Late Night Thoughts over a Plate of Mee Goreng

I was feeling down today.

Visited the Knock It Down exhibition at Artblovk Gallery and saw a tired fellow illustrator on the way out of the MRT Station. The gallery was crowded I didn’t have much conversation. I was too tired to have any anyway.

Spending less than an hour at the gallery, I took the train to Marymount and decided to check out Curry Potter, Chef Ratha’s next chapter after closing Black Sheep Café. I wasn’t expecting to see him but there he was on a Friday night. At around 8:30 pm, the restaurant was actually empty. There were a few tables earlier on but today’s quiet for the night except for a few kids running along the corridor.
Today, I didn’t have duck confit or beef cheeks. 

Instead, I had a “simple” plate of Mee Goreng (6.90 SGD). It is simple with inverted commas because like many hawker food, there is actually a lot of effort and complex preparation behind them. For this particular Mee Goreng, it was different.

It was inspired by Chef Ratha’s memory when he was 7, standing on the back of his dad’s motorbike trying to catch a glimpse of a hawker cooking mee goreng at Cuppage. No, the mee goreng he remembered wasn’t red on high saturation and overly spicy. It was rich and yet has a diverse range of ingredients and flavours mixed in it. As he described his memory of the mee goreng and how he prepares it, he mentioned how the length of the noodles shouldn’t be too short, the ketch up has to be specifically Del Monte instead of Maggi, that it should be slightly oily etc…..these little details mattered to him as a chef and to achieve that food memory of the Cuppage Mee Goreng.

One of my favourite places is still Pulau Tekong when it was lull period without recruits. 
It was a quiet place to get away and think without much distraction.

Following his vivid descriptions of the thought process and the food as I tuck into the plate of mee goreng he prepared, I recalled my observations of the folks who visited the Imaginarium and recollecting and sharing their memories with me and other people in the gallery. Call it nostalgia or what, both Chef Ratha and I recognised that as we aged, these kinds of experiences seemed to provide a kind of comfort regardless of the age group we are in.

Maybe, I am biased but with my favourite restaurants calling it a day one by one and friendships becoming more distant and competitively comparative in the working world. Black Sheep Café, brings a kind of irrational comforting memory of the past back when things are tad more simple....more comfortable, not in material sense but like a sanctuary of some sorts. There wasn't any pretentious menu, butter from Hokkaido or design award-winning interior with the perfect typeface here...just good food and a place to unwind.

Along with the plate of mee goreng, I had a glass of Butterfly Pea Drink, which is a mix of honey, lemongrass and butterfly pea flower. It was sweet, refreshing and with a tinge of savouriness, very different from what I had at Jim Thompson in Bangkok a few years ago. Priced at 2.90, it is the sort of drink that I think people would pay 4-5 bucks for yet Chef Ratha don’t see the point to do it, he thinks it makes enough for the margin and it was something he is happy to make and let people enjoy. This kind of attitude is hard to come by today indeed. Even in the illustration or architecture side, everything is down to dollars and sense to the point that it feels overwhelming.

We also talked briefly about mortality. It happens that Chef Ratha has experienced a near accident of a loved one and he was quite shaken by it. I have the same fears for my parents as well even though I don’t quite like to share about it. While social media posts and feel-good posters will always to be there to extol the cliché “cherish life, don’t take life for granted” message…how many of us really do and are able to do it? There were countless times, the jadedness from being at work in office and at home made me want to really give it up. It is difficult to live by that message indeed and to put up a façade of “everything is fine and cheery”

Sometimes at night I am deeply affected by moments of those misunderstandings from ex-friends, the disappointments at work and life but life is still life, I told would tell myself to go on. Having a conversation with Chef Ratha tonight, is a good reminder of that and that there are still many other things in life to move on with…

I am quite tired and drawn out since the Imaginarium exhibition. To all who visited, supported me, encouraged me and went to the exhibition, thank you very much once again for showing up. I simply can’t thank you enough. I didn’t realise it was roughly a year ago since I did the first few sketches for the same exhibition.

Having this Mee Goreng meal at Curry Potter with Chef Ratha has brought comfort and true relief from being in the office or to put up a front here and there. The man’s a rare gem in today’s hectic society. I like his food the person behind it with biasness. There is probably better no doubt in a huge world out there. But I will want to come back to Curry Potter again while it lasts before it all goes.

Anyway, go check out Curry Potter at Thomson V while you can.
I will go back again.


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