1) Roti (bread)
This guy came around in a bicycle with a huge wooden box mounted on the back (see photo courtesy of Flickr member Justin.z). The bread he sold was the traditional ‘chow tar’ roti with burnt top. You can still find some places in Singapore selling such bread; for example here and here. He would slice off the burnt portions on the spot and if requested cut the loaf into thin slices for the customer. We used to enjoy watching him deftly slice the loaf of bread and marvel at how sharp his bread knife was.
He also sold home made kaya. Unlike the modern versions that come in plastic or glass jars, his kaya was packed in recycled tin cans with a circular piece of banana leaf covering the top. His kaya was brown in colour. I never saw green colour kaya in my kampong days.
Oh yes; the burnt portions were not discarded but used to feed our dogs.
2) Ice cream
I think I blogged about this fellow before. He came around every afternoon, at around 2 o’clock. We would look out for the sound of his bell. He sold two types of ice cream. One was ice cream cut into rectangular blocks and sandwiched between 2 wafer biscuits. The other was two scoops of ice cream sandwiched between two small slices of bread.
Unusually one of us boys would take the orders from the other siblings and walk out to his tricycle along the main road, which was a dirt track, to do the purchase. Sometimes, on the way back, with both our hands full, we would encounter a passing car. We tried in vain to shield our precious ice cream from the cloud of yellow dust churned up by the passing vehicle.
3) Ham Chim Pang
Another sound our young ears were well tuned to was this cry; “Ham chim pang … pak tong koeeee…” We liked to imitate his cry, especially the way he dragged the last word. I guess there is no need for me to explain what this chap was selling to local readers. For oversea friends like Tom and Brian, it’s quite difficult to visualize anyway if you have never seen it before.
4) Nonya Kueh
There was also an Indian boy who came around, also in the afternoons, to sell home made nonya kuehs. I think I blogged about this Bartley School boy here where I described how we became friends with him and often exchanged stamps with him. The kueh I remember best from him was a banana kueh (photo on right is not banana kueh).
5) Yong Tau Hoo
I finally I come to the most amazing of the itinerant hawkers of all – the yong tau hoo seller. He was a young man who stayed not far from our house on a hillside. He did not come around in a vehicle but carried the load on his shoulders like what you see in this photo of a satay seller. Among the many things stuffed into his tiny 'stall' were a huge pot of soup, stove (and presumeably, charcoal), ingredients, bowls and utensils.
I remember how he would come to the front of our house, took the various orders and then proceeded to cook the yong tau hoo on the spot. Often he would take the opportunity to top up the soup by adding some water from our well. My siblings and I often found ourselves admiring this guy for his strength.
Besides the five vendors I have described above they were others; but I cannot recall much. For example, we had the popular tick-tock mee and an Indian guy who sold putu mayam. Although I don’t remember much about him, I enjoyed his putu mayam tremendously. Nowadays, when I get the chance, I would still like to order this item from the coffee shop near my house at Sixth Avenue; but somehow it doesn’t taste as nice as the ones from my kampong.
And even as I try to recall all the wonderful stuff that we ate in our kampong days, I simply cannot figure out how we were able to eat so much snacks in the afternoons!
For the benefit of Tom and other British friends, here is a photo of the Pak Tong Koe (白糖糕 for the younger Singaporeans who may not know) I mentioned. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any ham chim pang at the place where I took my lunch today. Maybe another time.