Thursday, February 4, 2010


Recently I met Ah Heng, an old Joo Chiat neighbour. We talked about the good old days of more than half a century ago. He was a teenager then living in a kampong behind my house at Joo Chiat Road. As a teenager he did many odd jobs for a living until he landed a job as an assistant cook to Ah Hong, a live-in Peranakan cook to Chew Joo Chiat's daughter who was also my grand aunt. I remembered Ah Hong for he catered 'toh panjang' ( a long table displayed with Peranakan cuisine) lunch at my wedding.

Ah Heng was lucky to be his assistant. Ater a few years he was very skillful at cooking Peranakan food that Guan Hoe Soon, a restaurant at Joo Chiat Road employed him as the chief cook. He left the restaurant's service soon after he got married. The newly wed couple started a Peranakan food catering business inside their house at Pennyfather Road. His food business was a success for the residents of Joo Chiat and Katong loved to eat his cookings. I was one of his regular customers. I remembered often seeing a long queue of people at his door steps waiting to collect the sumptious food in a tingkat (a tiffin carrier) home for dinner. Those who came in motor vehicles some time double parked on the road causing traffic jam at Pennyfather Road as well as the side roads resulting in complaints to the authority. His food catering business at his house was illegal. He closed shop and moved his business to a licensed premises at East Coast Road between Jago Close and Chapel Road. Business was good but age caught up with him. A few years later he retired from the business.

My wife comes from a Peranakan family. When we got married she had no cooking experience at all. Today Peranakan cuisine is her speciality. In the past Chinese New Year reunion dinner she produced a varity of Peranakan cuisine, such as buah kulak, kiam chye arh, itek sioh, babi pontay, sambal udang, bak wan kepentin, arti babi bungkus, ngo hiang, nonya noodle with pineapple salad, curry chicken etc. On new year's day visitors arriving at my place in an unending flow from morning to night. They were served with nonya mee siam, laksa and a few other items.

Years ago I remembered my wife's nephew was the life of the party. He gathered all his young cousins to play a game of dices called 'si gor luck'. He always played the banker while the others bet on the numbers. There was so much excitement and noises when he rolled the dices. All the people who crowded around him shouted in unison 'si gor luck!' which were the winning numbers.

This Tiger Year we shall miss all our guests who visited us annually as we shall be leaving home for a holiday. I am sure they too will miss us. We broke the tradition for the first time to be away from home on Chinese New Year's day. I felt sentimental when viewing past video clips that showed guests at my place on new year's day. I love the crowd, the noises they made as well as their laughters. Below are video clips showing guests during the past Chinese New Year and my wife's Peranakan food.

2009 Chinese New Year guests

My wife's Peranakan cuisine