Queue for 1 Michelin Star hawker as long as Great Wall of China

From ‘Here’s what they queue an hour for’, 23 July 2016, article by Benson Ang, ST

After his hawker stall was awarded a prestigious Michelin star, hawker Chan Hon Meng, 51, decided to open 45 minutes earlier than his usual 10am.

On Thursday night, right after the awards were announced, the owner of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle at Chinatown Food Complex said: “I know more people will come. I want to open earlier so the crowds will be more manageable.”

He was right. Some customers were there as early as 8.50am. By 9.15am, a queue had formed and it grew to more than 20 people at 10.30am.

…Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Crawford Lane, the other hawker stall with one Michelin star, also saw a longer queue. The stall sells about 400 bowls a day, with prices starting at $5 a bowl. Customers said they usually stand in line for about 45 minutes but yesterday, some queued for more than an hour.

Ms Lynn Chen, 42, who lives in the same block, started queuing at 11.10pm, but got her food only at 12.15pm. The part-time telemarketer, who has been patronising the stall two or three times a week for more than a decade, said: “The good thing is that we now have a Michelin- starred eatery below our block. The bad news is that the queue now will be as long as the Great Wall of China. The stall wins the award, but we customers lose.

“But I will still queue because my husband and I like the food.”

 

Now that we finally have a place in the ‘little red book’, Singaporeans can proudly say our cuisine is of ‘global standard’, and in typical kiasu fashion, despite our hyperbolic complaints about long queues, we still do it anyway. Come on, 1 hour is nothing! We have queued longer for things far less deserving. Like goddamn Krispy Kreme. Yes, there was a time when you could literally fly to visit the actual Great Wall of China during the period you spend queuing overnight for donuts.

While it’s easy for us to say we should take the Michelin Guide with a ‘pinch of salt’ and that this will spark meaningful conversations among Singaporeans about local cuisine regardless of our preferences, it may place unnecessarily high expectations on its recipients. The Michelin folks are known to take away stars should the quality of food fall below minimum standards. One chef took the grade so seriously he shot himself in the mouth when he heard that his 3 star restaurant might be downgraded to a measly 2 star one.

The pressure to maintain the rating could deter hawkers from experimenting with new flavours, or prevent them from retiring early lest their successors are unable to fill their Michelin shoes. IF they have any successors left. It would be interesting also to see how NEA would grade a one-star hawker stall, though I doubt a hygiene rating of D or a sporadic roach sighting would make the queues for Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee any shorter.  On the other hand, a one-star could make an already ya-ya hawker even worse. He may ditch his straw hat and put on an actual chef’s hat instead. He may change the stall name to ‘Le Baque Chor Mee’, or ‘Poulet de Soy’.

Some critics call the whole thing a publicity stunt, similar to Gordon Ramsay pitting his Western culinary skills against locals in laksa cooking contests. Others cry foul because trailblazers and veterans who dabble in true-blue Singaporean food like Wilin Low and Violet Oon were snubbed. We should remember, however, that Michelin critics are anonymous foreigners with taste buds probably attuned to ‘Michelin-friendly’ cuisine who’re unlikely to award a restaurant that’s renown for serving the best durian pengat in the country, or something you could find in a SAF cookhouse like fried chicken wings.

Looking at the nagging disparity between the unpronounceable L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon with its sommeliers and fine customised cutlery vs the humble pork noodle hawker with his sweaty towel and smelly trays, the results somehow reek of gastronomic tokenism, given that Singapore has marketed itself so aggressively as a hawkers’ paradise. Michelin could be saying ‘OK people, let’s do the MBS thing and then choose a few small-timers just to show we appreciate hawker food too’.

Let’s hope our one star hawkers don’t let the Michelin star go over their heads and keep up the good work.  For the rest who didn’t make the cut, don’t fret, there’s always Singapore Day.

