Saturday, 26 April 2008

The Big Smoke and Kebab Automata

It is fairly well known now that in 2010 Singapore will open not one, but two casinos.

It had been my hope that they would follow the enlightened lead of New Zealand and ban smoking from their gaming floors but alas, in today's paper we learn that they have given into the tobacco lobby and smoking will be permitted.

No doubt the government were lobbied hard and told of 'dire consequences' of failing to attract gamblers if smoking was banned, as it is elsewhere in Singapore.

This supposition is a fallacy but it is one that casino management and the tobacco lobby trot out whenever possible.

The biggest casino in New Zealand (Sky City) started out as a smoking establishment and the environment was foul. A few years later NZ's smoke-free legislation saw smoking banned in pubs, clubs and casinos.

Did the casino business plummet as a result? No it did not. There was an initial dip but the profits soon rebounded.

So Singapore had a golden opportunity to promote public health and set up the 'integrated resorts' as completely smoke-free attractions right from the outset. It is a great pity that they passed on this opportunity and they will rue the day when it starts to impact on their health budget.

To use Genting's so-called 'segregated smoking' and non-smoking zones as an example to be followed is quite frankly a joke!

The same can be said for the Australian casinos which were also held up as good examples in the press, of how smoking and non-smoking could be segregated.

I can say from personal experience in Australia and in Genting that such a policy simply doesn't work. Passive smoking in these places makes life hell for non-smokers as they involuntary ingest second hand smoke.

There is still time for the Singapore government to revoke this smoking policy and I truly hope they do for the long term good of visitors and their citizenry.

I am an ex-smoker who gave up in the early 1980's so I know how addictive, selfish and pervasive the smoking habit is. It is quite literally a dying habit.

In a totally different vein we had a very good Yum Cha (dim sum) lunch at Xin Fu Yum Cha which is on the second floor of the International Building at 360 Orchard Road.

They had several old favourites such as Phoenix Claws (chicken's feet to the uninitiated) and glutinous rice which comes wrapped in a large leaf.

What made their fare standout was the quality of the cooking, the generosity of their fillings and piquancy of their sauces.

There were some new offerings to try such as the 'Goldfish Dumplings' (pictured). These were not actually filled with minced goldfish - they had a prawn filling.

Another small dumpling that was excellent was their vegetarian variety which was filled with roughly chopped vegetables. Another new favourite is their chicken and abalone bao (steamed bun).

I spent a few minutes in Basement 2 of the Takashemaya department store this afternoon being bemused by a clever (Japanese?) invention - the automated kebab machine. See the video below.

What will they think of next?

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