The adorable old folks at Poh Guan Cake House

FADE IN:

EXT. POH GUAN CAKE HOUSE – DAY

Poh Guan Cake House is an old-school bakery located in Chinatown, directly opposite Hong Lim Market & Food Centre. It was early evening, after a delightful and leisurely four-hour birthday lunch at Mad About Sucre.

THE WIFE, had a craving for Chi Kak Kueh (鼠壳粿) and insisted that we take a stroll to Poh Guan, one of the very few places left in Singapore that still make the traditional Teochew snack.

SHOP UNCLE #1, an elderly Chinese man walking around the tables outside the bakery, answering questions from the mostly elderly customers.

THE WIFE
Unker, 这个鼠壳粿是甜的还是咸的?
<Uncle, is this chi kak kueh the sweet or salty type?>

SHOP UNCLE #1
这盒是半咸甜的,很好吃!
<This box is the sweet and salty one, very oishii!>

THE WIFE
好,那就给我一盒吧!
<Ok, then please give me one box!>

SHOP UNCLE #1
还要什么吗?全部都好吃。
<Anything else? Everything is oishii.>

THE WIFE
好, 我继续逛逛吧。
<Ok, I’ll continue browsing.>

THE WIFE wanders around the many tables filled with numerous traditional snacks and seasonal Chinese New Year goodies like pineapple tarts, love letters, nian gao (年糕), huat kueh (发糕) etc and picks up various items.

CUT TO:

THE MAIN DISPLAY COUNTER

The counter is similarly stacked with containers of various goodies, with customers jostling to get a better look.

RANDOM CUSTOMER #1, a plump middle-aged lady with permed hair, asks loudly.

RANDOM CUSTOMER #1
这里什么好吃的?
<What’s good to eat here?>

SHOP AUNTIE #2, an elderly Chinese lady, probably close to 70 years old, sporting a full head of dyed brown hair with silver streaks, replies loudly and confidently.

SHOP AUNTIE #2
我们这里全部都好吃!
<Everything here is oishii!>

ME, a middle-aged man who likes to entertain elderly shopkeepers, turns to SHOP AUNTIE #2 and asks a question that probably no one has ever dared to ask before.

ME
Auntie, 有什么东西不好吃的吗?
<Auntie, is there anything that is not oishii?>

SHOP AUNTIE #2
(does a double-take, pauses for what seems an eternity and then looks directly at ME)

ME
(starting to feel uncomfortable and trying desperately to avoid making eye contact)

THE WIFE
(a look of horror spreads across her face as she turns to look at ME)

SHOP AUNTIE #2
(breaks into a big smile and starts laughing heartily)
有!其实有一个真的不好吃!
<Yes! There’s actually one that’s really not good to eat!>

SHOP AUNTIE #2 walks over to where I’m standing and points to one type of cookie. I won’t name names, so as not to be cookie-ist and discriminate against any particular snack.

SHOP AUNTIE #2
这个不好吃。
跟他们讲了也不听,还是要做出来卖!
<This is not oishii.>
<I already told them but they just wouldn’t listen, and still insisted on selling it!>

Seeing that SHOP AUNTIE #2 had a sense of humour, I decided to press my luck and go for the win.

ME
这样啊。Then Auntie, 我就买这一罐吧!
<I see. In that case, Auntie, I will buy it!>

SHOP AUNTIE #2
(laughing even more heartily)
都跟你讲不好吃了你还要买,不要傻啦!
<I already told you it was bad and you still want to buy it, don’t be silly!>

Of course I was only joking and didn’t actually intend to buy it. And of course, SHOP AUNTIE #2 knew that and rightly ignored my request.

ME
那就给我们一包红龟粿吧。
<In that case, please give us a packet of ang ku kueh.>

SHOP AUNTIE #3, who was standing beside SHOP AUNTIE #2 and looked like they could have been relatives, bundled all the stuff that we bought into a big plastic bag. She was also quite elderly and probably north of 70 years old.

SHOP AUNTIE #3
(handing us our bag of goodies)
来,全部三十四块。新年快乐!
<A total of thirty four dollars. Happy New Year! >

ME
(paying up)
Auntie, 你也是。 新年快乐!快高长大!
<Auntie, Happy New Year to you too! Grow taller and stronger!>

RANDOM CUSTOMER #2, an elderly Chinese man who was also paying for his purchase, turned and looked at me with a strange expression — equal parts of disbelief, puzzlement and suppressed laughter.

Because while 快高长大 is a common Chinese New Year greeting, it’s exclusively meant for young kids. I did mention earlier that I like to entertain old shopkeepers, didn’t I?

SHOP AUNTIE #3
(waves the cash I gave her earlier at me, and lets out a belly laugh)
哎呀!长不高了啦。不要缩水就好了!
<Aiya! I can’t grow any taller. Just don’t let me shrink!>

CUT TO:

INT. HOME – NEXT DAY

We steamed the chi kak kueh and ang ku kueh for breakfast and as we ate, we couldn’t help but chuckle as we remembered how cute (and I mean it in the most respectful way, of course) the old folks at Poh Guan Cake House were.

FADE OUT.

THE END

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