they had to be culled after a number of reported attacks on visitors, reducing the population to a very small number.

In the year 1971 two monkeys were found dying on the roadside outside the Botanic Gardens in Tyersall Avenue. The monkey are believe to have been fed with poisoned bananas. This was most likely the work of an individual with a grudge against the animal because the authorities would not have used poison to eliminate them. I remember news reports of pallet gun being used.

Credit: National Archive of Singapore - PICAS

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What you see is NOT always what you get

Yum yum, feeling hungry already? Now I am not asking which of these two photos of Grilled Salmon looks more inviting nor which photo is better taken. I happened to have dinner at Banquet Food Court at IMM yesterday evening. The first picture (top) is what I see on the menu and the picture on the bottom is what is served. I am sure many of us have experienced this one time or another; the food served appears quite different from what you have ordered (based on the picture on the menu). This really irks me. In this case I was motivated to order this dish because of the vegetable that goes with it - French Beans and Carrots. As you can see what I get is Coleslaw. I did request that French Fries be excluded and I like me greens, so I usually politely ask to have more vegetables in place of the French Fries if possible. The counter girl only explain that they do not serve French Beans and Carrots after I remarked that the vegetables aren't the same as shown on the menu. I really feel that whatever the excuse, the stall holder should at least make known beforehand any deviation from what was advertised. Adding insult to injury, the piece of fish is so thin, very unlike the one on the menu. 
To be fair the Salmon was well prepared and the price was fair.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Another Hawker Centre to go down in history

A group of 20 artists -Urban Sketchers Singapore, formed in 2008 got together last month to draw the Margaret Drive Hawker Centre before it's torn down for redevelopment at the end of this month.
Keeping Margaret Drive hawker centre alive - through sketches

Similarly, I've made a couple of visits to this hawker centre this last month to revisit some my old familiar favourite hawker food stalls. It's been years since I last step into Margaret Drive Hawker Centre. Also to take some pictures for remembrance.

My all time favourite is the Chicken Rice stall Sin Kee on the 2nd level. I was a chicken rice fanatic (still like it very much but not fanatical anymore) and I would say this is one of the better chicken rice around. When it comes to food I reckon a simple test to see how good it is would be literally eat more than you can stomach it. I'll usually finish off at least two plates of rice. For me  good chicken has to have all the components right. The Chicken should be tender and smooth flavoured with a well blended sauce - salty, sweet with the fragrant smell of sesame oil . I like my Rice not too oily and more fluffy. It's frustrating and disappointing whenever I go to a Zhih Char stall that serves great food but provides rice that are not fully cooked or are too dry. The Chilly needs to be at least 'hot' enough and not too liquefied. And not forgetting the Garlic paste. I don't remember the thick Black Sauce being part of the package in the old days but I've come to like it. Sin Kee got it all right!

 I like the Fried Kway Teow, the Teochew Fish Ball Noodle and the Western Food. The Fried Kway Teow stall was one of those that usually have a long queue. I used to order Ox Tail Soup with my  main dish at the Western Food stall.  As for the Teochew Fish Ball Noodle stall, the soup is so clear that you may not think it can taste special but it taste good. According to Mrs Kuak her husband worked as a hawker assistant  since 13 year old. They operated this stall at Margaret Drive for more than 40 years. They'll relocate to Blk 159 Mei Chin Road. I understand the last day of operation is 27th February 2011 so if you'd like to pay one last visit to the hawkers there please do so.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year of the Rabitt 恭喜發財

My pet African Grey Parrot WeiWei wishing one and all Kong Xi Fa Cai 恭喜發財 (Happy and Prosperous New Year in Mandarin).

Story of my previous African Grey Parrot PEPPY 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Resident Heron at West Coast Park

I have spotted this Grey Heron at the pond in West Coast Park on many occasions when I am there to meet my students (dog training) at the nearby dog run. It seems this Heron have made this place his home. The pond is heavily populated with fish, like Telapias and Carps. Smart bird this one. Meals are always ready right there when it needs to eat.

This place actually makes an ideal place for a family picnic. There are lots of nature to explore - plants, insects, birds and fish.Children will get a kick out of feeding the fishes in the pond. Often you'll see people playing with their remote controlled motor boats on Sundays or Public Holidays. And for dog owners the dog run is really a blessing for our beloved canine companions. Parking is not a problem. For those who are unfamiliar with West Coast Park, this is not where the McDonald's restaurant is situated. It's closer to the wholesale center. Turn left if you are coming down Clementi Road.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kung Fu bear

We've seen the cartoon movie Kung Fu Panda. Now in real life an incredible Kung Fu bear named Kumo (Cloud) from a Japanese Zoo. Cute. Enjoy! Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen watch out!