Old Brickworks Estate - Heritage Food 2
Kedai was commonly used in Hokkien conversation for provision shop, just as sabun for soap in the Malay language. There were 2 kedais, Seng Heng at the corner shop of block 11 on the left of a 5-footway ( Gor Kar kee in Hokkien) and Ah Heng at the corner shop of block 12 on the right. Seng Heng, managed by 2 senior men in white singlet and kaki short pants was more popular than Ah Heng, managed by mother and teenage son, Ah Heng. The kedais displayed prominently in front, rice, sugar, beans, archovies, dried shrimp, onion ginger, garlic... in open cloth-bags ("gunny sack"), big tins of traditional biscuits, ground nuts etc. You could buy small portions wrapped in newspapers - 5 cents for a handful amount of ground nuts wrapped in newspapers. Cash from sales and change were contained in 2 metal tins balanced on metal wire pulley system. Seng Heng was well established with wide varieties of fresh groceries. It provided traditional Grocery Delivery Service on bicycle to around the 26 blocks of houses within Brickworks Estate, long before RedMart and NTUC Fairprice. The sturdy bicycle (Photo by BT) had a back foldable seat of about 10-inch wide extendable to double its wide to accommodate a cardboard carton box. The delivery man in white singlet loaded the customer's order of brown paper bags (there were no use of plastic bags) of rice, sugar, beans, bottles of cooking oil, can food etc into box and secure it to the seat with inner rubber tubing of bicycle tyre. The bicycle was fitted with air rubber horn (now used by gurung guni man), metal ringer bell on the bicycle handle and a vintage square headlight (available at Carousell and Secondhand.my) operated on 2 D-size Eveready Nine Lives battery (available at ebay) clipped onto a metal holder below the bicycle handle.
At a 5-foot cart beside the corner of block 12, Chye Koon and his teenage son sold sweets (Hudson's Hacks, pillow sweet, Wrigley's chewing gum), biscuits, chocolates, prawn crackers, preserved fruits, card games, kuti-kuti, sparkles, fire crackers .. cigarettes, matchboxes. It was a heyday convenient store on cart . Chye Koon was a part time medium. He often visited wakes, just like Workers Party Low Thia Khiang did at his former Hougang constituency (Today Newspaper 05 November 2017- Low Thia Khiang: From teacher to opposition icon). On the day of sending off, children around the age of 12 would try to beat one and another to be the first 3 to climb up onto the pick-up vehicle to travel to Lim Chu Kang Cementry to serve bottles of Green Spot orange drink, image from eBay.com, (chilled in round container of cold water with ice blocks) and Char Siew Pau to the bereaved family, relatives and friends. It was considered a priviledge and fun as few families owned cars, except some who ran private-taxi-sharing service (Pa Hong Chia), like ride-hailing service today.
The entire living room of a house at block 13 was an old school version of "7-Eleven and Cheer's convenient store" of today. It was popular for Tikam-Tikam lucky pick board, where one picked a red package from rows of many others and could win items sold in the store. The house sold drinks, toys, packet of biscuits, Iced Gem Biscuits, selection from large tins of assortment of biscuits, pickled papaya slices, Haw Flakes (San Char 山楂片）, card games, nuts, chocolate, Spin Tops, Kuti-Kuti, cigarettes and many other stuffs. It was usually quite busy from early morning till late evening where people walked in to buy things with their slippers on.
After the hawkers at the market closed for business, other Food peddlers from outside started moving around the estate selling their food from mid afternoon at about 3pm till late evening. There was a popular Malay man who sold hot special Mee Rebus on his tricycle. Besides the usual half hardboil egg, garnishing of fresh cut green chilli, crispy fried shallots, parleys, the dish had peanuts and small cutes of fried tau-hu (instead of present day ready-to eat tau-pok cute) added. The traditional Mee Rebus has no red chilli sauce that some hawkers today provide. The sauce was yellow less starchy (Photo present day Mee Rebus). There were others selling Satay, traditional fresh cockles Laksa, Margarine-Kaya Bread, Kacang-Puteh, You Cha Kueh, Liang-Chee-Suan, Wa-Kueh, Popiah, fruit and scoop drinks and Ma-Pi-Po (马票报), Chinese Newspaper that publishe 4-D lottery results. Reddifusion, the only radio media announced 4-D results in Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. The Singapore Turf Club was the first to introduce the 4-D draw in Singapore in May 1966, offering a S$2,000 first prize for a $1 ticket (Wikipedia). These food peddlers were illegal hawkers, unlike the licensed hakwers at the market. They had to be on the look out for the uniformed Hawkers Inspectors who arrived in a lorry, raiding at the unlicensed hawkers "like a bull" that was probably why the hawkers and people around shouted and echoed "Teh Gu 来了 ! "Teh"in Hokkien means Ground and "Gu" means Bull or 地牛 in Mandarin. Producer and Director Jack Neo's movie 我们的故事 - Long Long Time Ago had a scene that portray "Teh Gu" in action.
