4 year old boy’s death from Nasi Padang a misadventure

From ‘NEA to take action against stall owner’, 1 Nov 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan, ST

THE National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday said it will be taking action against the owner of the nasi padang stall linked to the death of a four-year-old boy. A coroner’s inquiry completed the day before found that Shayne Sujith Balasubraamaniam had likely contracted salmonella from food which his mother bought from the stall in Northpoint Shopping Centre’s Kopitiam foodcourt, before dying four days later on Jan 22. The coroner called the tragedy a “misadventure”.

Operations at the stall were suspended for three weeks for the NEA to conduct investigations. After the coroner’s inquiry, netizens wondered if stall owner Siti Abibah Guno would face further action. Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an NEA spokesman said yesterday: “With the coroner’s inquiry now completed, NEA will proceed to prosecute the licensee in court.”

Under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, Madam Siti faces a fine of up to $2,000 for each charge. Investigations had revealed unsafe levels of bacteria at the stall because of two main hygiene lapses – failure to register a food handler as required and failure to protect food in a covered receptacle.

Madam Siti was adamant when she told The Straits Times over the phone on Thursday that she had done nothing wrong as her licence to run a food stall had not been revoked.

According to the NEA’s advisory webpage, ‘3 persons’ were reported to contract ‘food poisoning’ on 18 Jan 2014, and NEA decided to drop the grading down to ‘C, but only effective from 10 April 2014, nearly 3 months after the boy’s death. My Paper reports that other than the deceased, his mother and 2 year old sister were also hit by the salmonella bug, the culprits being curry chicken and tahu goreng. If you check the latest grade for Siti’s stall from NEA’s online database, you would find, to anyone’s befuddlement, that it had since been upgraded to A. But what’s more surprising is that Siti was awarded NO DEMERIT POINTS and listed as NO SUSPENSIONS at all the past year, despite the Jan incident. You might even say it’s an unblemished track record just looking at the details below. No wonder she thinks she has done ‘nothing wrong’.

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 7.47.12 AM

 ‘C’ means a score of 50-69%, or barely meeting the passing mark, though the running joke among fans of hawker food is that the lower the score, the tastier the food, with the lowest rating ‘D’ standing for ‘Delicious’. With this Nasi Padang tragedy, you can’t tell that joke anymore without someone groaning at its, well, tastelessness. D is diarrhoea, then death. So, the question remains, how reliable are these ratings anyway? How does the public make an ‘informed choice’ from these grades if there’s a lapse of a few months between a tragedy and the actual ‘demotion’? Or if your online licensing details says there were no suspensions the past year when in fact there was?

It seems that NEA will only issue some kind of strained apology or reassurance when hundreds of people are affected, like the Geylang Serai rojak poisoning back in 2009, which also took 2 lives thanks to an outbreak of Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a bacterium that also sounds like a Harry Potter spell to induce instant faecal incontinence. Back then, the CEO of NEA himself wrote a letter to Today saying he was ‘deeply saddened’ and that NEA ‘should have moved in firmly’ to tackle the rat infestation problem at the Temporary Market. In this Nasi Padang case, they’ve decided to go on the litigious offensive straight off, before telling us how ‘affected’ they are by the tragic demise, or what measures, other than tweaking gradings up and down, are going to be implemented to ensure that such ‘misadventures’ don’t happen again. Incidentally, the rojak stall was also rated C (Rojak stall given C grade for hygiene in Dec, 8 April 2009, ST).

 Meanwhile, if you think you’re safe if you avoid stalls which display uncovered food, whether it’s economic rice, rojak or Taste of Nanyang Chicken Rice, think again. Even dipping your fishballs in a Sichuan hot pot may not avert a gastrointestinal holocaust. Nor eating Prima Deli chocolate cakes. You should also worry about what your kids eat in their school canteens. If you see a food stall with a ‘C’ rating, don’t think of it as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘average’, but ‘CAUTION’.  Do a quick spotcheck of the premises before ordering, and don’t gobble down the food in case it’s swarming with gross, hidden maggots, as what happened with another case of Nasi Padang last year (also from a stall in Yishun), an image that is enough to turn you into a vegetarian for a week. Watch out for Ecoli in salad though.

