Friday, 10 April 2009

Spam Print .............................................................. Roger Smith

It's Good Friday, the weather is hot and humid and we have just returned from a lunch at Redhill market - satay bee hoon from the best purveyor of this fine cuisine in Singapore. There are some who claim that a stall on the East Coast is better, but for my money Redhill is best and it is only one stop down the MRT line from where we live.

On the subject of food (is there any other subject in Singapore?), not such good news regarding the deaths of two people and the hospitalisation of nearly 150 others from food poisoning at a hawkers stall.

The Indian Rojak stall at the Geylang Temporary Market was the offender and from the accounts coming out in the media the hygiene standards in the market have been simply appalling - surely an indictment on the levels of supervision from the inspectors who are meant to be monitoring these eateries.

According to the Straits Times it is the Vibro parahaemolyticus bacteria caused by the cross-contamination of rojak and raw seafood ingredients that caused the outbreak. It probably does not help that the market is also rat infested - 51 caught in just one night.

Speaking personally, I will not eat from any Indian hawker stalls, based on my observations of their food handling (and I mean handling) and the upset stomachs that result. Most Chinese stalls have reasonable standards as do the Malay, although in the case of the latter I have had a bad dose of "Delhi Belly" during my time here from eating at a Malay stall.

Even the Health Minister has come out and bewailed the deteriorating standards in Singapore, although this belated commentary will be of little comfort to the families who suffered and are continuing to suffer from this food poisoning outbreak.

It goes without saying that we have never had any such problems with the Redhill satay bee hoon stall.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Singapore, Crossroads of the East

This clip is from the Travel Film Archive and shows Singapore before the Japanese occupation.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Black Sands

And so he said
shall I
upon a summers night
in Waitara town
walk upon the black sands

cool to the toe
shuffling underneath to feel
the tuatua burrowing away
from the advancing tide

the bleached white ewe skulls
emerging above high water mark
brought down by rivers flow
scattered amongst driftwood
their upward arms towards a menacing sky

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Could this be Singapore's Most Miserable Meal?

If you are thinking of eating Malay food at the padang stall in the basement foodcourt of Tanglin Mall - forget it!

The 'meal' above cost $4.50 and consisted of a mini bowl of rice and one small cube of beef rendang. So miserly was the meat portion that the vendor lent over and teased it out with a fork so it covered more of the platter.

No gravy was forthcoming until I asked for it and the vegetable portion size was barely adequate, as can be measured by the scale of the dessert spoon & fork utensils.

$2.50 in most hawker stalls will give you a reasonable meal of meat and two vegetables. While mall food is more expensive at the very least the meat portion should have been tripled in size.

Coming hard on the heels of the Great Prawn Rip-Off at Newton's Circus it is not surprising that several of the hawker stalls of Singapore are receiving a bad press.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Esplanade Siesta

Esplanade Siesta Roger Smith, March 2009

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Manchu Munchies and Copper Calculators

It been what I might describe as a typical "Singapore Saturday" After some online work and house keeping we took the MRT to see one of the special exhibitions staged by the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Five stops from our station brought us to Raffles Place and then it was a pleasant stroll across the river to the Museum. The exhibition in question is entitled " The Kangxi Emperor - Treasures from the Forbidden City".

I have always enjoyed these mini-blockbusters that show off the culture and opulence of the Imperial Court.

The Emperor was no slug - a man of intellect, a warrior of some distinction and clearly a diplomat par excellence, at a time when the minority Manchu were greatly outnumbered by the ethnic Han Chinese. He ascended to the throne at the tender age of 14 and was the longest reigning of all the Emperors.

Interestingly, the influence of Western culture was encouraged under his reign. A twelve digit copper calculator from the imperial collections was modelled on the 15th century invention of a Frenchman, Pascal.

He had three wives who all predeceased him and according to the headcount, some 64 consorts in total (if one counts his concubines). He fathered 36 children. This number is probably higher as many of his offspring died early.

