In this day and age is there still a need to eat raw food? Judging from the number of over-priced “Japanese” restaurants in Singapore – and most helmed by local Ah Bengs with super-inflated egos and zero knowledge of Japanese cuisine – it would appear that eating raw food is still very in. Well, any megalomaniac with a knife can call himself a “chef” I suppose. And hordes of equally ignorant and gullible suckers are making them rich.

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Shuffled Off this Mortal Coil

Heard OJ Simpson just died from cancer at the age of 76.
He can now rest in peace knowing that his wife’s killer is dead.

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A Korean invention, also known as “army stew” because it was originally made with meat smuggled out of USKF (United States Forces Korea) camps. The dish has lots of stuff inside, and often includes slices of spam as well.

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Sea Cucumber

This slug has long been eaten by the Chinese for its medicinal attributes. Among other ailments, it is said to cure constipation. I suppose how it looks is enough to scare the shit out of the squeamish.

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Get Schooled, Schooling!

Maid carrying NS boy’s field pack made headlines globally.

Oh, what a riveting tale of Joseph Schooling’s Olympic glory, where dreams so rarely tread and victories so scarcely won. I mean, who would have thought anyone from tiny Singapore would even dare to dream of such lofty heights? But lo and behold, Joseph Schooling, the beacon of inspiration, shattered those Olympic records like it was just another stroll in the park. The New York Times couldn’t help but gush over how somebody, oh, what was his name again? Joseph Something? Yes, that’s it, finally managed to outswim Michael Phelps. Bravo, Joseph, bravo.

And oh, Singapore, that small little dot on the map, collectively lost its marbles, didn’t it? It was 2016 and strangers in the streets, grinning like Cheshire cats, blabbering about national pride as if they personally coached beloved Joseph to victory. Honestly, what did they even do besides sipping their kopi and boasting about their hawker food?

Let’s not forget dear old mom and dad, mortgaging their humble abode just so their little darling son could chase his swimming fantasies in the States. (Now, that’s real sacrifice, I grant you that.) Sure, the boy trained hard, beating his idol Phelps to win gold in the men’s 100m butterfly final in a then Olympic record time of 50.39 seconds.  But let’s face it, our handsome Singapore boy was as soft as a melted marshmallow, as delicate as a teacup in a bull’s pen, as fragile as that National Serviceman who had his maid carry his field pack. And oh, the horrors of National Service, where even the most corpulent and obese of us had to endure the sadistic whims of military drill sergeants, a crucible through which every Singaporean male must pass. During our time, we were forced to do duck walks and star jumps till we shat blood, ah, the good old days. By the time Joseph Schooling went – “the toughest three months of my life” he said – NS boys are issued elbow and knee pads and no longer have to starch their uniforms or shine their boots to a mirror so that their teeth can be seen on them. What abusive acts we endured then have long been outlawed as “illegal.” Yet, Joseph Schooling found it difficult.

But alas, like all good tales, this one took a nosedive. Since winning that gold, Joseph Schooling had been going downhill. Not long ago, the press even had a field day reporting on his cannabis use. Then, a couple of days ago, on April Fool’s Day – no joke – at the ripe old age of 28, Joseph Schooling, the only Singaporean to have won an Olympic gold medal, now a grizzled veteran, finally hung up his Speedos, citing the insidious specter of complacency as his downfall. Oh, what a shocker! Who could have guessed that resting on one’s laurels might lead to a less than stellar career trajectory? Oh, what a tragicomic twist of fate, to fall victim to the very hubris that elevated him to Olympian heights.

Bravo, Joseph, bravo indeed.

Get schooled, Joseph Schooling. You’re only 28, life has lots more to teach you! Yes, there’s more to life than what you’ve known so far.

Don’t let yourself down!

You are still the sweetheart and heartthrob of many Singaporeans.

I wish you well, baby face.

Just don’t go from hero to zero!

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He’s Back!

I meet my dad for lunch every Sunday.

In addition to fish of all kinds, he enjoys “unhealthy” food, like pork leg (especially the skin), meat from pig’s head, pork and beef offal such as tripe, spleen, intestines, liver, etc. You get the idea – basically food loaded with fat and cholesterol, food his doctors advised against. But then, all his regular doctors have died. Last year, three of his sisters passed away too.

Most of his friends have kicked the bucket as well. We used to jest that he plans his social activities based on the obituary ads he reads in the papers.

He is a great cook, and boasts of some “signature” dishes but we also eat out often. Last Sunday we visited one of his favorite stalls.

A stall in Marsiling operated by a husband-wife team from Xiamen.

And guess what we ate, among other dishes?

Braised pork leg. Look at that skin!

Every Sunday, after lunch, I would stay to shoot the breeze with him.

His views of world events and his observations of world affairs – even Reuters, Financial Times, BBC, The Economist, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, The Spectator, New Statesman, etc cannot beat his analysis. (I know. I spend thousands of hard-earned dollars each year subscribing to non-Singapore news publications.)

After all, he worked for 46 years with the government in a role involving investigative research. He was the department’s longest-serving employee.

I love to hear him talk, and to listen to his solutions to the ills of the world.

