Friday, February 11, 2005Whenever I am in Singapore, I always blame my older and gone relatives for giving up/selling Singapore. The last descendant of Sultan Hussien, the sultan that sold Singapore to the British was his only grand daughter who moved to Terengganu when I was still schooling. I called her Tok Lat. Probably short for Tok Selat. I never knew why I was told to call her that. I knew her name wasn't Selat but Tengku Zainab ibni Sultan Ali.
Why do I always blame her grandfather whenever I am in Singapore? Well, it is for silly reasons really. Singapore is very Chinese to me though not as Chinese as Hong Kong or Taiwan is. It is not that I have anything against the Chinese. Please do not get me wrong. It is just that sometimes eating places in Singapore are not that Muslim-friendly as in Malaysia. I am sure that if the Sultan (or his successor and still in power) is still around, Singapore would be different. So I blame him whenever my favourite Nasi Padang shop is closed and I forget my MUIS (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura) Halal List. I blame him whenever I look at the menu and find porcine stuff in it.
Thursday, of all days, the first day of the Hijrah year, my friends took me to Raffles Hotel for a buffet lunch. They told me they have eaten there before and they found it halal (as they understood it). My friends have taken me to eat in Singapore before and they have never ever taken me to a place where pork is served. So I assume that today would be no different. Anyway, when we got there they wanted to be doubly sure and called the chef to point out to me the ingredients of all the items on the buffet counters. So the chef took me round. First item was ham and further down was a dish using porkloin. I didn't go any further and thanked the chef. My host went white and apologised profusely. There were fresh seafood in another section. Oysters in their shell, crab claws and small lobsters cut in half. I threw caution to the wind and had those and prayed that Allah forgave me.
Now, the famous Raffles Hotel is older than all the ages of my readers added up I think. I am sure the number of its age is bigger than my IQ. The hotel was established in 1889. The buffet was in Bars & Billiards where , as the legend has it, a tiger was shot under the billiard table. There was no tiger around yesterday although there were plenty of Tiger Beer. There were full page ads in the papers proclaiming that Singapore is "Tiger Country". Raffles Hotel had many famous visitors. Among them was Somerset Maugham . Another writer who stayed there was Joseph Conrad. They enjoyed their setengah and their Singapore Slings which were said to have been first concocted there.
Despite not being Muslim-friendly, Raffles has character befitting a grand old hotel. The service was impeccable. Syikin, our waiteress, took care of our table well even though she is only employed just 3 months ago. I saw only Malay waiters and waiteresses yesterday and like an ass assumed that was the only thing they were good for. Syikin reminded me that it is still Chinese New Year and the Chinese staff were still on leave.
When you ASSume, you make an ass of you and me. I did feel like an ass. I didn't go looking for halal carrot though.