White rice increasing the risk of diabetes

From ‘Diabetes: The rice you eat is worse than sugary drinks’, 6 May 2016, article by Salma Khalik, ST

The health authorities have identified one of their top concerns as they wage war on diabetes: white rice. It is even more potent than sweet soda drinks in causing the disease. Sharing his battle plan to reduce the risk of diabetes, Health Promotion Board chief executive Zee Yoong Kang said that obesity and sugary drinks are the major causes of the condition in the West.

But Asians are more predisposed to diabetes than Caucasians, so people do not have to be obese to be at risk. Starchy white rice can overload their bodies with blood sugar and heighten their risk of diabetes. Mr Zee is armed with data. A meta- analysis of four major studies, involving more than 350,000 people followed for four to 20 years, by the Harvard School of Public Health – published in the British Medical Journal – threw up some sobering findings.

One, it showed each plate of white rice eaten in a day – on a regular basis – raises the risk of diabetes by 11 per cent in the overall population. Two, it showed that while Asians, like the Chinese, had four servings a day of cooked rice, Americans and Australians ate just five a week.

This is what the ST didn’t tell you about the meta-analysis published in the BMJ.

  1. This study isn’t new. It was published 4 years ago. No authority raised alarm bells about white rice then. We were probably still preoccupied with eggs, butter and fruit juice. And we’ve been wrong about these before. Butter is not worse than margarine. Eggs and their cholesterol do not instantly clog your arteries. Fruit juice is actually bad for kids. The GI theory may turn out to be as misleading as our obsession with saturated fats.
  2.  Clinical trials were excluded from the analyses. In other words, the authors did not consider double-blind controlled studies, the supposedly ‘gold standard’ of trial design. The analysis doesn’t answer the question of whether Asians who consumed the alternative brown rice had a lower risk of diabetes compared to the white rice eaters. So hold your horses and don’t toss your rice to the stray cats just yet.
  3.  Of the 4 studies, there were TWO that were done in China and Japan. The other two were US and Australia. So it’s a foregone conclusion that the Asians were eating more white rice anyway. Also, note China and Japan. Not Singapore. We have options: Bread. Pasta. Potatoes. Carrot Cake.
  4.  In the Discussion section of the paper, the authors acknowledge that ‘socioeconomical status’ between Asians and Westerners may be a confounding factor is these studies. So it’s possible that they were comparing uneducated folk who don’t know much about preventing the disease, vs a typical Westerner who owns a gym membership and goes for regular health checks to ward off diabetes.
  5. Glycaemic load aside, another possible factor accepted by the authors was the relative lack of nutrients in white rice, in particular insoluble fibre and magnesium, which have been associated with lower diabetes risk in other studies. Stuff which can be supplemented by other parts of a NORMAL diet. In short, a glycaemic surge doesn’t explain everything, yet ST is sensationalising the index using the soft drink comparison like how blood pressure serves as marker for hypertension.
  6. The study doesn’t control for influential food trends. How many KFCs, Starbucks and Bubble Tea shacks have opened in China and Japan during the study period? Is it possible that the Asians were falling sick because of culinary invasions? Could the same thing happen to Singaporeans and their salted-egged everything?

Something else remains unexplained. In Singapore, it is mainly the ethnic Indians who are most affected by diabetes, followed by the Malays and then the Chinese. Every one of us consumes white rice in some form, fried, glutinous, nasi-padanged or porridged, but it’s not so much how often or the quantity of rice being eaten, it’s what it’s being eaten WITH. Even a doctor in the 1940s would agree that diet composition is key, contrary to the (racist) notion that white rice was the cause of the ‘physical degeneracy’ in Asiatics compared to the mighty wheat-munching ang mohs.

You can’t demonise white rice in isolation from the other things we put into our stomachs. Curries, meats, gravies, vegetables and fruits all affect how carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed. If you’re gorging on rice ALONE every day and science tells you that you’re dumping a daily can of soda’s worth of sugar in your bloodstream, then this scaremongering seems slightly justifiable. Singaporeans don’t eat like the Chinese or Japanese study subjects, not to mention white rice on its own. Sure we have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world today, but to blame it an iconic, culture-defining food that some people offer ritualistically to their ancestors seems not just simplistic, but downright blasphemous. White rice is literally our ‘food of the gods’. In Chinese custom, to say ‘have you eaten (rice)’ is to say ‘how are you’. With this recent advisory, the answer to this question would be ‘Still not diabetic yet, thank you!’.