Last Sunday, he started off condemning Israel for over-doing things – “they are too much, they overdid it this time, they’ve gone too far” he lamented, shaking his head.

Then he grumbled about a certain relative’s house – “one person living in a three bed-room apartment, plenty of space, but the whole apartment is chock-full of stuff, can’t even find a place to sit. What if there’s a fire?” He was really concerned.

He then moved on to gripe about able-bodied people using personal mobility scooters – “these people are not handicapped, why are they going around riding these scooters, to avoid paying COE and road tax on regular motorbikes?” and “there will be a new speed limit imposed later this year and how are those genuinely disabled people who work in food delivery and using such scooters going to make a living when their scooters would be traveling at a snail’s pace; isn’t their livelihood dependent on the number of deliveries they can undertake a day?” and “pedestrians are usually casually sauntering while staring at their mobile phones, not caring that the disabled are riding these scooters using the same path, this slows the scooters down; mark my words, someone will get hurt one day in an accident, it’s just a matter of time!”

Next, he moved on to complain about pension payments – “for someone who has retired decades ago and getting a couple hundred bucks a month and is still alive today and still receiving the same meager amount as he was receiving when he first retired, how is the pensioner going to survive in this day and age? What is he going to live on? Cup noodles? This is election year; the PAP is throwing money at people left and right but the pensioners have conveniently been forgotten. We have given the best years of our lives to build Singapore, we made incalculable personal sacrifices! And this is how they thank us? This new batch of politicians are largely useless morons. They are ignoring us!”

Very intense, but very coherent. Cataclysmic display of righteous indignation.

I developed a headache listening to him. That’s saying a lot for a self-declared curmudgeon like me.

But it’s a positive sign.

Of course he wasn’t just whining, complaining, bitching and moaning. He offered viable suggestions for resolving the issues he raised, but that will take another long blog post for me to detail. Perhaps he should monetize his ideas by making a proposal to his publishers.

Yes, The Patriarch is back! The Don has returned! Full of anger, passion and vehemence. Championing for wrongs to be righted! (By the way, he lives in the Champions Court vicinity.)

The year before, he suffered a mild stroke, then struggled with the side effects of Covid booster vaccine shots and was in and out of hospitals. Last year, his erratic blood pressure and heart rate caused everyone to worry. Peace of mind came when he finally had a pacemaker implanted. Less spry now though mentally as sharp – if not sharper – than a tack, he has also since hired a live-in caregiver. We therefore now worry less about the physical aspects of his aging. (My dear mum succumbed to illness 31 years ago.)

Today he is in top form! At age 93 – he was born in 1931 – he has just written another colossal doorstopper of an extremely well-researched book. Yup, one weighty tome of at least 1,500 words! Name me another nonagenarian who’s still authoring books!

Like Clint Eastwood, he sure as hell didn’t let the old man in.

I used to joke that he will outlive me, but every time I say that, I get chided, so I’m now just going to say I think I will inherit his longevity genes.

It’s Sunday again. I’m looking forward to lunching with him today.

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Yukhoe is essentially raw beef “sashimi” garnished with julienned pear, etc. It’s tastier than steak tartare and is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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Here Toddy, Gone Tomorrow

The “holy grail” – the flower, cut and ready to secrete.

Toddy is a beverage created from the sap of various species of palm trees such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms. The toddy tapper’s task is to climb the palm tree and obtain the sap from the palm flower.

Toddy tapping involves the following steps:

1. Beat the flower: The tapper climbs up the tree and “conditions” the flower by “beating” it. He does this three times, meaning he has to climb up and down each day for three successive days.

2. Cut the flower: After the third day, the flower is cut to allow the sap to secrete and drain.

3. Tie a container: The tapper ties a container to the flower stump.

4. Collect the sap: The tapper leaves the container overnight and collects the contents – the secretion – the next morning. Once allowed to ferment, it becomes alcoholic and aromatic palm wine is  the result. The longer it is set aside to ferment, the more alcoholic it becomes.

During colonial times in Singapore, the Brits – diabolical to the bone, first opium, then toddy –  operated toddy stalls often frequented by long lines of poorly-paid coolies each carrying their own mugs. As a child, many a times, I saw intoxicated coolies lying drunk on the roads, in their own vomit.

These toddy joints are long gone, and given the declining number of tappers – and toddy aficionados – these days, it’s increasingly hard to find toddy anywhere and soon, toddy may disappear altogether too.

Last month, when I visited Malaysia, Dr Julian Lim took me to an eatery in Telok Gong, Klang and – guess what? – we found toddy!  We downed two bottles of the divine stuff! It was like imbibing nectar of the gods!

What a rare treat!

Toddy can be enjoyed on its own but a favorite way is to mix it with Guinness stout.

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Pig Skin Jelly

A very simple dish made by boiling pig skin and allowing it to cool. The collagen becomes the jelly that encapsulates the skin.

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Sea Worm Jelly

Sipunculid worm jelly, a Xiamen delicacy. Gutted and cleaned, the gelatin resulting from boiling these sea worms aka sand worms coagulates into jelly. Nope, nothing to do with Dune!

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