The fish dumpling that almost got away
The sign says "shredded chicken noodle" but you won't remember it after you've had its handmade her kiao, or fish dumpling, which will soon go the way of the Tasmanian tiger.
Ah Liang and his wife Doris, with the help of their family members, make this little umami bomb every evening after they shutter up for business.
Understandably, only so many can be made each day.
This little Teochew gem has been steadily falling off our makan radar since we first gushed over them at the former Aljunied food centre some 17 years ago in our earlier Makansutra food guides. Now, the stall that sold them is closed for good.
There were barely half a dozen cooks and hawkers who handmade fish dumplings. Now, I reckon there are only a handful left, at Song Kee along Upper Serangoon Road, and another in Newton Food Centre, I sense, uses a supplier who handmakes them in a commercial kitchen as I don't see any equipment on location to make the dumplings.
NOT AN EASY TASK
If you think making fishballs is difficult - all that fish paste slapping (to get the bouncy texture), plus the art of seasoning and salting, before artfully hand-pressing out one ball at a time through your thumb and index finger - then making fish dumplings makes it look like a walk in the park.
Ah Liang took over from his father's pushcart fishball noodle stall over three decades ago in the MacPherson area.
They were last roosting in a coffee shop around Tai Thong Crescent before they nestled here in Toa Payoh four years ago.
The first thing that struck me when I noticed them three years ago was the stack of noodles laid at the stall front. Doris would aerate, dry and dust off the extra flour that suppliers usually leave in the bag to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
This is what diligent hawkers do to ensure their fishball mee pok tah is springy soft and resilient.
I asked Ah Liang to show me how fish dumplings are made and he agreed on one condition: "You cannot tell others how."
So I can only hint to you that making this little delicacy involves a lot of delicate work. The gossamer-thin translucent fish paste skin has to have the perfect resilience or it cannot hold the minced pork (flavoured with teepo powder or dried sole fish bones) filling tightly.
And it was a revelation how and why they fold them to look like gold ingots. They make only a few hundred daily.
"Which is why we give only two pieces per standard order," Doris reminds me.
There have been angry customers who demand a whole bowl of fish dumplings despite a prominent sign which states the limit.
A bowl of dry chilli noodles comes with shredded chicken, mushrooms and a bowl of soup with handmade fishballs and two fish dumplings. All spicy, springy and good.
The fish dumplings are very unlike the usual factory-made ones - where the flour-laden skin encases a lump of dough, egg and minced fish filling.
Here is one consolation: "If you want to order in bulk for your parties and festive season, give us ample notice," Doris says. with a smile.
Lao Sim Shredded Chicken Noodle
Block 127, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #02-01
- 7am to 1.30pm (closed on Mondays)
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.
Reign over brains
Dr Lee Kim En is a neurologist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Smoky eyes, false eyelashes, black-and-white nails...beauty essentials for a sexy Halloween get-up
No matter what your costume is, you're never fully dressed without a smile.
Here are six beauty essentials you need to put on a sultry smirk when you go trick-or-treating.
YSL ROUGE PUR COUTURE ($49)
Go bold with berry lips.
The shade you are looking for is #54 Prune Avenue.
Besides being long-lasting (through dinner and a round of drinks), this sexy lippie has a creamy satin finish.
Such a bold shade is best used with lip liner, especially if you want to make your lips look extra defined.
Available at YSL Beaute stores.
BOURJOIS LINER PINCEAU LIQUID EYELINER IN ULTRA BLACK ($18.50)
The thing that got me about this super dark and pigmented eyeliner is that it sets and dries quickly.
Even with oily eyelids (yes, it happens), this eyeliner sits extremely well and lasts for a good 10 hours.
The fact that the brush can draw both super fine and thick lines just makes the whole thing a winner.
Available at major department stores and selected Watsons and Sasa stores.
URBAN DECAY NAKED SMOKY EYESHADOW PALETTE ($83)
There is no better time than Halloween to go with really dark eyes.
The best tool has to be the Smoky Eyeshadow Palette by UD, only because it has both the bold and glittery shades.
While it is pricey, this palette is definitely going to last longer than expected.
The shades incorporated in the palette - which comes with an eyeshadow brush - are the ones that you can use any time.
Available at Sephora.
CIATE LONDON MONOCHROME MANICURE ($35)
Create your own design without having to go to the nail parlour.
This two-piece nail polish set comes complete with stencil designs that allows you to have a manicure in monochromatic shades.
Just place stencils on naked nails before you apply your polish, peel it off, add a top coat and you are done.
The colours are Ivory Queen (white) and Unrestricted Glam (black). You can use other colours to create a more funky look.
Available at Sephora.
MAC POWDER BLUSH IN FULL FUSCHIA ($39)
If you are thinking of dressing up as a geisha this Halloween, this is definitely the blusher you want to get.
While it applies lightly for a more natural look, it is also capable of giving you full-blown pink cheeks - just pile more on.
But it is important to tap off the excess first before brushing the blush on your cheeks - this prevents the pink particles from falling onto other areas of your face.
Available at MAC stores.
MICHE BLOOMIN' DREAM LASHES ($19.90)
They feel so soft and real that it is quite creepy. The manufacturer says the trick to making them feel and look real is the "handmade and highly resistant polyester" used instead of the usual synthetic fibre.
I usually have problems wearing falsies because they always end up irritating my eyes but these didn't bother me one bit.
They are the perfect choice if you want thick lashes. No one needs to know they are fake.
Available at Sasa.
