article #3 .
The story of Scissors curry rice
note : the stall was closed when we visited on New Year's eve on Sunday for this picture.
As you come out from the Bugis MRT Station into Victoria St. there
are two coffee shops in an HDB block. In the one nearer Ophir Rd.,
is the Tien Seng Mixed Curry Rice Stall. This is no ordinary curry
rice stall. It has a long and interesting history.
40 years ago, a Hainanese man they called Fatso sold Hainanese
style curry rice in Garden St. off Beach Rd. His curry rice was quite
different from other curry rice. Customers had only 4 dishes to choose
from to eat with the rice.
1. Pork Chops= round flat disks about 5" in diameter, of minced pork
mixed with egg and biscuit marinated in soya sauce and God knows what
2.Braised Belly Pork, smooth succulent and slighly fatty also in a
soya bean based sauce but containing traces of garlic, sugar, cloves
3.Egg fried pure and simple with the yolk intact.
4.Cabbages stewed pure and simple.
The magic of his curry rice probably lay in the gravies he poured over
your rice. First he dumped two types of curry over it, then the sauce he
braised the pork in, then some chilli oil. The result of all this was a
feast fit for hungry-and poor men like me. I remember waiting hungrily
and as he poured the various gravies over the rice, they formed coloured
contours of red, yellow and brown on the rice. The abstract patterns
thus formed were to me the work of a potential Picasso.
Needless to say, he sold the rice by the hundreds of plates and people
queued patiently. The price was $1.00 for a plate overflowing with rice
and the four standard ingredients.
Now you may ask why everybody called it Scissors Curry Rice. That was
because he cut the round disks of pork chops with a pair of scissors.
While we are on this subject of his tools of trade, let me tell you
that he also used an industrial mallet to pound the pork chops, and
used his hands to scoop the rice out of a wooden tub. And they also
said that his cabbages were the loose leaves discarded by vegetable
sellers in the old Beach Rd. market. But nobody cared because the
food was so delicious.
But Fatso had one vice, and that was gambling. All the money he made
from the hard work of cooking and selling his curry rice was lost on
gambling. Every Monday, money lenders went to his stall to collect
money. Now I am not telling any big secret beacause everybody in the
area knew that.
Well, anyway the stall carried on until sometime in the mid-80s I
think, when the old man died, and his wife carried on.All the roadside
stalls at Garden St. were cleared and his wife moved to Blanco Court.
In the next few years, she tried to expand and even franchise the
curry rice, but all failed. Blanco Court, Kitchener Rd., Kallang,
Katong, Geylang. Now I don't know where there the original one is. There
were lots of imitators claiming to be "Scissors" but none tasted the
same. Which brings us to the point of the story-what has the Tien
Seng Mixed Curry Rice Stall to do with all this ? Well it has to do
with all this, because the curry rice served there is exactly the same
and tastes exactly the same-but without the mallet and scisssors and bare
hands scooping rice out of a wooden tub. The owners were confident
enough of the quality of their curry rice not to use the Scissors name.
They must be ex-employees or something to have got the recipe for
the curry and the pork exactly the same.
And so, the original Scissors Curry rice lives on, reincarnated
as Tien Seng Mixed Curry Rice. For just $2.50 you can get the same
overflowing plate of rice, meat,egg,vegetables and curry. And we
poor hungry men still have a place to eat.
- brought to you by our feature writer Ng Tian Khean
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