Despite all of this conjugal activity has still had time for the finer things of life and was the first Emperor to play a western instrument - the piano.

After viewing the exhibition we adjourned to the attached Indochine restaurant for a lunch of duck curry (my favourite at this eatery) and beef ragout.

To walk off the dietary effects of the lunch we strolled down the Esplanade Walk towards the "Durian" the Esplanade's theatre and convention centre. In so doing, we had to run a gauntlet of Falun Gong activists who were staging a mini-exhibit and protest against China, under the traffic overpass.

I found this rather surprising as the authorities don't take kindly to unauthorised activities of this kind.

Next we scaled the steps into the Marina Mall and walked across to SunTec, which last week was filled with IT bargain hunters.

This week it is the turn of the "foodies" as it is the Singapore Food fair that is drawing the crowds. One can nibble one's way around the exhibits, sampling many of the delicacies from this part of the world. Unfortunately being filled with curry and ragout I was not overly inclined to do so.

We did however buy something back for an evening snack. Here I must give an enthusiastic thumbs up for Pie-Kia's product. There small pies are only one dollar apiece and generous in their filling, with a good buttery crust to boot (not to be confuded with tasting like an old boot).

They are part of the Old Chang Kee Group which is renowned in Singapore for their curry puffs, fried sotong (squid) on a stick and similar delights. So far I have only tried Pie-Kia's savoury pies but given the chance I wouldn't mind nibbling on a jackfruit or mango version!

I have a feeling that such fare would not have been acceptable in Kangxi's court, even if he suffered an attack of the 'Manchu munchies' following strenuous evening exercise and was craving for western sustenance.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The IT Crush

"Colon Cleanse in Thailand. Cleanse your colon, lose weight, look beautiful"

So said the Google advert that popped up on my Facebook site this morning. Not that having an internal sluice holds any appeal at all, but I couldn't help musing on the clever intrusiveness of today's advertising.

I have a feeling that my advert profile in someone's marketing system is seriously awry and the reason I am getting this menu of medical misfortune is that I have a policy of lying about my age when subscribing online!

As befits my senectitude the online medicos are quite obviously rubbing their hands at the prospect of signing me up to pills, potions and procedures.

In the real world medical tourism is big business, especially in neighbouring Thailand and increasingly in Singapore although I suspect that the current economic slump is translating into less business for the companies who have invested in private hospitals.

There has been no such slump when it comes to the annual Singapore IT Show. On Friday the cash register rang to the tune of more than $21 million of sales. We went yesterday which being a Saturday meant that there were even more people and at times the sea of humanity came to a dead halt, unable to move in direction.

It got so congested that the PA announcements began extolling the virtues of delaying one's visit for a further hour - a bit late when wedged in the middle of several thousand people!

After being jostled for half an hour we made our way to the upper levels and I managed to purchase a 500 Gb portable hard drive for $S179, which was about $60 less than the normal retail price.

My mission is to progressively transform all my digital files currently housed on CD's and DVD's into this drive thereby reducing the volume of plastic CD holders that are cluttering up our drawers.

We hadn't actually gone to Suntec Mall with the idea of the IT show in mind. We were on a far more mundane mission to purchase several packets of their house brand #1 Muesli. The stocking of this product is piecemeal which means that when you find it on the shelves it is advisable to grab as many packets as possible.

I recall from my days in Papua New Guinea that we did a similar thing when a shipment of something arrived from the Antipodes. Occasionally the supermarket freezers in PNG would breakdown or there would be a two-day regional power cut which meant that the local supermarket was forced to de-stock their freezers and giveaway prices. There is of course only so much ice cream that one can eat at one sitting.

The situation is Singapore is of course nowhere near as primitive as Papua New Guinea was in the late '70's but there are other similarities. For example, it is rarely possible to consume the finest export produce in one's own country but come to Singapore and the meat, fish and variety of produce available is, in the main, of excellent quality.