Ways to grow your CPF money
Want to make your money grow but don't know how? CHAI HUNG YIN (email@example.com) speaks to the experts and investors
Investing with your CPF savings
Biker Boy reviews a Singapore-made Knight
Easy to operate and maintain, this new bike can get you out of tight spots fast
This star-peppered scooter is compact.
The A bike Knight looks similar to the fun scooters you might rent while on holiday in Bali, Indonesia, or Phuket, Thailand.
On its sporty bodywork are local landmarks like Marina Bay Sands, The Singapore Flyer and The Merlion.
Why would a bike be designed this way? Well, because it is proudly made here (in Bukit Batok, to be exact) by Alife Air Automobiles with some parts sourced overseas.
This week, Biker Boy takes his first ride on it and tells you how the A bike stacks up against the competition.
If you're around 1.78m tall, like me, the A bike will fit like a glove. Its upright riding position allows my feet to rest perfectly on perforated metal floor boards.
Taller riders may find it a squeeze in the A bike's cockpit. Without forward foot wells, you will be unable to stretch your legs on longer rides.
We were not able to get hold of the full specifications of the A bike by press time. What we can say confidently for a start is that this automatic scooter is very light and easy to park on its main stand.
The carburetted A bike has a short wheel base.
On straight roads, the scooter's front end feels excitable especially over big bumps. Perhaps the softer springs in the forks are to blame.
At the rear, where the fuel tank is housed under the seat, the dual shocks are better damped.
But when you point the scooter at a bend, it excels. Having a short wheel base means it can turn at the drop of a hat. Also, greater handlebar rotation allows it to get out of tight situations in traffic jams.
It was impressive when the A bike easily made figure-8s in an area as small as two car-park lots.
Our test scooter's 12-inch diameter wheels came with dual compound Michelin tyres.
A harder compound in the centre gives the tyres extended life while softer compound on the tyres' shoulders boast enhanced grip while cornering.
The A bike generates decent low- to mid-end power, giving it enough boost to move off from traffic stops quickly.
It cruises at 80kmh without any engine strain. We noticed a flat spot on its power curve at around the 30kmh mark.
However, that's a small price to pay for its good fuel economy.
With its 4-litre fuel tank, the A bike achieves more than 40km on 1 litre of petrol.
The A bike can also be proud of its braking prowess with its front disc and rear drum brake set-up.
We performed an emergency stop at 40kmh without drama - the scooter stopped safely within 6m.
No electronic fuel injection, digital gauges or modern gizmos. Analogue clocks keep the scooter's operation simple.
If you're a patriotic rider who's on an urban charge, get the A bike. It's easy to operate and maintain. This locally made scooter will get you out of tight spots, pronto.
Make & model: A bike Knight
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/ALIFEAir or call Alife Air Automobiles at 6659-0028
Sharapova not in favour of cut in tournaments
Injury-hit Maria has heavy schedule, but says 'no' to cut in tournaments
She has been in the game since 2001, has consistently been the sport's top players and won five Grand Slams, including two at Roland Garros.
As the highest-paid female athlete in the world with earnings and endorsements totalling US$29.7 million ($41.3m) between June 2014 and June 2015, Maria Sharapova also packs in a heavy schedule, tending to commitments on court and commercial obligations off it.
After 15 years of top-level tennis, the physical endurance has taken its toll on her body with recurring injuries.
Since the US Open, the Russian has had to skip three tournaments because of a leg injury and withdraw from the Wuhan Open last month after injuring her left forearm.
But Sharapova (right) has shown no signs of slowing down, even as she has to fend off a rising generation of stars, who are threatening to overshadow her.
Ahead of the WTA Finals Singapore, the world No. 3 left for Europe to get her arm fixed, insisting it is not in her plan to call it a day anytime soon.
She is seeded third and will face Agnieszka Radwanska in her first round-robin tie in the Red Group today and aim to get the job done.
"Well, look, I really love playing tennis," said the 28-year-old yesterday.
"There's nothing else that really gives me that feeling and that competitiveness and the thrill, the emotion that I get on the court.
"As long as I will experience that, I will always believe that I have the motivation to become better.
"I think personally that's inspiring for me because I'm still quite young, even though in this sport there's a much younger generation coming up. I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle."
On the back of her playing record and career successes, Sharapova is the most accomplished player in the WTA Finals but insisted she is not the player to beat.
"To beat? That's not the way that I think. I don't think it would be fair to myself if I thought that way," she added. "I'm one of the eight players. I did something to be in the field. I want to take my opportunity. That's how I see it from my side."
On her recurring injuries, she said it comes with the nature of the sport and, as long as she is able to hold a racket, she would continue to plod on.
"I feel if my body allows me to, I'll still be playing for many years," she said.
"As long as I have that passion and drive, nothing is as important as waking up and becoming a better player."
In a WTA calendar that runs over 10 months, breaking only in November and December, Sharapova said planning is key for her.
Still, there have been calls to reduce the number of tournaments to give players more rest time and reduce injuries.
Sharapova is not for it and said it is about keeping participation levels to the minimum in a long season.
Players suffer from exhaustion, she added, when they plan their calendar with only the rankings and points in mind.
Said the five-time Grand Slam winner: "As far as the season, I think, of course, we have commitment to certain tournaments that we have to participate in. When you're young, you don't always make the scheduling decisions.
"But my team and father really made a conscious effort to understand that, you know, you can't look at rankings, you can't look at points.
"You have to look at the bigger picture. That's how I kept my career and I feel that I've done really well."
- The writer is a freelancer.