As for NEA’s online database, if it’s really a case of wrong information displayed, then you’ve just scored a big ‘F’ in my book.

Purge Prank generates alarm, fear and panic

From ‘Producers of Purge Prank Youtube video advised on possible consequences: Police’, 28 Oct 2014, article in Today

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) has advised the producers of the “Purge Prank” YouTube video on the possible consequences of staging such pranks, which may “generate unnecessary alarm, fear and panic in the community”, the police said today (Oct 28). The police said, in a Facebook post, that it has received several reports lodged against the video.

The video, slightly longer than two minutes, has gained popularity online. It shows a masked man confronting members of the public with what appears to be a machete. The video was released by local YouTube channel Merlion TV on Oct 20 and has since garnered more than 150,000 views to date.

“The Police would like to take this opportunity to advise the public to refrain from such activities,” added the police.

There are many ways to pull off a Halloween prank. An elaborate set up in a lift involving a creepy screaming kid appearing out of thin air, or frightening innocent folks with a robotic Annabelle doll, rank among the best.

The Purge prank, on the other hand, even if we assume that the masked stalker was carrying a plastic machete, violates two key tenets of the practical joke. Firstly, it must be, well, funny. Second, it must be sufficiently ridiculous. A moving, talking doll is part-shock part-disbelief. Not so with a human stalking you with a weapon, fake or not. In fact, with real-life slashing events happening in the past, having a armed psycho hoodlum sneaking up on you in the middle of the night is a genuine, though faint, possibility, whether your attacker is in street gear or dressed like a goddamn samurai.

Fear, alarm and panic aside, this is a hazardous prank, really. Not only do you risk scaring the victims into a heart attack or falling over injuring themselves, but the prankster himself may be at the receiving end if someone tough strikes back wildly in self-defence . Seeing the ‘purger’ getting the beat down with an umbrella, handbag or a roll of newspaper – now that’s HILARIOUS.

 The team from ‘Merlion TV’ could save themselves from a public nuisance charge, joining the likes or Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui, if they could convince the police that the victims were accomplices to the prank all along. The worst thing that could happen as a result of the Purge Gag is when MDA realises that the Purge movies, by inspiring viral copycat videos, are a threat to ‘national security’ and rate them ‘Not Allowed for All Ratings’, alongside another dangerous movie about ageing commies. Without machetes.

1 million kg challenge winner getting a Suzuki Swift

From ‘Engineer loses more than 5kg, wins Suzuki Swift car’, 26 Oct 2014, article by Samantha Boh, Sunday Times

Accountant Dawn Hoe had always been on the big side. But when she ballooned by almost 10kg after giving birth, the 37-year-old mother of two tried all sorts of ways to lose weight, including going to a slimming centre. But these did not work….Tired of her lethargy and having to field questions from relatives about her size, she joined the Health Promotion Board’s Lose to Win campaign in March, which got her going with exercise classes, before signing up for the One Million KG Challenge.

…Organised by the HPB, the challenge is the country’s first national incentive-based weight management programme. It launched its second season yesterday, but not before a grand draw for 10 finalists, including Ms Hoe, randomly chosen from participants who have lost at least 3kg over six months since March.

The winner of the top prize, a Suzuki Swift car, said she signed up for the challenge thinking that it was a compulsory part of another weight loss programme she was already enrolled in. But the mistake helped 44-year-old engineer Ting Yit Lai to lose more than 5kg along the way.

A car as top prize is a bewildering choice for a weight-loss campaign, one that I would expect to promote walking, jogging or cycling  as part of a healthy lifestyle.  Losing weight, like kindness to strangers, should be its own reward, and if you’re doing it for a new car or a trip to Australia, I would be surprised if you could maintain a healthy BMI after a week of celebrating and wine-and-dine, not to mention in the long run. How about a free lifetime gym membership? Or a year’s supply of fat-free yogurt? At least an electric kick-scooter which would require some lower limb power perhaps?