Show me that a daily diet of white rice, fish and vegetables will still do my pancreas in compared to someone who eats brown rice and chicken wings, before I decide to point fingers. Then there’s the matter of genetics. We all know of people who eat like there’s no tomorrow and don’t exercise but remain perfectly healthy. No meta-analysis can explain these GI-defying freaks of nature.

Meanwhile, brown rice makers rejoice. You can now refer to the HPB’s knee-jerk public health advisory when promoting your wares. For those of us who’ve been fed white rice since we were babies, switching to a less palatable brown rice may mean that we’ll eat more of everything else just to sate our appetites i.e overcompensating with more CALORIES/SALT/FAT, like how low-fat yogurts seduce you into consuming more than those with normal fat content. Post-dinner ice cream? It’s OK cos I just had BROWN RICE! Turns out that magnesium isn’t the only element that’s found at higher concentrations in brown rice. ARSENIC, too. Mmm. Arsenic.

Cost is also an issue. How much more are you willing to spend on brown rice to ward of a 11% increased risk of diabetes?  For poorer income families, the reluctance to switch to brown rice but a government-endorsed phobia of white rice may mean more cheap bread and pastries, which all have high levels of hidden SALT.

HPB shouldn’t jump the gun and come to a hasty conclusion based on a 4-study analysis with its own set of limitations, with the intent of ‘ingraining’ in us that white rice is evil. This isn’t what ‘eating wisely’ is about. By focusing its ammunition on a convenient target, and ignoring all the other social/economic/emotional factors that come into play when tackling a complex disease like diabetes, they risk shooting down a red herring, only for others to rise up whilst the dust and smoke are settling. Given our unique diet and lifestyle, HPB should venture into a state-sponsored local study before declaring war on a staple food.

 

No actual hawkers in Hawker centre 3.0 committee

From ‘Hawkers’ views must be central to review’, 16 April 2016, ST Forum

(Kwan Jin Yao):Wednesday’s report noted that the new 14-member committee set up to keep Singapore’s hawker culture strong is made up of people from the private and public sectors, including food enthusiasts and representatives from the educational institutions (“Serving up help for hawkers and better hawker centres“).

Actual hawkers or even those who work in hawker centres seem to be glaringly missing. Given the fact that the median age of cooked-food hawkers is 59, it would also make sense to include people from different age groups in the committee.

…Soliciting and aggregating the perspectives of hawkers across locality and demographics should, therefore, be central to the review.

Above all, a discourse over costs is necessary. We need to find out how cooked-food hawkers manage overheads, manpower and ingredient expenses; how costs and remuneration may deter young Singaporeans from entering the industry; and how hawkers may have struggled in recent years.

A conversation must also be had about the unfair disparity between hawker centres and other dining establishments, especially when much fuss is kicked up when the former raises prices, but not when the latter does the same.

Enough has been said about how hawker culture is a cornerstone of the Singaporean identity. Attempts to glam it up on the international stage by sending hawkers for Singapore Days overseas and getting celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey to come here and cook laksa have made Singaporeans proud of their food heritage. A committee seems like a really boring way to keep the trade enticing to Singaporeans, especially those who have decided that they don’t want a typical bread-and-butter career and are brave enough to pursue a passion for hawking instead. Once used as a threat to kids who don’t study hard, we have moved away from the ‘roadsweeper/toilet cleaner/street hawker if you fail exams’ stigma and have come to accept young professionals taking up what kiasu parents once called ‘dirty jobs’.

