Keng Eng Kee Seafood, the Book of Esther, and the Feast of Purim

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeMet the usual gang at Keng Eng Kee Seafood (124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, facebook) for an early birthday dinner. E had successfully booked us a table despite her terrible Chinese, and even managed (accidentally) to pre-order two crabs (having cluelessly said “yes” to something one of the staff had offered over the ‘phone).

Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeThe homemade tofu, coffee pork ribs, deep-fried goby fish (laden with lard) were delicious on white rice: Homemade tofu, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore Coffee pork ribs, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore Deep-fried Goby fish, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore

The salted egg prawns were good, but just not as outstanding as the other dishes: Salted egg prawns, Keng Eng Kee Seafood, 124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, SingaporeThere was a lot of loud cackling with this gang, even more so when we repaired to Salute Coffeeshop for Brothers ciders and draught wheat beer.

Those who were in study groups in Adam Road Presbyterian Centre mentioned that they were going through the Book of Esther.

Esther’s a really short read and, intriguingly, takes place during the reign of the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. There is no mention of God in the book, but his handiwork is everywhere.

Esther 1 sets the context of the story: the court of an internationally powerful king who, powerful and prosperous as he is, can’t get his wife, Vashti, to do his bidding.

Esther 2 seems to be the usual rags to riches story for Esther, except for the repeated idea that any suggestion that Esther was a Jew(ess) would have jeopardised the whole thing. She keeps silent on the strict advice of Mordecai, her uncle.

In Esther 3, narrative tension escalates dramatically with a plot on the lives of all Jews by Haman the agitated Agagite. “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods” (Esther 3:13).

There seems little hope that even Esther can do anything about this. But Mordecai now says that this is not the time for silence. Further, “14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Meanwhile, it seems quite certain to Haman and his friends and wife in Esther 5 that Haman’s star is on the up, and he can do to Mordecai whatever he wants.

creating head in wheat beer, Salute Coffee Shop, Bukit Merah

But a great and wonderful reversal takes place. A series of fortunate events or really, the divine hand at work? And again we see the regrettable impotence of the king, who, having first been unable to distinguish his friends from self-interested courtiers, was later unable to undo his own edict. Still the Jews are saved, and we can be certain from whom their rescue issued – the biblical phrase “and the fear of the Jews fell upon” (or variations thereon) is reminiscent of God’s protection of Israel in the Exodus as they passed through various lands belonging to hostile people.

And Queen Esther and Mordecai the Jew (how the writer of Esther emphasises this!) institute the Feast of Purim to celebrate the event as “22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor” (Esther 8:22).

According to some reports, Christians are the most persecuted people on the earth now. And while Christian Concern and Open Doors quite rightly highlight and agitate for protection of the rights of Christians, the assurance is that there is a God who will be seen, in the great sweep of human history, to have preserved his people for eternity.

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Salute (not Salut) Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Alexandra Village, Singapore

Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1 Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1

We were at Salute Coffeeshop in Bukit Merah for Immanuel French Kitchen (facebook), headed by Immanuel Tee.

foie gras, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The pan-fried foie gras (“coated with black miso and served with dashi broth and daikon noodles”) was a promising concept, but lacked the crisp exterior that should have come from being in a pan, and would have helped with jer lat blandness of the liver.

French duck confit, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Duck confit is difficult to get just right. Cooking it is easy enough – just fish out from its rendered duck fat bath, pat dry, and put on the pan. But to get the contrast of textures – the crackle of skin and the tender flavourful flesh, takes experience. One of Immanuel’s assistants cooked this dry duck leg – a pity. Also there was a lack of cohesion to the dish – you took a bite of the duck, and one of the mash, but there was nothing to bridge the distance.

pork belly cooked in kakuni style, Immanuel French Kitchen, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Pork belly cooked in kakuni style (“served with mushrooms, onsen egg, potato foam”). I guess none of this is a reflection on Immanuel’s ability as a chef, but he might want to train his assistants better.

Two Wings (facebook) was another stall within the coffeeshop: Two Wings, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The wings are allegedly made according to the Carona Chicken recipe from yesteryear. As fried chicken wings went, they were alright, said H, but probably not worth S$12.50 for 6 pieces. I just remember the chilli sauce being the highlight of Carona, not the chicken.

Representing the Germans was Stew Küche (facebook): stew and pretzel, Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1The stew in a claypot accompanied by a pretzel, wasn’t anything to write home about, said B. And the pretzel was more hard than chewy.

avocado shake! Salut Coffeeshop, 119 Bukit Merah Lane 1Dismissive of the beer and the exorbitant prices of other drinks, B brought over some avocado shakes from the Alexandra Village hawker centre.

A coffeeshop filled with un-coffeeshop-like food isn’t new but is something fun that we’d like to see more of. While Singaporeans love to flock to the newest eating place, quality and value-for-money are what will continue to draw returning customers once the shine (and instagram-worthiness) was worn off.

Where to find good reasonably-priced French food in Singapore?

Before I left Singapore, there was a good and cheap French stall in a kopitiam at 269 Queen Street called “Le Cuisson”. Sadly for fans of French food in coffeeshops, they are now “La Cuisson” at Prinsep Street – proper French grammar, proper restaurant space, and proper bistro prices.

And there was the reasonably-priced Le Bistro at the Singapore Indoor Stadium – that’s closed shop as well.

Le sigh.