Aunty Lee's Delights

BOOK: Aunty Lee's Delights
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Dedication

In loving memory of Christina Sergeant

(1955–2013)

Contents

Dedication

Part 1 Introducing Death and Detectives

Prologue

1
     
Aunty Lee’s Delights

2
     
Wine Dining

3
     
Where Is Laura Kwee?

4
     
Laura Kwee on the Beach

5
     
Carla Saito’s Story

6
     
Family Dinner

7
     
Putting Information Together

Part 2 Middle

8     
Waiting for Police Interviews

9     
Marianne Peters

10   
Carla Saito and Marianne Peters

11   
Meal Planning

12   
At the Café

13   
Waiting Room

14   
Collecting Ingredients

15   
At the Hospital

16   
Cover and Simmer Over Low Heat

17   
Making Tea

18   
Aunty Lee’s Wrap-up

Acknowledgments

Excerpt from
Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials

Prologue

1     Aunty Lee’s Delights

Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar (easy home version)

P.S.

About the Author

About the Book

Also by Ovidia Yu

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Part 1

Introducing Death and Detectives

Prologue

First Body

It was early morning and the rain had stopped. The grass was still wet. They walked across it to the sand and then right up to the water’s edge. The beach was not private to the hotel but there was no one else there at that hour. The combination of dawn and low-tide debris gave the impression of old secrets washed up, ready to be revealed. A light breeze came across the water, bringing the smell of salt and distant decay as well as—this being Singapore—whiffs of industrial chemicals being fired and antimosquito fogging.

Tired as they were, being so close to the water cast its spell on them. Even if the sea before them was blocked from the ocean by Indonesia and East Malaysia and crowded with tankers and cruisers, it was still a boundary and a reminder that somewhere in the beyond surrounding them there was a vital ocean and living planet. Like many other city- and computer-bound people, the two were unfamiliar with the experience of being exposed to the wind, the waves, and physical space.

Holding hands and their footwear, they walked barefoot along the shoreline talking about the past and their future. They were not yet twenty-four hours into their newborn marriage and found it fascinating. The Sentosa beach might have been artificially constructed but it was all the more romantic for that, with the best-quality, daily swept sand and line of carefully placed shallow rock pools marking low-tide boundaries.

“Look, a hermit crab!”

“I already noticed you in Junior College, you know . . .”

“I noticed you before that. Why do you think I decided to go to Anglo-Chinese Junior College with Hwa Chong at my door step? My parents thought I was crazy!”

“Do you think we’ll ever be here like this again?”

“We can come back every year if you like. Every anniversary.”

“It won’t be the same. You’ll be playing golf and busy and maybe there’ll be children—I mean, maybe not but—” She broke off awkwardly, embarrassed to have mentioned children. But he was equal to the subject.

“Of course there’ll be children. Lots of children. Your parents and my parents can fight over who gets to look after them, but once a year, every year, we’ll come back here, just the two of us, okay?”

“There’s something over there!” she said then, squinting over the beach. It was the most romantic thing he had ever said and she did not want to spoil it just yet by pointing out that she expected anniversary trips far further abroad—Europe, or America, maybe. “Over there. It looks like a jellyfish; is it? It’s huge!”

“It’s not a jellyfish. It’s just a plastic bag . . .”

“Yes, it’s a jellyfish—I can see its body and its legs and everything. Can’t you see? I think it’s dead. Are there poisonous jellyfish around Sentosa?”

They smelled it before they saw it was no jellyfish.

She screamed. He was sick on the sand. Then they put on their gritty sandals and ran back to the hotel to call the police.

1

Aunty Lee’s Delights

“Now they are finding bodies on the beach! I tell you, that place is bad luck! Do you know it used to be called Pulau Blakang Mati? That means ‘Island of Death.’ Before your time, of course, but everybody in Singapore will remember. Crazy, right? Go and build a tourist resort in a place called Island of Death.”

“But now it is called Sentosa, right? And the meaning of Sentosa is ‘happy peacefulness’?” Nina kept her eyes focused on her work. Now she was efficiently threading thin, diagonally cut slices of chicken thigh meat onto bamboo skewers, pressing them well together before returning them to their marinade.

“So? They can call it whatever they want—they still found a dead body there, true or not?”

“Ma’am, they also find dead body in the HDB water tank, in the Singapore River, in Serangoon Reservoir. You cannot say all these places got bad luck.”

“I would say all those people had bad luck. But at least we know who they were, right? This one is supposed to be unidentified!”

News that an unidentified woman’s body had been found washed up on a Sentosa beach in a plastic bag had not made it into any of the Singapore morning papers, but it had been the hottest news online and over the radio all day. For once, the radio in Aunty Lee’s Delights had been turned on all day, switching between local stations for updates.

Aunty Lee’s Delights was a small café shop in Binjai Park, less than five minutes’ walk from Dunearn Road. It was well-known for good traditional Peranakan food and famous for the
achar
and sambals Aunty Lee had been selling out of her house for years. Aunty Lee’s Delights was also equipped with the latest modern equipment. Though she was revered for cooking the traditional standards, strange dishes occasionally popped up because Aunty Lee loved experimenting. In her view, anything cooked with local ingredients was local food. In fact the shop was very like Aunty Lee herself. Another passion of hers was reverse engineering dishes (and occasionally people) to figure out how they had come about and how they might be better adjusted. She called her kitchen her laboratory for DIY-
CSI
, the television in there testifying to her two passions, for food and news.

Aunty Lee was a short, precise Peranakan lady of certain age and even more certain girth. The image of her fair, plump,
kebaya
-clad form smiling on jars of Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar and Aunty Lee’s Shiok Sambal was familiar to most Singaporeans and probably anyone else who had been on the island for any extended length of time. Today Aunty Lee was wearing a turquoise
kebaya
top with matching pants so flared that she looked like she was wearing a skirt when not in motion. Her sneakers that afternoon were turquoise with bright yellow laces. Aunty Lee believed in tradition but even more in comfort.

BOOK: Aunty Lee's Delights
10.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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