If you were to pick a hawker of your choice to be a member of this cadre, who would you choose? Someone from the mixed economic rice scene? Or a niche Hokkien Mee specialist? How would you ensure that the candidate is not working purely out of self-interest when making recommendations? If the committee decides that all Hokkien Mee sellers should cut down on pork lard, how would that allow me to make an objective decision? Don’t get me wrong, I love hawker food. But I’d rather they be out there running their stalls and spending time with their loved ones after 12 hours of backbreaking work than sit behind a table arguing with people who don’t know the nuts and bolts of the business. Let’s see, there’s a famous food blogger, some director from the NHB and bizarrely, the Editor at Large of SPH. What is he going to do, I wonder. Change ‘Mixed Economic Rice’ to something that sounds more palatable?

Hawker or no hawker, the committee should aim towards long-term sustenance, and that goes beyond hawker centre infrastructure alone. Urging hawkers’ children to take over the stall runs counter to our relentless pursuit of excellence. Even the 2014 Hawker Master Trainer Pilot Programme designed to equip aspirants with the necessary skills didn’t work out well for NEA and WDA. The legacy problem aside, you can also trust ‘the powers that be’ to dash your hawker dreams, like what they did to aspiring fishball mee seller Douglas Ng. But an even more palpable conflict of a national level is that the Minister of Health has recently set up a task-force that has sworn balls-out WAR ON DIABETES.

According to one expert, the rise in obesity, a known risk factor for diabetes among other chronic diseases, is because of our ‘cheap food’ and sedentary lifestyle (Obesity also rising in Singapore, 2 Apr 2016, ST). So on one hand, we’re supposed to embrace our hawker culture, on the other we have the anti-diabetes army telling us to eat more brown rice, fish and broccoli, and less char kuay teow. Experience has taught us that you can’t marry the two. A healthy laksa doesn’t exist. If you see a ‘healthy pyramid’ logo on a stall it will be perceived that the food will probably taste like embalmed mummy meat. I believe even some members of the Hawker 3.0 committee secretly swear by the magic umami orgasm that is pork lard. Not sure how far Minister Gan is willing to go when it comes to managing our dietary habits. Maybe the banning commercials of unhealthy food may finally come to pass after years of MOH twiddling thumbs over it.

We can only pray hard that our ‘cheap food’ doesn’t become the first casualty of this diabetes war. If you want to drop the bomb on unhealthy fare, perhaps the overrated Korean fried chicken/bingsoo scene would be a good place to start.

Singapore: Melting pot or bowl of salad?

From ‘Let’s be a cultural melting pot, not a bowl of salad’, 7 Jan 2016, ST Forum

(Lee Teck Chuan): When we take a train ride, we often hear many languages being spoken and see attire that hails from varied origins. These are signs that we have become multi-faceted in terms of ethnicity and national origin.

But it begs the question: Are we evolving into a melting pot, where many distinct elements are forged into one? Or a bowl of salad, where each item remains separate from the other?

…We have gained from immigrants. They have added vibrancy to our economic and social landscapes, making Singapore more cosmopolitan. The new immigrants are quite unlike our forefathers. Many are professionals who are highly susceptible to more rosy propositions from elsewhere. Many remain distinct in their language, bearing, schooling, dwelling and way of life. Some have developed enclaves of their own.

This makes the Singapore identity even more disparate and harder to define.

Singapore was already known as the ‘melting pot of the East’ as early as the 1930s, according to Mrs Nicholas Du Pont of the famed gunpowder and nylon family. We’ve been using this banal metaphor to describe our mish-mash of races and cultures so often that we don’t ask ourselves whether the phrase makes any sense. When we say ‘melting pot’, we think of hearty soup, but if you want to be picky, nothing actually ‘melts’ when we boil a bunch of ingredients together. In fact, in the early 20th century, a melting pot was also used to describe the state of war, or otherwise it referred literally to a vessel for liquefying metals, like a king’s crown for instance.

Even Parliament had doubts about the melting pot analogy, as we all can’t agree on what flavour it should be. It can’t be bak kut teh, that’s for sure. Or perhaps we simply misunderstood the cliche all along, that a melting pot is not supposed to be about making soup at all. The term became popularised through Israel Zangwill’s play ‘The Melting Pot’, in reference to the ‘God’s Crucible’ that is America, where all the races of Europe are ‘melting and re-forming’. In that sense, it’s about breaking down old identities and forging new ones, like turning cannons into construction steel, sceptres into bullions, trainwrecks into electric cars.