In the reality-TV series Biggest Loser Asia season 2, local boy Raj lost a staggering 67kg to clinch the top prize of USD $100,000. He may have lost his fat but gained some foes during the show because of his ‘manipulative game play’. But if acting like a bastard on public television isn’t bad enough, Raj soon ‘gained back 9kg’ in a matter of days post-season while celebrating his victory, according to his ambassadorial testimonial for Fitness First. I wonder how the former plus-sized heavyweight is doing now. Earlier this year, some NTU students launched the similarly named ‘FIT TO WIN’, where contestants stood to win cold hard cash from a pot if they lose 5% of their body weight. The top prize is a 1 year gym membership, though I believe most people, myself included, would refrain from trying too hard just to win consolation money. Which I would splurge on a buffet as reward for subjecting myself to 8 weeks of zumba.

Very rarely, such weight loss challenges may lead to death if you overdo it, and the weight reduction may not even be as drastic as 5kg. In 2011, a 54 year old man with a history of coronary bypass collapsed after a 2km brisk walk. It was his second Lose to Win attempt and he lost just 2kg, weighing around 70kg when he died. If you find yourself failing to attain any results, you may even be tempted to cheat your way to the Suzuki, like the ‘doping’ scandal that happened on the US version of the Biggest Loser 2013. Interestingly, Duke-NUS have even embarked on a study to see if people are motivated by money to lose weight, except unlike a contest dangling prize money as a carrot, the researchers make you PAY a sum first as a deposit (refundable if you meet targets) to keep you committed. It’s like signing up for gym membership, without the motivation of eye-candy.

HPB has good intentions, no doubt, but using material incentives, which have nothing to do with healthy living, to spur contestants on is questionable, especially for the long haul. The whole contest is also fixated on losing kgs, not ‘getting healthier’ or ‘lowering your risk of myocaridal infarction’, nor are they telling people that it’s OK if you’re overweight but continue to exercise and eat well, even if it means not losing (or gaining) any kilos at all. People should keep fit for themselves and because they enjoy it for its own sake, not for fame, the attention, defeating the ‘competition’, ‘visible results’ or a brand new Suzuki car which they’ll take on joy rides and give up public transportation forever.

Forever 21 playing vulgar, misogynistic rap songs

From ‘Forever 21 apologises to Gurmit Singh’s daughter over offensive music’, 16 Oct 2014, article by Yeo Sam Jo, ST

Fashion retailer Forever21 has apologised to actor Gurmit Singh’s daughter, Gabrielle, after an open letter she wrote criticising the music played at one of its outlets went viral online. According to an update on the 17-year-old’s Tumblr blog on Wednesday night, Forever21 apologised for the music, which she had described as “horribly misogynistic” and “damaging” to the women and young girls who frequent the American brand’s stores.

She wrote: “F21 has responded and apologised for the music, which is pretty great! However, misogyny as a common occurrence in our everyday lives is still a big issue, which is why I’m leaving this post on my blog.” Her father, local celebrity Gurmit Singh, also took down one of his Facebook posts of the incident at about 10pm on Wednesday night, explaining that they had managed to get in touch with the store’s manager.

In her original post about a week ago, Gabrielle recounted how while she was shopping with her mother and baby sister at the Forever21 outlet in 313@Somerset on Orchard Road, the store was “blaring” songs with lyrics that were derogatory to women, such as “half you b***hes like p***y too”.

Speaking of bitches, Forever 21 was once criticised for refusing entry to guide dog Esme and her owner Cassandra Chiu, whom Joe Augustine refers to as an ‘asshole’. I doubt anyone would use the same insult on Gabrielle for her hissy fit against an explicit rap song played in a fashion boutique. This ‘open letter’ appears to ride on another pro-feminist leaning tirade by a Hwa Chong student against an offensive sex education booklet, accusing the perpetrator for promoting ‘rape culture’. In Gabrielle’s original blog post, she rants about F21 promoting a belief that ‘men only love women if they suck their penises’. It looks like AWARE are spoilt for choices for future board members.

