This lady is a street food vendor who used to sell carrot cake at my late grandmother’s apartment building. Along with fellow vendors that sold anything from noodles to roti prata, staples of the Singaporean diet, there never was a dull meal to be had for breakfast or lunch.
Marking 25 years in the business by the time I was born, she was a constant in the gourmet landscape of my childhood. Our interactions were entirely transactional, but with the warmth of her smile and the casual conversations with my family members, she was more than just another carrot cake vendor. She was family too.
The familiar clanging of her spatulas, mingled with the distinctive scent of garlic, egg and soya sauce crisping on a hot cast iron surface, brought a semblance of normality as we dealt with my grandfather’s passing – the first death in the family. She was there on my first day of school, and when I graduated, eleven years later, still on her feet, tirelessly whipping up dish after dish of carrot cake.
With the business now in the hands of her son and daughter-in-law, her days are marked with leisure and the occasional supervision of their shop. It was a joy to see her in good health despite her age.
In a city of constant flux, where shared experiences and communities dissolve in the span of a policy decision, reconnecting with her was a privilege I didn’t expect to encounter on this trip. But I was glad I did.
Carrot Cake (Chai Tow Kway)
Blk 127, Toa Payoh Lorong 1, #02-26, Singapore