Sunday, February 27, 2011

bukit panjang 's heritage loss

most residents in bukit panjang, including the senior ones who inhabited the place when it was still a village, are unaware that a significant part of their heritage has disappeared forever in the name of development and progress. the structure built in the 1950s was demolished at the end of 2010 to make way for the downtown line's tunnel leading to the gali batu mrt depot. along with this building, the row of shop-houses facing the ten mile junction - to be renamed junction 10 - will also be wiped out from the bukit panjang scene soon.

i have blogged about this place previously. after it ceased operation as a child welfare clinic, it became a children learning centre (kindergarten) operated by the learning ladder.

the bukit panjang child welfare clinic was opened in august 1950. built on land provided by the government and at a cost of $32 000 - the money was raised and contributed by the residents of bukit panjang district - it was hailed as a monument of the communal efforts of the people of bukit panjang.

on 11 september 1951, the straits times reported "the bukit panjang clinic was the only one in singapore which has been built on funds subscribed by the local people".

advice on family planning matters was given at the clinic every friday. though not the largest maternity clinic, it was one of the busiest rural centres seeing between 150 and 200 chinese, malay and indian mothers. in those days, midwives from the clinic would go around the remote areas to help deliver babies.

although i did not grow up in zhenghua village, as a present resident of bukit panjang, i can feel of the loss of this heritage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

fine toothed comb

some people refer to this as the 'kutu comb'. i do not know how effective it is at removing kutus (head lice) from the hair. it must have worked for some. according to one friend, she managed to catch some kutus this way. however, i do know that when it comes to removing cradle cap, it does work fine.

this nyonya fine toothed comb was handed down to us from my wife's paternal grandmother. she had used this to comb her hair meticulously every morning. it kept her hair straight and neat because of the closeness of the teeth.

to use this comb to scrape the cradle cap from the scalp, you will first have to rub olive oil onto the scalp. i do not know whether the extra virgin oil that is used for cooking will do. we use the 'olivin' fragrant olive oil to massage his scalp before shampooing his hair. after his bath, we used the comb to gently dislodge the cradle cap.

it is quite impossible to remove all the cradle cap on the head at one go. it may take months before the cradle cap finally disappear. one should not try to force the removal of the cradle cap although it may look unsightly.

wonder if you can still get this fine toothed comb from the chinese medical shop.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

bean sprout husk pillow

this traditional 'comforter' is now available commercially. you can buy it online or from the baby's section of departmental store. we paid $23.90 for the one above. in the past, most parents or grandparents will make their own for their child or grandchild.

babies are prone to be startled. i notice this again when i look after my grandson. asians, especially the chinese, believe in the effectiveness of the bean sprout husk pillow in soothing the baby. the elongated, narrow pillow is usually placed either over the chest or the tummy of the baby. it is believed that this provides some form of comfort and security to the baby.

most chinese believe that if you place this pillow across the chest or tummy of the baby, it helps to calm the baby and he or she will not experience those fitful frights that infants seem to have during the first few months of their life.

these are the kernels or husks of the bean sprouts that are sold at most wet markets and supermarkets. the husks (in the above picture) have been washed and dried in the sun. the tedious task is sorting out the husks from all the bits and pieces of bean sprouts.

first, we used a bamboo tray to filter the husks. the edible pieces of bean sprouts remained on the tray while the husks fell through small gaps in the tray. next we soaked the husks in water to remove further those bits that had slipped through the gaps in the tray. finally, we spread them on newspapers or trays to dry in the sun. when the husks are dry, it is easier to remove the rest of the unwanted remnants.

these are unsorted, uncleaned and not sun dried bean sprout husks. we managed to get two bags for free from the tofu seller at the wet market. we had offered to pay but the kind, elderly lady declined to accept payment for something she normally discards.

a bonus from these free husks is the two bowls of edible bean sprout which we managed to pick out. not all bean sprout sellers are so generous as to give you the husks which are useless to them. one stallholder we approached at toa payoh told us he did not have any.

the fact is i could easily get sacks of the husks from a friend's father who has a bean sprout farm at lim chu kang but i chose not to trouble him. i had got from him when my wife was working on a school project involving the use of the bean sprout husks.

a lot of work is involved in making the bean sprout husk pillow. we had one made for the baby but left it in melbourne. so we bought another one and decided to make one on our own.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the pie chia/pek tor fish

in my growing up years i do not remember we having yusheng for our chinese new year celebrations but we did have another fish dish - the pek tor fish or pie chia fish. the pek tor is especially popular with the teochew during the chinese new year season. however, since all chinese share the view that whole steamed fish is the symbol of long life and good fortune, it is not surprising that other dialect groups also take to the fish.

the pek tor (white belly) fish is available all the year round but during the chinese new year season, it is special. that is when the fish start to spawn. the females are laden with roe and the males are laden with milt. at other times of the year, the fish is treated as an ordinary fish but comes chinese new year, the price of the fish skyrockets to as high as $80 a kilo. according to one friend, the best place to buy this fish is at jurong fishery port at 3.00 a.m. in the morning.

actually for me, one who does not eat the roe or the milt, it is a waste eating the fish at this time when the demand for it is so great and the price is so ridiculously high. another friend told me that i could get the frozen variety from ntuc supermarket at $4.90 for half a dozen pek tor.

according to some of my teochew friends, the chilli, garlic and salted soya beans are what make the dipping sauce special. i found out that there are as many ways for preparing the fish as there are types of sauce.

apart from steaming, you can also blanch the fish in boiling water. another way is to stir fry it with chinese leeks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

sentosa boardwalk

the sentosa boardwalk is just a nice sounding name to entice visitors to take a stroll from vivocity to sentosa. if you are thinking of working out a sweat, like what you do at the boardwalks of macritchie reservoir park and lower peirce reservoir park, forget about it. this is not going to be the case. walking the less than 1km distance of the covered boardwalk will not make you perspire, even on a warm day. the sentosa boardwalk is not a npark boardwalk.

there are even travelators for those who find walking the short distance too much of a strain. it has a covered canopy all the way to the island of peace and tranquility. however, on the day of my visit, some sections of the travelators were not working. most visitors prefer use the travelators than the boardwalk.

you can choose to walk for free, without having to pay for admission charges into sentosa, if you stop at the turnstiles. if you want to continue onto the island, then tap your ez-link card and $1.00 will be deducted. you will find yourself in resort world sentosa. the new visitors' centre is also within the same area.

along the way, you enjoy a good view of the channel between sentosa and mainland singapore and cruise ships at the cruise centre. from now until 13 february, when the flower festival is still on, you can enjoy the delightful colours of the lunar new year flowers on display. at resort world, you will find the 12 animals of the chinese zodiac formed from flowers. there is also a gigantic fortune rabbit.

it's best to take the bus or train to harbourfront to begin your stroll from vivocity waterfront promenade. if you drive, you can park at seah imm car-park or vivocity. on a week-day, finding a parking space at vivocity should not be much of a problem.