Sunday, December 14, 2008

the chinese wine shop

(both pictures from the national archives of s'pore)

my friend's father used to operate a chinese wine shop in kallang, near to where the hatcheries - mentioned by chun see - were located. the shop was on the ground floor of a 3-storey building. it was just opposite the kallang gaswork.

some of the chinese wine sold in the shop was distilled locally by two main distributors - tan miang huat and chiang huat. the rest of the chinese wine was imported from china, mainly from xiamen. the liquor shop also sold beer, stout and a milder version of brandy. it seemed a special licence was needed if you wanted to sell whisky.

anyway, the chinese wine here does not refer to grape wine produced in china. it refers to chinese alcoholic beverages, including the traditional rice wine and distilled liquor made from grains and other ingredients. medicinal herbs and spices are added to some chinese wine. this type of wine will cost slightly more than the ordinary wine.

most of his customers were indian workers from the public work department (pwd) and the chinese workers from the many sawmills distributed around the kallang basin. that area then, besides having a river flowing through it, was also covered by swamps.

the indian customers would go for stout, sometimes with an egg added to the drink. some of them brought their own egg to the drinking place. most of the chinese workers would go for the chinese wine.

some of the more popular brands of locally distilled chinese wine were lau ah pek chiu (old man wine), ngoh kah phi and boo kui loh. these were cheaper and were priced at about $1.50 a bottle. there were also herbal wine imported for xiamen like choon seng tong and sze hock tong. these were pricier, at around $4.80 a bottle. the imported ngoh kah phi from china had a slightly higher alcohol content. another popular wine from china was the choo ee ching (bamboo wine).

the shop also catered to those who could not afford to pay for a whole bottle of wine. they could buy wine in a loose form, by the peck, either half a peck or one peck. there were also those who could afford but would consume just one peck - to give them the 'kick' - before they proceeded to the bars where they would drink more liquor and have fun with the bargirls.

quite a number of regular customers would get their fix on credit terms. they would drink first and pay when they got their wages. a small number of customers who owed a lot of money did not pay up at all. they just disappeared and did not go back to the shop.

his father's shop was open 7 days a week and the only day it was closed was on the first day of the lunar new year.

i was told by my friend that until recently there was still one or two such chinese wine shops in the jalan besar area.

when i was a young boy living in the upper dickson road area, i remembered seeing one of these chinese wine shops in the vicinity.


PChew said...

The Chinese wine shop shown in the picture was after 1960 or 1970. Before 1960, the Chinese wine shop was known as 'samsu shop' in Malay. It stocked only Chinese wine imported from China/HongKong and some distilled locally. Later. beer and stouts were added and cheap brandy. There was one shop at Jalan Besar belonging to a friend's father and another at Joo Chiat Road where I lived.

PChew said...

Anyone ever drink Chinese wine? I tried quite a number about 20 years ago and sometimes mixed with beer or stouts when drinking with my kaki. We bought the Chinese wine from the emporium and drank them in a coffee shop. I like to drink ngo kah phi with sinalco (aerated water). If you think 'sum pin jiu'(3 penis wine) can give you vitality in the bedroom, forget about it!

yg said...

mr chew, you are right. the picture of the wine shop shows one in bukit panjang in the 80s.
i have not tried this type of chinese wine. i have tried the greatwall grape wine produced in china.
do you know of any of this chinese wine shop that is still around?

PChew said...

All the Chinese wine shops died a natural death and in time to come the hard liquors such brandy, whisky etc, as young people nowadays go for grape wine. Due to lack of cutomers and low income derived from such business, majority had changed trade. The one at Joo Chiat was still there about 2 years ago. Since then, I have not come across any.

Victor said...

When I was young, I came across wines self-concocted by neighbours. They contained small animals submersed in them like lizards, snakes, baby mice, etc. They looked more like biological specimens to me. I think they were consumed for their medicinal values. But as to what ailments they cured and whether they were as ineffective as the "3 penis wine" mentioned by PChew, I don't know because I was too young to try them. Even if I was old enough, I wouldn't have dared.

nah said...

Drinking 'san pin chiew' may not have the viagra effect on some people, but to a group of old acquaintances in the 70's, they swore that this wine like snake wine gave them increased libido and was good for their banana.

PChew said...

Snake wine was very popular in the province of Vietnam in the 1990s. On my way to Dalat (a hill resort)I bought a beer size bottle of snake wine with the snake still in the bottle. I and the Vietnamese driver finished it in two days. I felt no difference except in high spirit, the effect of alcohol.

Andy said...

Hey i remember seeing the blue building when i was young ! (if i recall correctly) It doesnt to be around anymore =:-< But as a young boy i dont know what it was for or contains. Ha !

yg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yg said...

andy, the blue building was the kallang gaswork. i think it was dismantled in 1997.