There was a dessert food peddler carrying a large round aluminium pot on his tricycle selling only 1 type of dessert - Liang Chee Suan, a Lotus seed specialty dessert (in starchy sweet soup quite similar to that of Tau Suan). Liang Chee Suan is a vanishing heritage street hawker food that is hard to find at hawker centres nowadays. Hawkers selling traditional Chinese desserts (Tau Suan, Black Glutinous Rice, Red Bean Soup...) gradually stop selling Liang Chee Suan, probably due to the high cost of Lotus seeds and the tedious task of removing the reddish skin. The owners of the House of Dessert at block 137, #01-02 Tampines Round Market and Food Centre have been selling Liang Chee Suan (Photos) and other traditional desserts in Tampines Street 11 for the past 31 years since opening a stall at a nearby coffee shop. Over the past 5 years or so a bowl cost $1.60 and gradually increased to $3.00 ... As of 01 December 2019, a bowl cost $4.00 with generous quantity of lotus seeds which is still good value. The delicacy remains popular, many are regular customers. It is close on Monday and Thursday. At Kovan Market and Food Centre, the dessert stall stopped selling Liang Chee Suan some 5 years ago as it was tedious and time consuming in removing the lotus seed skin and core.
Bread were the most affordable, nice to eat, filling, popular "Fast Food" to residents, sold by a bulky Indian man, with neatly attired white turban and white traditional clothes, on his bicycle carrying a wooden chest on the back seat. His multi-shelves of bread and containers of Kaya and margarine wooden chest was larger lenght-width wise, taller and cleaner than the Cuba bread seller shown here in the Tripadvisor photo and the National Archives Singapore photo of Singapore old days bread seller. A plastic cover wrapped around the wooden chest, secured by used bicycle inner rubber tubing, helped keep it dry and keep the bread hygenic, free from dust.
The traditional bicycle bread seller cut untoast bread into 2 longtitudinal halves (photo illustration above). Coffee shop and hawker centre coffee stall usually sell toast bread cut into triangular halves (Keng Wah Sung Coffee Shop 783 Geylang Road) and others sliced toast bread into thin rectangular portions, the way Ya Kun Kaya Toast does. Traditional bread are sold at "50 Year Taste of Tradition", a corner shop at Blk 87 Marine Parade Central (opposite Parkway Parade) between MayBank and Standard Chartered Bank and Xing Sheng Bread at Bendemeer Market and Food Centre, Blk 29 Bendemeer Road #01-17. Hock Choo Eating House, which has been in business for more than 4 decades at 427 Changi Road, sells rare steam-hot kaya-margarine white bread, folded up instead of cutting into halves.
