Last weekend, Singapore celebrated her Golden Jubilee, 50 years of glorious nation building which saw her rose from a third world nation, separated from Malaysia and forcefully pushed onto her road of independence which she had not wished for, to become one of the major key players in the regional political and economic development. In fear that the Chinese-majority population in Singapore would threaten the rule and dilute the prowess of the Malay-dominant UMNO which controls the Federation of Malaya then, Tunku Abdul Rahman “talak” Singapore, ousting her from the Federation which she had joined less than two years back. Left largely on her own, the initial years were full of staggers and struggles, but through the sheer hardwork and determination of our parents, Singapore’s first taste of success is by no means an easy feat. While the dramatic transformation our island state undertaken had been repeatedly retold in media all over the world, like a fairytale, this Golden Jubilee marks only but the closure of the first chapter of her ongoing story, far from the climatic conclusion many seem to be perceiving and enjoying. Lying ahead are more challenges to follow, many of which are intangible and unpredictable. As the paradigm shift over the last 20 years or so deemed that our fate should become invariably intertwined with the increasingly turbulent global climate, it seems like our future no longer lies solely in our own hands. From the frustrating and stifling realities like escalating costs of living, increasing population densities beyond comfort limits, all-too-frequent MRT breakdowns, to other “softer dimensions” like the disintegration of our social fabric, attrition of our cultural bearings and extinction of our local heritage. The latter aspects seem lesser noticeable but far more important than how they are usually being played out for without our bearings and roots, we are nothing. On the whole, Singapore is a nation that grew so rapidly overnight, that she had hardly any time to reflect and ponder over what was sacrificed, eroded and forever lost. Too caught up with being and staying competitive, her people were tugged into the rat race, constantly instilled with invisible fears of the repercussions and possible aftermath for being left behind or simply not being Number One. In our concerted efforts as a nation to become richer in tangible gains like economic growth, integrated infrastructure, standards of living, global ranking, we had also become poorer, as we silently mourn for our loss, some deplorable beyond being reparable. Friends who visit Singapore seem to be always telling me how fast our country grows, some areas changed and developed beyond recognition in a matter of just a couple of years. Like a child who is all too eager to want to grow up and step into adulthood to prove her worth, much of her time is spent to better herself, with little left to enjoy her childhood and growing up years, let alone to smell the flowers along the way. As we admire the towering skyscrapers that grew like magical beanstalks, we also lament the demolishing of the old architecture built brick upon brick by our forebears. As we broaden our expressways to ease increasingly tense traffic conditions, we scramble to save our old cemeteries from being raised to the ground to make way for establishments in the name of modernisation and modernity. In short we live in an age of dilemma, torn between the want to constantly “majulah” and the need to stay in touch with our past. We see that happening all over Singapore, and even more so in our beloved Katong.
About a month back, I had the pleasure of visiting The Intan, a privately owned Peranakan themed museum located in the heart of Joo Chiat, one of the enclaves of Nyonya-Baba culture and heritage in Singapore. It was my second visit to the Intan, the first being a collectors’ sale organised more than 2 years back. The visit was held in conjunction with the release of this year’s Lunar New Year angbaos by the National Heritage Board (NHB). What made the visit special was the fact that it was held at night. Not your regular run-in-the-mill visits to a museum I’m sure. But the dim light conditions did pose a “challenge” to photography. After all the hustling and bustling in the kitchen during the Chinese New Year period with all the cooking and baking to be done, I finally had time to sit down and sort out the photos and write a bit about the visit. So here’s a small collation of some shots I took. Enjoy!
Our first review on Pavé Chocolates and Confections was For Alice almost a year back. It was a sexy lil’ number which we couldn’t forget. Helluva creation it was, dramatic in both taste and looks. Since our first visit, we’d been back about half a dozen times, sometimes lazing the evening away over a slice of cake and a cuppa, sometimes “wacarons” takeaways or simply popping by to say hi. I must say the initial visits were somewhat out of convenience, since we hang around Katong and Parkway Parade pretty much every weekend. It wasn’t long before we felt drawn to the place. Their creations suited us, i.e. bold ideas, use of premium ingredients, gutsy display for innovation in taste, texture and appearance. But most importantly, their constant strive for improvement and change, as well as being very customer-oriented,i.e. sincerity and willingness to seek out opinion and suggestions.
Feeling rather unsatisfied with dinner at another food joint somewhere in the vicinity (yes! we try to be nice and not to write about bad stuff…unless its really bad!), we were in dire need for some instant remediation and damage control! Service over dinner was horrid, and that most certainly “pavéd” the way (pun intended!) for our latest visit! And no takeaways today! We’d decided to sit in for our “treatment” to commence immediately!
Awfully Chocolate (AC) is like an open secret amongst chocolate lovers. Originally at Katong Mall, the small and minimalistically furbished shop attracts cocoa fanatics from all over the island to
pig try out their irresistibly yummilicious chocolate cakes and ice-cream.
Since the mall was pulled down, AC relocated just diagonally across the road and became neighours with Obolo, Ashtons and one of my all-time favorites, Puteri Mas Durian Puffs! Since then, a frantic franchising movement seems to be going on with outlets springing up all over the island (well, almost all over :p).
Being curious us, we would naturally join a queue when we see one. So that was what we did at the new AC joint along East Coast Road.
White Chocolate cupcake. The creamy icing topping is whipped up on the spot with a handsome stand mixer behind the counter. We watched them prepare this, liberally downing copious amounts of sugar! The taste is merely sweet without much depth and reminds of the melamine-containing White Rabbit Creamy Candy, 大白兔奶糖. Not a very pleasant memory.
We are very much “easties”, often wondering around the Katong- Siglap stretch looking for places to eat and try out new stuff. We are not very big chicken rice people but since we kinda ran out of dining ideas, we thought why not? 🙂
The Katong stretch of eateries is home to several chicken rice joints. There used to be a rather low profile shop that sells fairly decent chicken rice just under the overhead bridge that co-joins the infamous but now dyfunct “red-house” confectionery and Roxy Square. When we visited the place over the weekend, we’d discovered to our horror that it has “succumbed” to the cruelty of fate, with half the shop becoming an internet cafe. Human traffic was zilch and the “chefs” sitted lazily by the counter looked fairly jaded. I guess the word “sian” basically sums it all up. We quickly avoided the place and walked further up the stretch. Five Stars or Boon Tong Kee we deliberated. Being creatures of comfort, the air-conditioned Boon Tong Kee seemed like a wiser choice. Quality of food seemed somewhat secondary now.
Perhaps still recovering from the shock from the first chicken rice joint we went to, we ordered roasted chicken instead of their famous 白斩鸡 pak cham gai (white poached chicken) at Boon Tong Kee. Half a small chicken for 6 bucks. It was quite ordinary with nothing much to rave about. The meat was quite tender but nothing impressive. The skin was over-seasoned I thought, overwhelming with pepper and five-spice powder with every palate attempt. The pickled vegetables (giam chai) was quite refreshing though.