Friday, February 17, 2006

Joys of Eating

I would like to take a break from nostalgia and blog on something close to the heart (or should I say tummy) of Singaporeans – Food.

In my previous article, I reminisced about the famous Indian sarabat stalls of Waterloo Street. Then I read of Chris' indulgence over the Chinese New Year holidays. It set me thinking about the joys of eating.

Some years ago, my job involved regularly dining with towkays in expensive (by my standards) restaurants in many countries. Once, I was seated next to a sixty-something businessman. I noticed that he wasn’t eating much and asked him why. He unbuttoned his shirt and showed me a huge scar from a heart bypass operation. When we were young, he lamented, we could not afford the good stuff. Now that we have the money, we don’t have the health to enjoy it. Sigh.

My job also frequently brings me to Singapore’s industrial heartland, to places like Tuas, Jurong, Ang Mo Kio and Macpherson. I often ate my lunches in factory canteens, alongside factory workers in dirty overalls. It was a pleasure to see how they wolf down huge plates of rice with lots of gravy and cheap ingredients. I could not help telling myself; compared to the wealthy towkays and their expensive dishes in the fancy restaurants, these guys seem to really relish their food. They really expereinced the joys of eating. Ironic isn’t it?

As for me, I think the company that you eat with is very important. I fully agree with the guys who wrote this advertisement.

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I drove up to Putrajaya last week with some church friends for a short visit to recce the venue of our church camp. On the way up, we stopped in Yong Peng for lunch and tried their famous ( 西刀鱼) fish balls. Very nice, but not really that fantastic, but still beats eating at those crowded, flies-infested stalls along the ‘hentians’ operated by Plus. Try it the next time you are driving up. Exit at Yong Peng Selatan (South) and then proceed northwards into the main street of Yong Peng. There are quite a number of coffee shops advertising their fish balls. After that you can continue in the same direction, turn left and re-enter the N-S Highway through Yong Peng Utara (North); all in all a very short detour. And you guessed it – on the return trip, we went for an encore.


Anonymous said...

Hello Chun See,

Can you explain a little about:

Where is Putrajaya, and Yong Peng?

What is hentians and who is the Plus?

Sorry I do not understand them but would like to know about them.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Yah Chun See,
What is 'hentians'? I think I know what PLUS is the governmental arm that manages the Malaysian highway, right?

You have finally talked about food/eating. I know you are one of those chaps who is always the first one to scream for food but also the first one who knows when is enough! Am I still right?

Chris Sim said...

You're right about the company being more important then the food, Chun See. The food always takes second place.

We're always so busy in the office (hope my Boss is reading this), and have very little time for interaction (other than work). So lunch time is the best time to catch up with each other on a social level, so much so that sometimes, we have "extended" lunch! (hope my Boss IS NOT reading this). LOL.

Lam Chun See said...

Oops - sorry for oversight.

Putrajaya is near KLIA, the new airport. You exit at Kajang.

Yong Peng is small town after Air Hitam. I think many of the coaches stop here. Hence prices not cheap.

PLUS are the operators of the North-South Highway. Stands for Project Lebuhraya Utara Selatan.

Hentians are the rest areas (I think from the Malay word henti means stop). You can find food, rest roooms, petrol stations and prayer rooms for Muslims. Quite convenient actually, so you don't need to exceed the highway, pay tolls etc. The main ones bet JB and KL are at Machap (just b4 Air Hitam), Pagor, Air Keroh (just after Melaka)and Seremban. In addition they have the Restoran Jejuntas (means bridge) just after Melaka. This one straddles the highway. During peak season you can't even find a parking space here. The signages are very good so not difficult to find at all.

Hope that helps. I am familiar becos I drive up to Ipoh every year to visit in-laws plus at one time I did a lot of consultancy work for Petronas units.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chun See,

Thank you for taking your time to explain them in detail. It really helped me in understanding the footnote of your post.

I enjoyed reading your posts.

Raymond (USA)

Victor said...

It's certainly a refreshing change NOT to read a post about nostalgia for a change, Chun See.

I guess the workers in dirty overalls 'wolf down their food' not because they enjoy eating it but more because they are rushing for time. For them, it is 'eat to live and not live to eat'. I know because some 3 decades ago, I was temping as a relief Fire Safety Officer for Jurong Shipyard. The workers would hide behind pillars a few minutes before the lunchtime siren sounded. And when the siren finally sounded, the workers would all suddenly appear and run to be first in the queue for food. Why, you may ask. The reason was that they must finish their lunch, smoke-breaks, and siesta all within one hour before the end-of-lunch siren sounded. Then they must disappear from the canteen or otherwise be penalised.

Not everyone can have the luxury of extended lunches except perhaps people running their own businesses or members of the BAGUS team of which I am glad to be a member.

Lam Chun See said...

Victor, was it Chris or yourself who said that u always look on the negative side? I think I can see why now.

1) Of course your friend here can tell bet. simply rushing and enjoying lah. Give me some credit leh.

2) It is a gross misunderstanding that if u are self employed means u can hv 2-hr lunches everyday. I am sure u don't need me to explain why.

BTW, wat on earth is Bagus?

Victor said...

Okay okay Mr Lam, I was the one who said 'I tend to view things negatively'. Another trait of mine, if you haven't noticed by now, is that I always like to offer the other side of the coin or the contrarian view. Makes the story more balanced and the discussion more interesting mah. Using this ploy of mine, I have managed to get Chris engaged in argument, er... I mean meaningful discussion for many months now. We call this 'sparring' or 'horsing around'.

Hmm... I will see if I can try to agree with you more often :). I am sorry if my comments got on your nerves :p.

Victor said...

Sorry, I forgot to explain Bagus. It is the name of our informal lunch group consisting of 5 office colleagues, including me. It stands for 'Blitheness Always Gets Us Satisfied' and is coined by my namesake in the group. Although the office has a canteen, it's always so crowded during lunchtime and the food is er... so canteen-like (where people wolf down their food without appreciating it, oops). So the 3 in the group who own cars take turns to drive out for lunch on most days of the week.

Lam Chun See said...

One of the things I missed most since stepping out on my own is the group lunches. Nowadays I mostly lunch alone. But it gives me the opportunitiy to observe things around; including how people ate.

Chris Sim said...

Surely Chun See, you know the meaning of Bagus, having married an Ipoh wife?

Lam Chun See said...

Ipoh food is wonderful. When my mother-in-law first came to Spore, everything I brot her to eat, she found bland.

My wife is very capable. But cooking not one of her strengths.

Anonymous said...

A few years back I made a nostagic trip back to my place of birth, in the rustic small town of Segamat, Johor/Malaysia, with a few family members. On the way back we had lunch in a eating-house in Yong Peng and was quite surprised by the delicious food served and cleanliness of the premises, especially the toilets. I believe this place is trying to woo more Singaporeans customers. On the topic of food, my daughter after hearing to the description of Ipoh food from her colleages, has decided to make a trip there after going to KL.