Brickworks Estate was a place at the time when few households owned TV sets and there were no late night television and radio programmes (Rediffusion radio) but people stayed up late at night till past 11pm for supper. On regular nights from around 9.30pm a teenager wearing singlet, shorts and slipper went to every residential blocks, house to house, carrying a carton box to sell his hot and crisp You Char Kueh, Butterfly Bun (Bay Hei Chjee), Chinese Fried Doughnut (Hum Chee Peng) and Fried Seasame Ball (Chjee Cho). Nowadays, such delicacies sold in hawker centres are usually under franchise arrangement. Few like Mr Lee who is still hand-making the dough and frying the food stuff the traditional way for more than 40 years at his Block 216 Bedok North Street 1 hawker stall-Photo: Frying You Cha Kueh. Photos of You Char Kueh; Butterfly Bun (Bay Hei Chjee); Chinese Fried Doughnut (Hum Chee Peng) and Fried Seasame Ball (Chjee Cho) taken at Ci Yuan Hawker Centre You Cha Kueh stall #01-19.);
At about 8.00 pm when most had finished dinner, the Kacang Puteh Indian man wearing a white turban and white attire, arrived, balancing on his head was his "stall table" with bags of assortment of nuts, calling out in a sharp voices "Cang Teh ... Cang Teh", in short for Kacang Puteh. He was young and a look-alike of Peace Centre Kacang Puteh man (Photo:Michelin Guide). He set up his stall (table and small stool) and lighted the candle as source of light, in front of the house of Morgan, a Hokkien speaking Indian boy whose elder sister and father were school teachers. He sold just the traditional ones; peanut, sugar coated nut, skin peanut, broad beans, green pea, chickpea... but no Muruku. He allowed a mix of 2 different types of nuts in each paper cone which cost 5 cents. For purchase of a cone of Kacang Puteh, a customer was given a lucky dip chance to draw from the improvised M n M chocolate metal tube 4 colored tip metal sticks (as shown in picture). He would shake the holder of sticks before one could draw out the required 3 sticks. When the 3 sticks color matched, such 3 green sticks, the Kacang Puteh man gave a free cone of Kacang Puteh. Packet nuts from Tong Garden, Camel and Tai Sun have replaced old days traditional paper cone Kacang Puteh which are vanishing. Old cinemas, Sky and Alantic at Great World, Jubilee, Venus, Golden City and Queenstown/Queensway in Queenstown Estate, Capitol, Odean, Majestic, Canton, Ciros at Telok Blangah, Mandarin at Geylang Bahru, Roxy in Katong, King's in heart of Tiong Bahru, open air cinema at Holland village and Starlight at Pasir Panjang sold Kacang Puteh at the entrances. As these cinema vanished, the Kacang Puteh stalls vanished too. Starlight cinema which screened only Indian movies at Pasir Panjang was burnt down by a big fire. Modern cinemas sell their own popcorns, hotdog sandwiches and colas - "No outside food!"
Pasar Malam was held on Wednesday night from 7 pm to 10 pm along Jalan Bukit Merah. The stalls were "open aired" with no canvas shelter, no electricity, instead they were lighted by Butterfly Kerosene Pressure Lamp (Image : Modern replica of Petromax Pressure Lamp), clean, orderly, free and easy like those of Australia flea and night markets in Perth, Joondalup, Tasmania.. , unlike the present Pasar Malams which have lost the appeal to Singaporeans but now drawing more foreign workers and foreign domestic workers. From 6 pm, stall holders began pumping up the presure lamp that inflated the sagged fabric-like wire "bulb" that slowing glow into its optimum brightness, and setting up rows of large wooden table displays by the roadside of the upper part of Brickworks Estate, selling non food items - basic clothings, fashion, shoes, rolled textiles (Image: Textile by Alamy.com), toys, stationery, pots, pans and household items. The Pasar Malam took up half of the road with customers strolling and shopping leisurely in the usually light traffic that had no reckless driving, road harassment nor altercation seen on the road today.
Along the road at the lower part of Brickworks Estate were the food vendors on carts, tricyles, sidecar motocycle and mini-van. The first stall along this stretch of road was a coffee powder seller, grinding the beans, weighing, packaging and sealing the packet of coffee powder on a table by the side of his mini van. He used a flat tip screw-driver left heated in the small exhaust pipe outlet of a portable generator to seal off the opening of the plastic bag of coffee powder. The coffee powder is now sold at some heartland NTUC FairPrice supermarkets under the brand names of Silver Cup (image: Silver Cup coffee in orange gold print) and Diamond. Next to the coffee powder stall, were the Black Sparrow Bird's Nest drink (Image:Theo A. Strijker);
Ice Kacang stall that sold traditional multi colour Ice Ball with no ingredient inside, no toppings at 5 cents consumed by sucking/turning the ice ball around on 2 bare palms unlike the ice ball in the bowl shown in image (Straits Times 16 July 2016), Cut fruits and drink stall selling scoop cube pineapple drink, cloudy "Lye Chwee" 白梨 white pear drink and the famous wedge pineapple where every customer stood by the tricycle stall to dip-eat the pineapple onto the common plastic containers of either salt or chilli in black soya sauce (Image: modern cut pineapple cubes for personal consumption). There were stalls selling Goreng Pisang, Cheng Tng, Tau Suan, Red Beans, Green Beans, Black Glutinous Rice, Char Kway Teow, Fried Oyster, Satay, Kueh Tutu...
CG Ang 2021-01-21