Naturally, I searched for the song that pissed off Gabrielle and made her queasy when she was trying on clothes. Titled ‘P.W.A’ by rap collective 5th Ward Boyz, the ‘gangsta’ track goes right into the subject matter, its first verse and chorus being ‘Pussy Pussy Pussy Pussy’. In summary, it’s about some drunk horny gangstas high on weed going around hunting for ladies who receive fellatio from after doping them with weed and alcohol (hence P.W.A). There’s a lyric that goes ‘stick yo fingers in yo cat, taste yo uterus’, which makes these fellas from the hood not just date rapists, but practitioners of bestiality with 10 inch tongues. Nasty stuff, and it was indeed tasteless of F21 to play this dope shit, though by calling them out, Gabrielle has unwittingly introduced us all to the 5th Ward Boyz and their penchant for benz, ‘hoochies’ and their unforgivable abuse of not just women, but pronouns (I’s a playa, I’s a never had to trick’).

Department stores have been bombarding customers with raunchy rap and hip hop playlists for almost a decade with what I suspect to be similar themes of fast cars, fast cash, booze, boobs, ass and dicks, all part of the marketing department’s ploy to subliminally induce guys to buy oversized cargo pants and basketball jerseys, because ‘that’s how yo roll with the chicks dawg’. But it’s not just rap painting women as fast and loose sex objects. Even some of the ‘radio-friendly’ pop stuff on the airwaves hint at getting high, drunk and making the ladies obey your every command if you threaten to hit them or douse them with narcotics and intoxicants.

Here’s a sample, for aspiring feminists to write ‘open letters’ about.

1. Blurred Lines. ‘But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature’

2. Young Wild and Free. ‘So what we get drunk, So what we smoke weed’

3. Stupid Hoe. ‘You can suck my diznik if you take this jizzes’

4. The too obvious ‘S&M’. ‘But chains and whips excite me’

 5. Timber. ”Im slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will, timber’

Gabrielle’s dad himself is an occasional rap playa. As Phua Chu Kang he rapped about SARS and graciousness on the train, a fine example of how rap can be used for the greater good beyond money and buttocks, even if he had to resort to some violence to get the message across( ‘Excuse Me While I Give you a KICK!’)

Apology to humanity accepted, F21. Maybe it’s time to switch your HQ’s playlist to the entire soundtrack to the female-empowering Frozen instead.

Pizza Hut calling customer a pink fat lady

From ‘Pizza hut Singapore apologises for calling customer ‘fat”, 14 Oct 2014, article in CNA

Pizza Hut Singapore has apologised to a customer who found the words “Pink Fat Lady” scrawled on her receipt. The customer, Ms Aili Si, who was at the chain’s Bukit Merah outlet on Sunday (Oct 12) evening, found the words written on her pizza takeaway receipt.

She posted a photo of the receipt on the company’s Facebook page, along with the message: “I don’t think it is nice for your staff to describe me as such on my receipt. As a customer I definitely hope to be treated with basic respect deserved by any others. I hope to receive an apology from the staff and Pizza Hut.”

She added: “Just feel insulted. What’s wrong with being plus size? I’m a customer and I pay for my pizza! Not that I’m getting it for free!”

It ain't over till the fat lady complains

It ain’t over till the fat lady complains

No, there’s nothing wrong with being ‘plus-sized’, ‘big’, ‘chubby’ or any other euphemism for ‘fat’. What went wrong was that the Pizza Hut server should have just asked for a name instead of writing out 3 words that would identify her most accurately. Would the customer be any less angrier had the receipt read ‘Pink Big Lady’? Or the exotic bubble tea sounding ‘Pink BBW’?  Some feminists, in fact, even take offence to the word ‘Lady’. If you didn’t get the name of a customer like Aili, or afraid to make a catastrophe of it like they do at Starbucks, perhaps the safest way to describe her on a receipt without getting flamed on social media is ‘Full-figured Woman in pink’. Which is how some people would describe rose wine.

