Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Chicken Rice.

I have been thinking about Hainanese chicken rice. It is a leading contender as the quintessential Singapore dish. Right up there next to roti prata and char kuey teow. We may not have a Singapore Identity but we sure can identify Singapore Food.

So folks... pull up a chair, gather around and let me tell you a story.

A story about a heartlander and his chicken rice...

The year was 1935. The place was Singapore. An enterprising migrant opens an eating place that was to eventually become Chin Chin Eating House. The menu of Hainanese chicken rice and pork chops gained fame through the years and eventually settled in a small restaurant on Purvis Street in the 80s and 90s.

Chin Chin Eating House financed the cost of raising a family of Singaporeans. The second generation eventually took up white-collar jobs in corporate Singapore, but never forgot their roots. And the third generation grows up in relative security and are even afforded the luxury of overseas educations.

In the year 1999, calamity struck one of the second generation sons of Chin Chin Eating House. The son - now in his late 40s - was retrenched from his longtime white-collar job. Given Singapore's hostile climate to those deemed past their economic shelf-life, the man looks to his past and follows the footsteps of the first generation. He leaves for Perth where his daughter is studying and opens Chin Chin Eating House - version 2. The Perth version feeds homesick Singapore students and emigrants. The business struggles initially but eventually stabilizes and survives. The rest of the man's family subsequently relocates to Perth.

Back in Singapore, the original Chin Chin reaches the end of the lease on the location at Purvis Street. Facing a ridiculous hike in operating costs due to stratospheric land costs, it becomes infeasible to continue selling chicken rice and pork chops. What is left of the original Chin Chin in Singapore closes and moves to Perth in 2002.

The Singapore institution of Chin Chin Eating House survives. But no longer in Singapore.

A judicious checking of the facts will probably prove my memory faulty in the minor details but this is the way I remember it. Consider it artistic licence.

When I heard of the event in 2002 my first thought was to quickly put in my "last order" of the signature dishes of chicken rice and pork chops before another landmark heritage disappears forever.

My second thought was "wah biang eh! even my chicken rice also chiaow to ostalea" and that if my food was going start leaving Singapore, I better start preparing to follow.


Fast forward to today. I am required to make a first entry into Australia within the next year. The closest and fastest location for a quick in-and-out over a weekend would be Perth at about 5 hours flight time each way. ValueAir is going to be offering discount rates to Perth by year end.

I probably may not want to live in a city as isolated as Perth, but it is the most likely location for a quick weekend getaway to fulfill the requirements of my visa grant. Will definitely not have much time to see Perth.

However I do have a chicken rice date.


Blogger the virgin undergrad said...

hi! think u might be upset to know that apparantly chin chin seems to be shutting down. it's closed now, and i think the owner's gonna sell it off to his brother-in-law or something

March 20, 2005 12:22 AM  

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