From Purvis St to Jurong

One Saturday, we were in the stratosphere of expensive dining at Gunther’s of Purvis Street; the next, Aug 2, we were out in the deepest boondocks of Jurong tucking into a no-frill, no expenses (at least to us) dinner that included high-end dishes like dried scallops, steamed pomfret, large steamed prawns and sharksfin soup, to name but a few of the multi-course meal.

The Nokia 6500 pressie from my nephew came handy in capturing the eye and taste delights:

Any fresher and they'd still be in the water!

Any fresher and they'd still be in the water!

Again, if any fresher...
Again, if any fresher…
The occasion was a grassroots 43rd National Day celebration dinner, held in a hardcourt surrounded by blocks of HDB high-rise. There was a dragon dance troupe together with the usual drummers to drum in the MP guest-of-honour and other MPs as they arrived.

There were heartlanders galore plus a good few dozens of city-slickers come to “enjoy” the atmosphere and experience the strange unaccustomed feelings of patriotism as we sang the National Anthem and, as instructed by the night’s MC, placed our right clenched fist against our left breast and recited the National Pledge after him.

Everything was rough and ready (or “robust” as city slickers would describe the environment), and would be equivalent to what is still being offered in coffee shops along some streets near Purvis, such as Liang Seah and Tan Quee Lan.

The pink paper napkins were really paper-thin; the table top small but was expected to squeeze in 10 guests (thank goodness two didn’t show on our table, apparently relocated elsewhere to the dozens of tables crowded under the marquee); the white melamine crockery, chopsticks and spoons and two bowls of ready-made sambal belacan with ready-cut limau kesturi completed the picture.

No change of crockery or cutlery of cos altho we went from a selection of cold appetisers to sharksfin soup, deep fried philo pastry (I think) packages stuffed with fish and prawn meat, a wonderful soo-chye (Teochew stewed vegetables) with dried whole scallops (stewed till melt in the mouth), steamed champion size tiger prawns and pomfret, fried tanghoon and so on.

This was not surprising, given the likely down-to-earth, great value for money pricing. One could be dainty and deliver the food with loads of finesse (and a girnormous bill to boot) when one is catering to no more than 50; but the proposition changes when the diners number not 50 but 1000 and possibly more and all wanting to be served at the same time.

Indeed, I marvel at how the caterer(s?) managed to get the fish so tender and right when they had to cook for 100 tables or more in one go? And keep the fish fresh in the searing heat that’s Singapore in August? Ditto for the prawns.

And the soo-chye with the melt-in-mouth dried scallops, with ne’er a scallop out of place, even as the auntie and uncle waits zip around the tables delivering the dishes, some with ear-pieces in their ears listening to some remote command.

Overhead electric fans buzzed away while the amplifiers on the stage, mayb 3 to 4 metres away from where we were, amplified not only the PA provided entertainment but also every decibel under the marquee so that the hundreds of celebrants had to shout to make themselves heard and thereby created a vicious circle of noise generating even more noise.

I had once wondered abt the noise I heard on the TV whilst our PM was speaking at his Teck Ghee National Day dinner and asked someone in the “know” why everyone was so rude. The reply I got was it happens at all the National Day dinners.

So being politicians in Parliament means taking the rough with the smooth; tho the rough isn’t too bad once we changed our perspective. For my dining experience in Jurong, the fellow guests, including my two “kakis”, were quite civilised and no one tried to out-talk and out-shout what was coming thru the amplifiers, including the G-o-H’s speech.

And we did out best to resist “cheonging” every time a fresh tempting dish was plonked on the table for us to help ourselves.

The sweet bonus to the meal is that it allowed each and everyone of us to touch base with where we once were when growing up in the old Singapore — something we may not seek every day, as we try to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday and today. Still, sweet is the nostalgia of going back to the old home town again…

It was an experience that money alone can’t buy, unlike going to Gunther’s or such like: you need to be invited!

My invite

My invite

And I’m grateful and delighted that I was given the honour of being hosted to the dinner by the MP and her grassroots leaders! Thank you! Xiexie!


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