What’s ‘Cooking’ in Menglembu?
I have been thinking about this snapshot of night stalls in Menglembu in 1957. I wanted to record this snapshot before I get demented. I have been through this In my mind and on many occasions, even in my sleep. I now believe I have got most of it and I wish readers who know Menglembu better than I do, should correct me. This snapshot is based on a map inlaid with description of landmarks, night stalls and old street names.
The main night life in Menglembu had its focus in the intersection Pike Street and Treachers Street. Pike Street (now Jalan Kledang) was the centre of commerce where there were medicine shops (3), coffee shops run by Hainanese (3), drapery & imported goods shops (2), liquor shop (1) and food provisions shops (2). The other end of Pike Street ran into the fresh food market (meat, vegetables, food provisions and food stalls. The Loke and Yap were distinguished families with residence in Pike Street.
The intersection of this commerce spot had street lamps and the four corners of the intersection were occupied by a water repair shop (they also do Chinese medicine) the Chinese Amateur Opera (famous Hong Kong opera stars came from there viz. Leong Sing Poh & Sun Ma Tse); the Wing Kut Fong coffee shop (also sold curry rice & noodles) and the Yap family residence., Another famous Hakka Noodle stall that was doing business in a Pike Street coffee shop (Hainanese) called Choy OnnYuen. This stall was started by “Fei Chai’s” father and mother selling Hakka noodles, towfu and other delicious meat balls. The family business expanded to Treachers Street, south of stall 1 (see reference map). You can get a bowl of rice noodle for 10c and 20c for the egg noodle and each delicious meat ball of towfu cost 5c or 10c. Their chillies sauce was second to none.
Returning to the centre of night life, stall 5 sold iced soya bean milk and leong fun (cost 5c or 10c), followed by a fried noodle stall (6) and at stall 7, is the most famous Menglembu wan ton mein stall ran by a woman. She had a nick name regarding her dental arrangements that I should not want to mention as a mark of respect for her hard work and dedication to her food preparation. Her stall had chicken meat in her won tun. Many cars had to park next to the rubber factory to taste her wares,
There were no much food activities opposition stalls 5-7 but there were usually people doing what we now call “pasir malam” business. But the highlights were the Chinese clog sellers. They would fit the wooden clog on site and nail the plastic arch to finish the product and you can take it home. Clogs were important in household when there was water on the floor. Of course, any ACS boys will tell you that they had practised the art of “fei kek” (flying clogs) to fend off attackers. The Dutch was the only Europeans that I know who us1es them but their products were much more sophisticated, colourful and contoured.
Stall number 1 sold pork porridge and his specialty was the intestines. You can sample it for 5c or 10 c, and as a little boy, that’s all I could afford. The old gentleman, not only sells porridge but also educated me on the Chinese traditional beliefs in birth and death. I asked him why the dead people were given an extra 3 years in their death age and was told me that the heaven, earth and people constitute one year each and therefore 3 years were added. Adjacent to his site were sometimes travelling salespeople who sold medicine or snake oil. Some shows were frightening when they started showing how they could chew glass. Yak! Some of us felt sick after watching him performed. The most famous medicine then was “hoi gow yau ” (seals oil). The drums and the gong attracted a lot of customers. Of course, Mak Fei Hoong , the Cantonese speaking Indian fellow also came with his medicine van. He was very good with his mouth organ.
Stall number 2 is also a won ton mein stall. Stall 7 was too busy for us to get a seat, hence it was better for us go to stall 2. Stall 4, located in Pike Street, sells hor fun (hor hee) and was very famous for his fish balls. Stall 3 was an ice kachang stall and mainly trade in the day time.
On the same street but opposition stalls 1 to 3, Stall 8 was an ice kachang stall with a lot of tables in the back street of the Chinese Maternity hospital. His ice kachang was a bit expensive but you got good ingredients in it and he uses carnation milk. It usually cost 15c per plate (now bowls).,He also used flowery language!
Stall 9 sold “yau yee onk chow (cuttlefish/ganging vege), and rojak which were very tasty and cheap (10c a plate). Stall 10 is a cigarette stall owned by a very old fellow. He sold red tobacco and individual cigarettes for those who could not afford to buy a packet (40c a packet for Rough Rider or 45c for Navy Cut) You can buy the tobacco and role it yourself. Stall 11, was another fried kway teow stall but they did specialise in hot pot. Stall 12 was a daytime ice kachang stall.
Just imagine in those days when you have 20c in your pocket you could get a decent supper. As kids we were not so lucky and we can only save 20c in a week . The quickest way to make 20c was haircut day when you were giving 50c and you went to a barber who charged you 30 c. I had a skin scalp infection and ear infection after visiting one of the cheaper barbers in the market place who were using un-hygienic instruments. I never went back there again.
The final stall, not represented in the map and only trading in the daytime, was the “tai cow mein” stall at the other end of Pike Street, adjacent to the market. The stall was located under the veranda of the provision stores. It cost 5c for 1 piece and 10c for 3 pieces. It is Menglembu’s most famous cake made from flour and caramel sugar.
To this day, I often wondered why I would leave a town like Menglembu and lived overseas and had “nothing” to eat.
We thank IpohBornKid for sharing this with us. If any of you have had the pleasure of tasting the delicious food from the above mentioned stalls……DO leave us your comments! It’s a given: people (me included) from this part of the Peninsula LOVE talking about FOOD 😉