Wonder stew that is black vinegar trotters

ACQUIRED TASTE: The sweeter and gentler version being offered by Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters in Chinatown (above); Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters inspiring confidence with its racks of “dog brand” black vinegar; Cheng Mun Chee Kee’s signature dish is actually this ter huang kiam chye.
ACQUIRED TASTE: The sweeter and gentler version being offered by Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters in Chinatown; Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters inspiring confidence with its racks of “dog brand” black vinegar (above); Cheng Mun Chee Kee’s signature dish is actually this ter huang kiam chye.
ACQUIRED TASTE: The sweeter and gentler version being offered by Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters in Chinatown; Hong Kong Vinegar Trotters inspiring confidence with its racks of “dog brand” black vinegar; Cheng Mun Chee Kee’s signature dish is actually this ter huang kiam chye (above).

Not many people today can mentally recall the flavour profile of what old ginger, sesame oil, black vinegar and black or brown sugar can do to meat, especially pig trotters.

Mayonnaise with wasabi? Check.

Truffle with olive oil? Tick.

Lime with sambal? No problemo.

But when it comes to this iconic Cantonese combination, which is slowly but surely disappearing from Singapore's makan radar, many will draw a blank.

I sense there is a large group of Gen Xers out there who have a natural affinity for this dish.

Your mummy probably relied on it to rid her system of "wind in the tummy" to get her figure back on track, or slurped it to aid lactation after giving birth to your baby brother or sister.

It was de rigueur when it came to confinement nutrition back in the days before yoga was in. And you likely tucked into the dish with your mum, and it probably grew on you and the taste stuck over time.

It is not a love-at-first-taste dish.

The potent old ginger has a certain bite, while the sweet and sourish black vinegar (old chefs will tell you only one brand can be used - the one with the "dog" logo) calms it somewhat.

Some versions go heavy on the brown sugar, while others lay it on thick with the sour sensation. Hard boiled eggs are sometimes added for texture, but it is the trotters that complete the equation.

Weird, some may call this dish, but many others will say "sock it to me".

Few stalls now can do justice to this Cantonese wonder stew. Here are two of them:


The boss was the former owner of Lao Huo Dang soup (double boiled soup) who sold his business and set up this stall just a few years back. If you know your black vinegar trotters like I do, then you will automatically be attracted by the full-height wall rack of the "dog brand" bottles of black vinegar at this stall.

Its version leans on the sweeter side of sour, and the chef cooks it one claypot at a time for each order.

This one is a shoo-in for beginners, and the trotters are braised till fork-press tender. It looks nice and does not scream black vinegar nor old ginger too loudly.

I think fans of sweet sour mee siam will like this version.


It is well known for the perfect local hangover soup - ter huang kiam chye, or pork and offal salted vegetable soup. This is why it makes sense for the eatery to use some of the broth to spike the umami and tang quotient in the black vinegar trotters, which is offered as a side dish here.

Its rendition has a more pronounced sourish-sharp vinegar accent with just a hint of old ginger. The trotters are tender, although it isn't served in a pretty claypot. This one is for those with familiar palates.

If you ask me, I will have this most days without rice, but not because of the recent news about how a bowl of rice is worse than a can of cola when it comes to increasing the risk of diabetes.

It is just that I like it unadulterated, and I love the rush of sharp vinegar and gingery sweet broth down the hatch.

KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets, his own TV shows on cable, publishing food guides, consultancy and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


  • #02-007, Chinatown Food Centre
  • 10.30am to 8pm daily


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Research reveals

Rounding up science's latest discoveries

Potatoes tied to high blood pressure risk.


Eating potatoes four or more times a week - whether boiled, baked, mashed or as French fries - may increase the risk of high blood pressure, a new study has found.

Researchers based at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the US pooled results from three observational studies of 187,453 men and women over 25 years old.

After controlling other factors such as body mass index, physical activity, smoking and drinking, they found that compared to eating potatoes only once a month, having one potato four to six times a week increased the risk of high blood pressure by 11 per cent.

It was worse for French fries - the risk increased by 17 per cent.

They believed that potatoes cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, which is associated with blood vessel problems and inflammation. This, in turn, increased the risk of hypertension.


Romance is a load of rubbish, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found that while we judge potential mates on different criteria, we are less concerned about how well they fulfil our ideals.

Rather, we are more concerned with how well they do compared with other potential mates.

The scientists looked at 119 men and 140 women, who had been in relationships for an average of 7½ years and had them rate the importance of 27 traits, including health, kindness, and attractiveness, in an ideal mate.