This ideal state of assimilation has never been realised in America up till now, nor any other cosmopolitan state in the world today for that matter, Singapore included. We still have schools for specific ethnicities, shopping centre enclaves, a Chinatown, a Little India and dialect clans. Malays are denied some vocations in the army. Evangelists still slot flyers under my godless atheistic door. We are not going to demolish all religious buildings and re-assemble them into a giant white shrine worshiping only the PAP. We go to church, attend a friend’s Hari Raya lunch, give angpows to our grandparents and watch Bollywood videos. Let’s leave the ‘melting’ out of what we already have and enjoy, because we don’t know what we’ll get if we fuse into one united goo. It’s like slurping up the remains of a banana split. Separately, the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream make gastronomic sense. When ‘melted’, it just tastes like sugar water, not to mention looks gross too.

So, if you prefer not to fuse with your brethren from other races or cultures to form a boring homogenous whole, want to have the freedom to hang on to your own traditions and not subscribe to the same belief system as everyone else like a socialist utopia, how else should one describe Singapore’s multiculturalism? Do we even need to resort to lame food metaphors to bring the point across? The Singapore Tourism Board belongs to ‘Team Salad’, comparing Singapore’s diversity to a hawker favourite: Rojak, often described to foreigners as a ‘local salad’. On the other hand, some ministers use ‘rojak’ disparagingly, in the ‘ugly chaotic mess’ sense of the word.

If I had to choose an analogy involving food, it won’t be a bland, traditional ‘salad’ or a lumpy, mushy broth that’s more suitable as confinement gruel. It would be a colourful, vibrant mix of flavours and textures that nourishes as well as refreshes, a dish that you can have as breakfast or dessert after a main meal. Yes, Singapore, to me you are an Acai Superfood Bowl.

 

Chicken rice founder’s house worth $16 million

From ‘Sons of Swee Kee founder in tussle over $16M home’, 2 Jan 2016, article by Selena Lum, ST

Three sons of the man who founded the famous Swee Kee chicken rice shop are embroiled in a court fight over the family home in Tanjong Katong, which was recently sold for $16.3 million.

One of them, Mr Moh Tai Siang, 58, denies selling his one-quarter share in the house for $200,000 while suffering financial difficulties in 1985, and claims his two brothers are holding it in trust for him.

In a High Court suit filed in November last year against his brothers Tai Tong, 59, and Tai Suan, 56, he contends that he is entitled to his portion of the single-storey Branksome Road bungalow. It sits on 13,844 sq ft of freehold land, which went under the hammer on Sept 30 for $16.3 million – the highest auction price of last year.

…The property was bought by the brothers’ father, the late Mr Moh Lee Twee, in 1957. Mr Moh was the founder of the now-defunct Swee Kee, which operated from a Middle Road shophouse from 1949 to 1997. The shop was often considered to be the pioneer of Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore.

It comes as no surprise that one can make a fortune selling hawker food. Tan Kue Kim, the ‘Hokkien Mee Master’ is known for frying his signature noodles in a long sleeved shirt wearing a gold ROLEX WATCH.  Looi Saan Cheng, Tip Top Curry Puff owner, earned a net profit of $200K in 2006, before being jailed 2 weeks for tax evasion. Beach Road Prawn Mee founder Lee Chee Wee reportedly earned up to almost $140K a month. Former entrepeuneur of the year and zhi char hawker Eldwin Chua now owns the ‘Paradise’ empire. So don’t underestimate the uncle in the straw hat and towel around his neck sweating over a hot wok of char quay teow. He could be driving a Peugeot for all you know.