Some years back, a bunch of women displayed ‘plus-sized’ pride by posing nude in a calendar for charity, as a crusade against the fat stigma, and incidentally during a time when the BBW fetish community was gaining ground. The word ‘Fat’ to describe someone’s physique in everyday conversation, particularly that of a woman, may be even less frequently uttered than another taboo word ‘Pregnant’, unless it’s used as a superlative for some over-achievers, like the lady who holds the  Guinness Book of Records for the World’s ‘Heaviest’ Woman. Back in the seventies, we had no qualms about blasting fat people for not looking after their health, or even celebrating their rotundness. Today we’re more afraid of hurting their feelings than worry about them hurting their heart and arteries. In 2008, the Ministry of Education scrapped the TAF CLUB , a national school fitness programme that spelt FAT backwards, and renamed it to the HHF (Holistic Health Framework), which tells you absolutely nothing about how chunky these kids are. Conversely, you don’t hear people complaining about the words ‘THIN’, ‘SKINNY’ or ‘SMALL'; in fact sometimes these are even taken as compliments. If you wrote ‘Pink Skinny Lady’ instead, you may even get a tip.

If you’re on the curvy side and want to get some XXL clothes, you don’t go to a ‘Fat Lady Boutique’, you shop from ‘Joy in Curves’, Big on Attitude, and the god-awful sounding ‘PLUSYLICIOUS‘. From the names of such shops alone, you’d notice this patronising tendency to associate women on the heavy side with ‘attitude’, ‘confidence’ and ‘sexiness’, when most overweight women are, well, just plain Janes.  We restrict the F-word to the realm of food science, as in calories from FATS, or when used in the beauty industry to denote something repulsive that needs to be destroyed with fire, like ‘fat burner’, or ‘eliminates fats’. There are movies titled ‘Big Momma’s House’ and not ‘Fat Momma’s House’, or ‘200 pounds beauty’ and not ‘OBESE beauty’. Hipster FnB establishments are named ‘Fat Boys’ or ‘Two Fat Men‘ but not ‘Two Fat Women’. The IMDB synopsis for Shallow Hal reads ‘ A shallow man falls in love with a 300 POUND woman because of her ‘inner beauty”, not ‘falls for a FAT woman’. It seems more socially acceptable to be as heavy as a pregnant sow, than to be called the 3-letter word FAT.

There are some instances, however, where adopting a PC-stance against fatness would just seem out of place. You don’t say ‘It ain’t over till the plus-sized lady sings’ for example. The ‘Yo Momma so Big’ insult just doesn’t have the same sting as ‘Yo Momma So Fat’. Weird Al Yankovic would have never pulled off a MJ parody hit had he sung ‘Curvy’ instead of ‘Fat’. Some do take the euphemism to the extremes, the worst examples being ‘Queen-sized’ and ‘Natural Body Type’, which is like calling a complete idiot ‘selectively talented’.

I’m not sure if ‘Veg Lvr’ or ‘Shrm Dlt (mushroom delight?) from Aili’s receipt refers to vegetarian pizzas, which may be a sign that she’s conscious about her weight, despite being defensive of her ‘plus-size’. Perhaps to test just how sincere Pizza Hut is in their apology, I should do down to any of their branches for a takeaway order, make a nuisance of myself,  and see if the staff would write ‘Crazy Ugly F**ker’ on my receipt.

 

 

 

 

 

Battle for Merger a reality check for revisionist views

From ‘Reprint of the Battle for Merger will provide reality check for revisionist views’, 10 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The re-publication of a book of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s radio talks from 1961, The Battle For Merger, will provide a “reality check” for revisionist views, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the launch event on Thursday (Oct 9).

“I hope it will awaken interest among younger Singaporeans in the events of this crucial period in our history, educate them into what actually happened, what the battle was about, and why it was so crucial that the right side won,” he said in his speech at the launch.

Originally published in 1962, The Battle For Merger is a book that contains a series of 12 radio talks delivered by Mr Lee between Sep 13 and Oct 9, 1961, giving a vivid account of the ongoing political struggle over merger.