Then, they ranked how well both they and their current partners lived up to these traits.

It was found that those with partners who had a higher desirability score than themselves were happy, whether or not their partners matched their ideal preferences.

But those with less desirable partners reported being satisfied when their partner fulfilled their ideal preferences better than the majority of the other potential mates.


There are many people who have suffered a heart attack, and didn't realise that they've had one. A study found they just brush it off as something as minor as the flu or believe they have strained a muscle or have indigestion.

Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina found that people who have silent heart attacks are three times more likely to die of heart disease and 34 per cent more likely to die from any cause.

Signs of silent heart attacks include unexplained fatigue and discomfort in the jaw, upper back or arms and such attacks can cause just as much damage as heart attacks which are instantly recognised. But as they do not come with the usual symptoms of chest or arm pain, patients do not seek treatment which can help prevent another.

The research, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, looked at the records of 9,500 middle-aged men and women between 1987 and 2013 and nine years into the study, they found 7.4 per cent of the volunteers had heart attacks. Of that group, 317 volunteers had silent heart attacks, while 386 noticed heart attack symptoms immediately.

They found that silent attacks are more common in men, but are more dangerous for women who are more likely to die from this type of attack.

Tags: health, science and research

Weigh your apptions

Retail investors can now work on the go

HELPFUL: OCBC’s OneWealth (above) provides curated information from experts.
HELPFUL: OCBC’s OneWealth (both photos) provides curated information from experts.
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This is not a sanitary pad ad

LTA wants you to walk, cycle or take public transport - just don't drive

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) just can't seem to catch a break.

Last month, The Straits Times published this headline: "Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable: LTA".

Minds were blown.

It was like saying there were a rise in bedbug bites at the Esplanade, but there were no bedbugs at the Esplanade.

When I first read the headline, I thought I had been zapped to an alternate universe where words have similar but slightly different meaning.

As someone pointed out online, the headline is an "oxymoron to anybody who can understand simple English".

And "oxymoron" doesn't mean an imbecile with too much pimple cream on his face.

But taken literally, the headline could just mean that we can now rely on the MRT more than ever to provide us with major breakdowns.

But that would be a rather odd, though self-aware, thing for LTA to announce.

So what was LTA really trying to say?

According to a PDF file titled "Performance of Rail Service Reliability" on its website, what LTA wants you to know is that, yes, the number of service delays lasting more than 30 minutes for the overall MRT network has increased from nine in 2011 to 14 last year.

That's the "rise in major breakdowns" part of the headline.

But the mean distance travelled between delays lasting more than five minutes has increased from 58,000km in 2011 to 133,000km last year.

I guess that's the "more reliable" part that LTA wanted to brag about.

A month later, as if to show LTA up, lightning struck somewhere between Yio Chu Kang and Khatib MRT stations, causing a delay on the North-South Line. The affected train was reportedly pushed by another train to a station.

Someone commented online: "Now, even the Lightning God is telling SMRT to wake up their idea."

Another blamed the Government, the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and the Singaporeans who voted for it, saying: "You vote PAP means you vote lightning party. See logo for reference. You voted for the lightning to strike the train. Blame the Government. Blame PAP."

If the train were struck by a giant hammer, then could we blame the Workers' Party?


But even before the MRT was struck by the PAP logo, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said that in terms of rail reliability, we are "way below" Hong Kong's much-acclaimed Mass Transit Railway (MTR).

Yah, but has the MTR ever been struck by lightning?

Oh, it has? In 2014? And we're still losing to them? How can?

"We want to catch up with Hong Kong, and we will," said Mr Khaw.

Yah, as long as we don't get hit by any more lightning.

As if the task isn't hard enough, LTA is promoting a "car-lite" society, and wants more commuters to switch to our already overburdened public transport system.

"Hmmm, the MRT is breaking down more often than before. What should we do? Get more people to take the MRT!"

And even that LTA can't seem to do right.

As part of its Walk Cycle Ride campaign, LTA has put up a series of banners with drawings of a woman not driving a car with taglines such as "The only rubber I'm burning is on my shoes".

One banner showing a woman riding a bicycle with the tagline "Freedom to come and go" has been likened to a sanitary pad advertisement.

Another showing a woman on a bus with the tagline "Someone else is driving, I can daydream" has been criticised by no less a personage than poet and playwright Alfian Sa'at, who co-wrote Hotel, which won Best Original Script and Production Of The Year at the M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards last month.

He posted on Facebook last week: "LTA, why you Fail. So. Hard. Intended meaning: 'Because someone else is driving, it frees me up to do other things'. Frustrated-by-cost-of-living Singaporeans will read: 'Some other rich folks are driving their cars, I can only daydream of owning one'."