The list of ‘rags to riches’ success stories involving humble hawker fare goes on, but despite us hearing about hawkers who ‘live on landed property’ and ‘drive Mercedes‘, millionaire hawkers are the exception rather than the norm. In the late eighties, when hawkers were reportedly robbed of $18,000 worth of gold jewellery and watch, the first thing that people were concerned about was not so much the crime itself, but how a hawker could afford such luxuries without dodging the taxman. In the seventies it was ‘common knowledge’ that hawkers don’t pay taxes even if they earn up to $3000 a month.

These days, the dream of making a decent living from selling fishballs may be shattered by cold hard bureaucracy, no matter how young and hungry you are to make a splash in the hawker scene. You could slog more than 12 hours a day to make ends meet, but have the misfortune of encountering shitty customers who threaten to complain to NEA about your imaginary cockroaches. For all your hard work, your kids may not even continue the family line, not to mention fight over your expensive house when you’re dead.

Raw fish dishes containing freshwater fish banned

From ‘Freshwater fish banned in ready-to-eat raw fish dishes’, 5 Dec 15, article in CNA

The Ministry of Health (MOH), National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Agri-Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Saturday (Dec 5) announced that the use of freshwater fish in all ready-to-eat raw fish dishes will be banned with immediate effect. 

NEA said tests by AVA and NEA showed that freshwater fish have “significantly higher” bacterial contamination than saltwater fish, and are likely to present higher risks of infection when consumed raw.

It added that effective immediately, all retail food establishments that wish to sell ready-to-eat raw fish dishes are to use only saltwater fish intended for raw consumption.

According to the authorities, such fish are usually bred or harvested from cleaner waters and stored and distributed according to “appropriate cold chain management practices”.  MOH, AVA and NEA said the ban is in place to help protect consumers and “give greater peace of mind” to the public, ahead of Chinese New Year.

Back in July 2015, MOH tried to give the public a ‘peace of mind’ by assuring us that there’s ‘no proven link between eating raw fish and GBS‘. An infectious disease expert argued that although GBS is not traditionally food-borne and does not affect healthy immune systems, food handlers may transmit the killer bacteria to food products.

The authorities have also not provided details on the tests which they conducted, i.e which stalls or country they were sourced from, storage, farming conditions etc. But until there’s a thorough investigation into the cause of the GBS outbreak, considered to be the first of its kind and the biggest IN THE WORLD (Recent GBS outbreak ‘biggest in the world’, 6 Dec 15, ST), this CNY we’ll have to settle for lo hei-ing with canned abalone or salmon (from reliable sources, of course).

Between July and the recent blanket ban, we’ve read horror stories of victims requiring BRAIN surgery, had limbs amputated, lapsing into 10 day comas, and one dying from the outbreak. But it wasn’t until Nov 28 this year when MOH confirmed the link between raw fish and the aggressive Type III ST283 GBS strain and hawkers were told to stop selling such dishes. One forum writer questioned the lag time between the health advisory and sales ban. We should also ask if ST283 is a recently evolved strain, since we’ve been generally having raw snakehead, toman and tilapia without any problems since the 30’s.

I wonder if things would have turned out differently if people hadn’t sent out warning messages initially, which, ironically, many dismissed as a prank, a hoax. Because, well, you’re supposed to take such viral messages with a pinch of salt. It’s SOCIAL MEDIA after all; a platform for inane jokes, political rumours and, soon to come, Christmas greeting spam.

This is one Whatsapp message in full, according to Reddit.

Hi all, I am sharing this because my boss is now warded in NUH because of painful right arm. He ate raw fish last Wed at Ayer Rajah mkt.

He wants me to share the following with as many people.

For the past few weeks the hospitals islandwide have been noticing a surge of young and old men who have been coming in sick with fevers and painful swollen joints.

There has been a particular strain of bacteria that has been isolated from the blood (Group B streptococcus) and this bacterium is usually very weak and mild, but we found this latest strain to be particularly virulent.

The common unifying factor behind this outbreak is that all the patients had consumed 鱼生 (the kind we like from hawker stalls, with a lot of sesame oil and pepper) within the past week.

