By B.L. Khoo
Just as I was sitting down to enjoy some nice roasted turkey with some close friends, the familiar Chinese New Year tunes fill the air and nearby, some people were already tossing the Yee Sang in anticipation of the coming new lunar year. As with every Chinese New Year, I reminisce the past and the food that I have come to miss.
I grew up in a house along Hamilton Road where hawkers used to ply their trade by peddling around on their tricycles. Such were the days when those staying around the Taman Free School flats would order food shouting from the top of their lungs and then lower down a basket, using a pulley, with money in it to pay for the food.
Fast forward today, many of those hawkers have moved into the modern food court nearby. No longer are the sellers scattered on five-foot ways and open areas, but the food and taste of yesteryears remains almost the same. Some have passed their secret recipes to their children and others are still at it.
At the Taman Free School foodcourt, you can still find the ‘Stadium’ Curry Mee and Loh Bak stall. The Curry Mee is now run by a younger man but you can still catch the Loh Bak owner who is now assisted by his two daughters. The Loh Bak stall still provides a good selection of 5-Spice Pork Roll, Prawn Fritter, Fish, Octopus, Beancurd with Prawns, Braised Pig Ears, Deep Fried Fish and Teo Chew Taukua. Definitely a must-try if you are back for the Chinese New Year holidays!
As for the Economy Mee & Bee Hoon stall, the main thing I remembered about the owner was that he was rather tanned but quite jovial. The long queue of customers is a testament for this simple yet delicious fried noodles. It is a simple and no-frills dish, yet delicious, where noodles are stir-fried only with vegetables and bean sprouts. Crispy deep fried bean strips (Teik Kah Kee) are then added on top with your choice of pickled green chilies, chili sauce or both, just the way I like it.
The “Celebrity Hawker” back in the earlier days was the Char Hor Fun stall. It was the most popular, not just because it was tasty but more so for dishing out very big portions to its customers. We used to buy 1 packet for RM1.50 and it was even enough for 2 to 3 persons. I am not exaggerating but the owner was really generous with the servings. For me, it was definitely a sight to remember, seeing him frying one big wok of noodles with one hand and keeping an eye on the next wok which is filled with boiling hot gravy. The youngest son has since taken over the stall and still remembers me well.
Today, there are many other food, drinks and desserts stalls inside Taman Free School Foodcourt apart from the ones that I have mentioned. I can still recognize many familiar faces who are still selling food there though all have aged. The place is open from lunch time onwards till evening and if you are around that area, don’t hesitate to drop in as it is definitely a good choice.
I remember two hawkers who frequently came to our housing area, one selling Curry Mee and the other selling Hainanese Pork Satay. It could be that the Curry Mee stall has now moved to Jalan Van Praagh and I believe that the stall is run by the 3rdgeneration now. The Hainanese Pork Satay is the same one that sells in Bangkok Lane every Saturdays. The man has aged and he told many times that he is going to give up soon. This is another sad case of old recipes fading away as no one is keen to take over.