The woman is probably daydreaming about placing a $1 Toto QuickPick bet and winning $8 million so that she can afford a car - like all of us.

And this is how LTA's innocent attempt to encourage people to use public transport turns into class warfare.

The sanitary pad ad doesn't look so bad now, does it?

LTA needn't have bothered.

On Thursday, Traffic Police unveiled new speed laser cameras to catch speeding drivers from even farther distances in 44 locations around Singapore day and night.

That should scare off more people from driving than any sanitary pad ad.

10 years of Biker Boy

Biker Boy column turns 10

CHILL, THRILL SPILL: In the past 10 years, he has broken three bones.
CHILL, THRILL SPILL: Biker Boy gingerly lends a hand at a photoshoot with Miss Universe Singapore 2014, bike lover Rathi Menon.
CHILL, THRILL SPILL: Biker Boy competing with Haizum, ridden by jockey Rosli Ahmad, in a 2014 race.
CHILL, THRILL SPILL: And one of Biker Boy's spills. In the past 10 years, he has broken three bones. STAR: World Superbike Ducati racer Chaz Davies with Biker Boy.
STAR: World Superbike Ducati racer Chaz Davies with Biker Boy.

Time flies like a Ducati.

Ten years have passed since a senior editor at The New Paper threw me a challenge: Come up with a column to connect with male readers and those who are adventurous.

After much huffing and puffing, like starting an old Norton, TNP's Biker Boy roared to life.

Today, the column is as recognisable as the Harley growl. Biker Boy has grown to become a feature covering everything motorcycle-related.

More than 500 articles have been written, some 100 motorcycles reviewed and thousands of pictures taken as the test riders pushed the bikes without breaking them.

In that time, the "boy" in Biker Boy has also matured - now married and blessed with two children who are slowly developing an interest in motorcycles.

There have been highlights.

I broke three bones, raced against a horse, tested a waterproof headset under the shower and sat on MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi's bike when he wasn't looking.

I also regularly brought home sand from different parts of the island, parted Miss Universe Singapore 2014 Rathi Menon's hair and acquired several motorcycles without telling the long-suffering wife.


But none of this would have been possible without the people in the biking community, who remain the main reason I write about their pursuits and all things two-wheeled.

From locals who brave uncharted destinations and adventures to international racing stars who appear on TV each weekend at break-neck speeds during races.

Credit goes to Braap Brothers for surviving the treacherous Red Bull Romaniacs enduro last year which had close to a 50 per cent DNF (did not finish) rate.

Even as I write this, my friend Juvena Huang is somewhere in Iran, riding solo on her trusty two-stroke Vespa on a lifetime adventure which started here in May 2015.

Rising stars Muhd Jazil and Hasroy Osman continue to represent budding talents on the local racing scene.

Occasionally, we're visited by the gods of racing like Briton Chaz Davies, who races in the World Superbike championship for Ducati, and Australian Cameron Donald, famed for his exploits in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy.

Despite their lightning-quick reflexes and superhuman abilities, these professional racers are level-headed and modest during interviews.

These days, riders can buy machines similar to the ones pro racers ride.

But the major break in the last decade has been smarter and safer motorcycles equipped with traction control, ride modes and anti-lock brake systems (ABS) as standard equipment.

Some brands add more excitement with features such as cornering ABS, up/down quick-shifters and anti-wheelie.

With stricter emission rules geared for Euro 4, we can also expect greener motorbikes.

But concerns remain.

Mechanics need to be trained for the new technology and workshops need to invest in equipment to service Euro 4-compliant motorcycles.


As a rider, you'll pay more for environment-friendly motorcycles.

For owners of smaller motorcycles, who make up about 70 per cent of the biker population here, things won't be good given current Certificate of Entitlement (COE) premiums.

It continues to hover above $6,000.

In the last decade, the population of bigger bikes above 500cc has steadily increased.

It appears that bigger motorcycles become better investments when COE prices are high.

But big or small, the lure of freedom, affordable transportation and countless adventures will continue to attract a certain breed of men and women to motorcycling.

And one thing has been constant over the decade: TNP remains a strong advocate for safe-riding practices.

We "gave" our face to Traffic Police's Riders For Life campaign by appearing in two standies.

We also lent our voice by speaking at Singapore Ride Safe events in the hopes that more bikers suit up.

Motorcycling can be a safe activity if we remain alert and take certain safety precautions.

I could go on but I don't want to take up your precious riding time.

Here's to the next 10 years.

Ride on!

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