Nationwide we are still collecting enough info to prove that it’s a particular farm that has been supplying these fish to the hawkers that have contaminated waters.

That’s why not on media yet.

So far places implicated are maxwell food centre, Alexandra village, to name a few.

For the sake of health just avoid 鱼生 for the next few weeks.

Wait until the official news is out where NEA manages to find the source of the contaminated fish.

Now that we know this ‘particularly virulent’ strain has been confirmed and people have suffered tremendously from it, does it mean that we shouldn’t call bullshit on such social media health scares outright? After all, even Dr Google at the time told you that GBS could not be transmitted through food, and only those with a hardcore passion for deadly vermin would know that ST283 was identified as a ‘novel sequence‘ in Hong Kong, according to a Journal of Clinical Microbiology paper (2006). For the rest of us, we either choose to ignore and go on with our lives, play it safe and abstain until official word is out, or fan the flames by bringing sashimi and cerviche into it, instilling panic to food lovers and retailers everywhere.

What if someone sent a mass Whatsapp about a lethal pathogen that had evolved to withstand boiling temperatures and may be associated with see-hum? How does the layman tell the difference between what is merely ‘improbable’ (this GBS outbreak) or what is ‘impossible’?

If anything, this GBS saga serves to remind us all not to take food hygiene and cooking methods for granted. In the meantime, you can continue to enjoy see-hum (cockles), despite its checkered history with Hepatitis A infection, and thank Neptune that we didn’t ban the shellfish back then, despite the fact that the creature, being a filter-feeder, has the ability to concentrate viruses from sewage-polluted waters. If you’re a diehard fan of yusheng and willing to bear the risk of amputation, however, you can still go up to Malaysia for your fix before vendors in JB raise their prices just to cater to deprived Singaporeans.

PAP is like a fruitful mango tree

From ‘Don’t weaken fruitful PAP mango tree’, 10 Sep 2015, article by Siau Ming En, Today

Likening the People’s Action Party (PAP) to a mango tree that has yielded abundant fruit for more than 50 years and will continue to do so, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong yesterday questioned the Opposition’s desire to weaken it.

Speaking at a rally at Woodlands Stadium on the last day of campaigning, Mr Wong said to the crowd: “If a tree bears good fruit all these years, and you know that the tree will continue to bear good fruit, will you cut it down, will you tear it down, will you weaken the tree? Clearly, the answer is no.”

“The Opposition somehow has a different view, they want to weaken the tree,” said Mr Wong, who is contesting as part of the four-man PAP team in the newly carved out Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency.

I’m no expert in horticulture, but according to an Australian government department of primary industry, old mango trees may be ‘rejuvenated by a moderate and severe pruning’. So contrary to what Lawrence Wong thinks, some judicious ‘cutting down’ may actually revive a 50 year old mango tree rather than ‘weaken it’. The tree got one of its branches nicked post 2011 GE when George Yeo’s Aljunied team was defeated, and in the past 4 years we have got quite a bit of juicy fruiting, from new MRT lines to Pioneer Generation cards to increased Paternity leave. In the past week of electioneering though, all this mango tree has done so far is to throw shade on its opponents.

I hope we’ve seen the last of such metaphors. Retiring minister Lui Tuck Yew compared the Opposition to ‘poisonous mushrooms‘ weakening the ‘special tall trees’. Eric Low, losing candidate for Potong Pasir, said he was out to ‘pluck chikus’ in the ward.  Goh Chok Tong warned of sowing a bad seed and not knowing what kind of Opposition tree you would get. If there’s a more appropriate analogy of the PAP machinery, it’s that of a sprawling behemoth with invasive (grass)roots that creep all over your backyard, threatening to burst through the walls of your house. As for Opposition parties with manifestos that are pretty to look at but are ultimately barren, they’re more like the skeletal Instagram tree in Punggol.

There’s no doubt that the PAP tree is bursting with mango goodness. So abundant has been our harvest that even ex MPs can afford to pluck them as personal gifts, like Michael Palmer’s offering to his lover back in 2012. Sweet.

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