Among the many superlatives used to describe LKY’s radio sermon, the best come from his son, the current PM, himself, who recalls the ‘superhuman‘ effort of 36 broadcasts in 3 languages, and how the Battle of Merger still reads like a THRILLER today. In TCH’s speech, he called it a ‘gruelling’ exercise which left our founding PM ‘thoroughly exhausted’, but later makes a too-brief mention of the critical event that is the 1962 referendum.

..In the referendum on merger held in September 1962, 71% supported the PAP’s position while 25% cast blank votes as advocated by the anti-merger group.

Although public support for merger was unequivocal in 1962, and Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia on 16 Sep 1963, the differences in views between the Singaporean and Malaysian governments as to how a multi-racial, multi-religious nation should govern itself caused merger to fail.

The essence of a good thriller, or any book worth reading, is to ‘leave out the boring details’. In politics, such filtering is de rigeur in government propaganda, and to refer to one supreme leader’s personal, ‘self-serving’ account of history as a ‘reality check’ is an insult to the entire study of History as we know it. A reality check is a painful reminder of how real life works, like failing in business if you pursue a naive fantasy of starting an organic ice-cream parlour. The ‘Battle of Merger’ launch, instead of extinguishing the ‘revisionist’ spirit, is more likely to add fuel to the fire.

It’s probably true that without the PAP’s tactics in securing the merger and subsequent break-up, we wouldn’t be where we are today, even if some would label the short-lived marriage with Malaysia as a ‘mistake’. While we generously laud our pioneer politicians as hardworking, tenacious and selfless in their fight for freedom, we refrain from other adjectives that contribute partly to the success of the ruling party and hence modern Singapore. ‘Cunning’ and ‘Opportunistic’ would be a couple of them.

For a quick summary of what the Battle for Merger was all about without downloading all of LKY’s speeches, this ‘Diary of a Nation’ episode from the 80’s would suffice, though we all know who are the ones penning their thoughts in this ‘diary’. Maybe the MDA will re-telecast this entire series on national TV, crappy music and title credits and all, and give it a G rating so your babies can watch it too.

The SG50 committee is not interested in telling you how the PAP twisted the electorate’s arm during the 1962 referendum, from the strategic use of the Singapore flag in one of the 3 options to the screening of movies on how to vote for merger, or how you couldn’t even vote ‘NO’ to the whole idea. They want you to know that it was ‘unequivocal’. Digging further into ‘history’ will suggest that perhaps ‘unequivocal’ was an exaggeration. The SG50 doesn’t want you to know David Marshall once described the Referendum as ‘dishonest’ and ‘immoral’, an insult that deserves to be published in full glory, by the ST itself no less.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.07.05 AM

Any history student, or thinking Singaporean, would be obliged to find out exactly why some people thought the Referendum was a sham. For starters, this was what the Referendum form looked like, which may give you some inkling of whether ‘unequivocal’ is the right word to use here. You may also want to read further on how the PAP decided to handle ‘blank votes’ (defaulted as Alternative A).

TCH also doesn’t explain what a ‘revisionist’ view is, probably alluding to the commentaries from the recent banned Tan Pin Pin film, which attemp to ‘revise’ history as written in the textbooks. It seems to me like a polite term for a radical deliberately creating strife by distorting events, or through outright LIES, when most of the time it’s really an attempt to ‘fill in the blanks’ behind the scenes, or give this ‘thriller’ that is the Singapore Story, a not-so-happy ‘ending’.  No one ever calls for Singaporeans to reject ‘denialist’ views, or victors who prefer to leave the ‘convenient truth’ intact and arrogant enough to tell you what ‘reality’ is when they were too young then to know what the hell was going on.

There may indeed be a book out there written by someone free of all bias, one which gives the most accurate account of the merger history, warts and skeletons and all, but it’s probably so boring and painful to read that it went out of print a long time ago. In the meantime, there’s Dennis Bloodworth’s The Tiger and the Trojan Horse, which offers juicy details amid a colourful cast of characters beyond LKY, including Lim Chin Siong, the ‘Plen’ and Goh Keng Swee, with many twists and turns as a proper thriller should have, instead of one man hogging a microphone for days. Still, our DPM is right about how this would ‘awaken interest among young Singaporeans’, except that the PAP, through merciless rebuttal, censorship and instigating fear of us even discussing Communism in public, continues to underestimate the public’s ability to ‘think independently’, a skill that we’re all urged, ironically, to develop in school. That is, don’t just rely on ONE source to form your own judgement of events, ESPECIALLY if it makes better reading than the Da Vinci Code.

