As the Head of State, Ong Teng Cheong was entrusted with the task of protecting Singapore's past financial reserves. He had the power to veto any withdrawal – in theory.
In reality, President Ong didn't even know how much reserves there were until 1996. He got the information only because he asked, and kept asking for three whole years. Then in 1998, the state-owned Post Office Savings Bank and the national reserves it was holding was divested without even his knowledge, never mind consent. He had to remind the cabinet that the divestment without his permission was against the Constitution of Singapore. And there were no procedures for the protection of past reserves. So he went about setting up the procedures, and that took him his entire six-year presidential term.
The upshot of Ong Teng Cheong's efforts was that when he died in 2002, the by then ex-President of Singapore didn't get a state funeral.
The task of standing guard over state reserves started with Ong Teng Cheong's immediate predecessor, Wee Kim Wee. This was what Ong Teng Cheong said when Asiaweek interviewed him in 2000:
|'Wee Kim Wee, although he was not elected, was supposed to play that role [of guarding reserves] during the last two years of his term. But he did not actively check.'|
|'Apart from his constitutional duties, Daddy together with Mummy performed official duties and participated in many official and public events.'|
What did Wee Kim Wee himself think of his position 'at the top'? He said:
|'In my time as President, if I can make just 50 people happy, I would have done my part.'|
After bashing the man, I'd so love to bash the recipes in Cooking for the President. Trouble is, I can't find any that's bad! All of the 200-plus recipes look good, and a few have been flagged by the author as particularly outstanding, such as Sok Hiong's Mee Siam. Sok who? That's Koh Sok Hiong, the woman who married Wee Kim Wee.
Mrs Wee regularly brought happiness to not just 50 but 500 people, and more. In Singapore, and Malaysia and Japan where her husband was the ambassador, she invited 500 guests at a time, and laid out an entire spread of Nyonya delicacies for them. In fact, her cooking 'took Tokyo by storm', as it did Kuala Lumpur. Mee siam was one the guests' firm favourites, along with sambal udang and chicken satay.
The magic in Sok Hiong's Mee Siam is the bee hoon made with a killer ingredient: coconut milk. Thick, fresh milk is fried till all the water has evaporated, leaving the curds which are nicely browned, and the oil which smells like . . . like . . . ? Ah yes, it smells like the MRT trains but, I must emphasize, in an absolutely GOOD way.
The coconut oil is then used to fry dried chillies, shallots, belachan and taucheo. This aromatic, spicy paste is mixed with the coconut curds, plus another not-found-in-other-recipes ingredient: tomato ketchup. Finally, it's tossed with coarse bee hoon. This dry mee siam is, I tell ya, nothing short of presidential. It's so good it can be totally eaten on its own, but it's even better with mee siam sauce that's made with assam gelugoh to give it the right type of sourness. Yup, all those recipes that have only assam jawa or worse, don't have assam anything at all (like LKY's mother's), chuck 'em in the bin. As for the people who use Prima's mee siam paste, I'm praying for them . . . . Just kidding!
If you're not on Mrs or Ms Wee's rarefied guest list, never mind. You now have the recipe for Sok Hiong's Mee Siam (and her Sambal Udang). It's by far the best mee siam recipe I've seen, way better than those of Mrs Leong Yee Soo and LKY's mother, and any I've seen online. Wee Eng Hwa said her mother's mee siam was famous in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo. I believe her – just on this.
Sambal Udang – The Puppet's Way
Check these out:
|Sambal Timun |
(Mrs Wee Kim's
Wee's Spicy Pork
|Black Pepper |
(Mrs Wee Kim
in Chilli Paste)