Thursday, 17 March 2011

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (KMSPKS), or more commonly known as Kong Meng San among the Chinese community, never fails to bring back childhood memories for me. When I was a child, this was one of the favorite hangouts for family outing. My parents' main purpose was of course to pray, whereas my sister and I had other agendas. Being young and ignorant back then, we loved to run around the temple. Needless to say, we disturbed the peace and tranquility of the premise, which I come to appreciate as I grow older these days. I remembered there was a pond, which according to my parents, was where people liberate aquatic animals (usually tortoise). My sister and I always commented on why our pet tortoise could never grow to the size of the tortoises residing at KMSPKS. Before we left, we would grabbed some free sweets from the altar.

On Sunday, I revisited the temple. The sky was overcast and it was drizzling, but I found it welcoming as it had been rather warm for the past few days. Nonetheless, that bit of rain hardly destroyed the scenic view of the small lake beside the temple that greeted me at the entrance. On the contrary, it added a misty hue to that area, like a Chinese painting. If my stomach wasn't rumbling, I would have stayed behind a little while more to enjoy the scenery. Heeding the call of my hunger, I headed straight towards the "zhai tang" or something like that. Sorry, I had returned my Chinese knowledge to my teachers, but I believed the words roughly meant vegetarian canteen. Compared to Singapore Buddhist Lodge, this canteen was very much neater and cleaner. There was aircon some more. I was to learn later on that the price to pay for all these comfort was restriction and a few rules to follow. Since it was my first time there, I committed some embarrassing faux pas. Although I was no stranger to KMSPKS, my parents never brought me to this canteen.

The Food

In terms of variety, there's hardly any. In case you think I'm complaining, don't get the wrong idea. I merely describe what I saw. For some reason the holy environment made me submissive, hence I did not even have the guts to complain. Anyway, the only food available were as follows: 1) a small bowl of Bee Hoon Soup 2) a plate of orange colored Fa Gao (Chinese steamed cake). Since I was famished, I chose Bee Hoon Soup. After I helped myself to the chopsticks, I noticed that the spoon was nowhere to be found. Upon searching high and low, I noticed that they placed the spoon underneath the table. Without thinking much, I bent down to grabbed one spoon only to be stopped by the volunteers. They said that if I needed the spoon, I had to ask for it. That was why the spoons were not placed in a more obvious place. I did not understand the rationale behind this, nonetheless I quickly apologized for my ignorance. Next I went through the "proper" process of asking for the spoon but they told me I had taken the chopsticks. They explained that they lacked volunteers to wash up, hence they wanted to minimize the use of cutlery. At this point, I felt really bad for the whole thing. All these while I was only concerned about satisfying my hunger, while conveniently forgetting the hard work going on behind the preparation of the meal. I made a mental reminder to appreciate the Bee Hoon Soup later, whether it suited my taste bud or not.

First of all, the Bee Hoon Soup was still warm, very appropriate for the rainy day. Apart from Bee Hoon I noticed there were a few strands of noodles as well, which I considered a bonus addition to the entire dish. Another feature that I liked was the generous amount of vegetables added, mainly the leafy greens and cabbages. If I had bought something similar outside, I would get more mock meat meat instead. The vegetables may be considered overcooked to some people, but since I preferred my veges (especially the cabbages) to be a little softer, lets just say I like it. Lovers of mock meats would be disappointed by the small amount of such items found in the dish, but for me, all the better. Despite not liking mock meats, I swallowed the two pieces found in my bowl, whatever they represented. I did not want to waste food. They did not taste awful, just that they were not my cup of tea. Thankfully I picked the spoon over the chopsticks just now. I could enjoy the soup which was full of simple home cooked goodness, unlike the cheating msg laden version found outside. I may be a Chinese, but that doesn't mean I love msg.

After I finished my food, I asked the volunteers what to do with the cutlery. Yup, no more assumptions to avoid creating more embarrassing episodes. Their instruction was to deposit the bowls at a nearby collection point. I did as instructed and left the canteen with some cash donations. I don't see myself as someone who qualifies for welfare aid, so I have no intention of eating the food for free, despite it being so. Besides, the temple food actually tasted quite good (Hey I mean it!), and I would be doing injustice by not "paying". Outside the canteen I saw a drinks stand and out of curiosity, I went to check it out. Much to my delight, the volunteers were laying out bowls of soybean curd dessert and cups of soybean milk. Again I asked if it was all right for me to take some. This group of volunteers were more friendly and they replied happily that everything there was meant for us. I took a bowl of soybean curd and was glad that it was the warm version. Although the soybean curd was FOC, the quality did not suffer. It was done the way it should, smooth and silky. The sugar syrup had the right amount of sweetness, thus complementing well with the curds. It may not be the best I had eaten, but it was decent enough. Chilling at one corner of the temple, I savored the dessert and watched the day slowly passed by.

Conclusion

This is the second temple food I sample, and like Singapore Buddhist Lodge, KMSPKS is sincere about providing free vegetarian meals to people. They ensure that the food is cooked properly and in my opinion, the taste is way above average. I am impressed at how they can create something simple and delectable at the same time. And here, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers involved (Even if you have made things a lil' difficult for me), for creating such an amazing meal experience.

Address:88 Bright Hill Road. Singapore 574117
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun
9.00 am - 1.00 pm
Bus Service:52, 162, 162M, 410W
MRT Station:Bishan
Website:http://www.kmspks.org


4 comments:

  1. Haha, you are very fortunate again to be there when they serve the beancurd & drinks! (I thought they are only served on the lunar 27th of each month which is their monthly celebration day or on special occasions)
    I love their simple bowl of meehoon & their vegetable congee too! Nice !:-)
    I remember always sneaking out to have additional bowl of hot mee/mee hoon during lunch break when were there for retreats.:P
    Kind of sad that they were no longer provided on normal days...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is that so? Perhaps that day happened to be the lunar 27th. I don't really keep track of the lunar calendar myself, but I may start to do that from now on. Never do any review on 1st and 15th of the lunar month.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just visited it on a Sunday without special occasion, they do serve the simple bowl of meeshua & fried mee today, without the special drinks or beancurd but good enough, the lovely warm meeshua warms my heart & stomach!:-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mee Sua? That's nice. I love mee sua, even when I am not sick. Instead of bean curd, you get 2 types of noodles to choose from. Looks like they try to vary their style of menu, instead of following some fixed formula or template. That's interesting.

    ReplyDelete