MBS food court chicken rice stall infested with cockroaches

From ‘NEA to take action against Marina Bay Sands stall for cockroach infestation’, 11 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be taking enforcement action against a chicken rice stall at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for cockroach infestation.

In a statement on Saturday (Oct 11), NEA said it has found cockroach infestation at the stall in the 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang foodcourt. The foodcourt has voluntarily closed since Tuesday evening (Oct 7) for cleaning and pest control treatment, in the wake of customer complaints and photographs of cockroaches that went viral online.

…The 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang food court is located at the South Promenade of The Shoppes at MBS and is run by Koufu. Other branches can be found at Changi Airport Terminal 1, JEM, Republic Polytechnic, ITE Ang Mo Kio and the Nanyang Technological University.

When Facebook user Kovit Ang posted his image of a troop of five roaches ready to attack pieces of fried meat, he did weight-watchers all over the country a huge favour. Now if you find yourself having a ridiculous craving for chicken rice between meals, it helps to recall that horrific photo, feel the surge of bile up your throat, and switch to an apple and a protein bar instead. But before one tars all Food Republics, Kopitiams and Koufus with the same brush, remember that one of the reasons why food courts exist is because people wanted to avoid pests like stray mynahs and, in the case of the recently shut down Ghim Moh Market, rats living in up to 71 burrows.

Not much is mentioned about the significance of ‘1983’ in the Koufu website other than a story that suggests the origin of nasi lemak at Malacca Street. It wasn’t that far from ‘1983’ when Singapore had its very first ‘food court’. Scotts Picnic in Orchard, established in 1985, was supposed to be an ‘upmarket’ hawker centre, where patrons could eat in air-conditioned comfort. A string of food halls with the same dining concept and similarly snazzy titles (Food Paradiz, Food Palace) followed suit, but within 3 years owners were reporting slumps in takings, with complaints that the air-conditioning made oily smells cling to one’s office attire. This despite attempts to install roman columns and chandeliers or employ a live DJ to spin the latest 80’s hits.

The food court idea was meant to be an improvement of the existing hawker centre infrastructure, a culinary ‘renaissance’ so to speak, for the busy office worker in the heart of town. Today, with a near patriotic resurgence of hawker culture, these places have been reviled by food lovers all over, not so much for the hygiene or stubborn oily smells, but because it’s the only place where you’ll get charged $8.50 for chicken rice, cockroach or no cockroach, that tastes mediocre, if not downright terrible. There are exceptions, of course, though seeing a Hokkien Mee seller in a food court wearing a straw hat doesn’t mean the dish is any good.

Food guru Dr Leslie Tay is all too familiar with how the food court subletting system compromises the quality of one’s cooking, himself declaring that he would never visit such a food court if he could help it.  Koufu Sentosa has even found itself listed on Lonely Planet, the nadir of the evolution of the food court from hawker centre upgrade to campy tourist trap. The operator has even masked its hydra arms in various guises, calling its Star Vista branch in Buona Vista ‘Kitchen’, among others including ‘Gallerie’, ‘Rasapura’ and the ultimate, ‘GOURMET PARADISE’. The only thing ‘nostalgic’ about 1983’s Taste of Nanyang after this roach incident is how it suddenly reminds you of the conditions on board the overcrowded boats our migrant forefathers arrived in, like in ‘The Awakening’.

But if you’re a Koufu devotee and still believe that the cockroach incident in an iconic building is an isolated incident simply blown out of proportion, maybe this photo below, snapped at Koufu HDB Hub Toa Payoh circa 2011, will change your mind not just about the franchise, but chicken rice forever.

The menu at Koufu has gone beyond ‘exotic’

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