A Life Saving Soup
By Tris Marlis - Friday, Sep 27, 2013
You might have seen this viral online video recently – a Thai advertisement about kindness where a street kid was caught for stealing some medicine for his sick mother. He was “rescued “by a kind hawker, who also gave him a pack of his vegetable soup knowing that his mother needed nutrition. Years later the hawker was facing a heavy medical bill when he had a sudden seizure while at work. His family was about to give up when the doctor decided to waive the fees.
It turned out the doctor was the boy that this dying hawker saved 30 years ago. He remembered his good deed and it was time to pay it forward. The story ended with a note from the doctor, saying “all debts (medical fees) paid with a bag of veggie soup.” This simple and yet dramatic story went viral and moved the hearts of netizens. Are we in Singapore nonchalant to the needs of the less fortunate or sick? Not really. Here is one true story of how a hawker helps a mother care for her sickly son.
Ah Boy is a young kid who was diagnosed with mild asthma and hence, his physical activities were highly restricted. No running around the playground, cycling or football. Ah Boy’s mother, Mdm Lim Suat Ngoh, stumbled upon a herbal crocodile meat soup about two years ago and had dutifully fed his son a portion of this hawker’s soup each week. Now Ah Boy happily plays football every week, with the belief that it was the powers of the weekly dose of this herbal soup that helped him. Then, bad news – Tony Tee, the hawker she had frequent for this weekly fix, had to shutter down his stall at the Old Airport Road food centre due to rental hikes.
In Mdm Lim’s desperation, she boldly asked if Tony could reveal and teach her to cook this herbal tonic. She noticed, in the weeks after Tony had closed, her son’s condition worsened when their house underwent some renovations. The smell of paint was detrimental to Ah Boy. “How could I say no” was Tony reaction when we asked, adding “they had been ardent regulars for years. I even went to their house to show them how to cook.”
“You can feed them once, but when you teach, they can feed themselves for life,” said Tony adding he was in Mdm Lim’s shoes once before. His aging mother was very sick and he had tried a host of medication to no avail. Then he tried cooking crocodile herbal soup for his mother daily and about a year later, her health improved. That incident was what inspired him to start his own hawker stall business, and King Crocodile was born.
Crocodile meat offerings at the hawker stalls, is nothing new, but what Tony did was to remove the ‘exotic’ reputation and offered it affordably to the masses. It became comfort food to his regulars, like a bowl of double boiled chicken soup. Even Mdm Lim’s mother, who suffered from stroke two years ago, was not too sure if it was the soup or simply Tony’s warmth that brought her so much joy. “He’s a nice man,” she said.
Back in the kitchen, Mdm Lim watched as Tony prepared the soup, nodding as she referred to the recipe written by Tony. When asked if she can contact him if any questions arise later “Sure, I am very free now,” was his cheerful reply. But Tony’s future is uncertain, he has bid unsuccessfully for stalls near his regular customers and is still in limbo.
We wish you well and you have our support, Tony. Dishes like these and hawkers like you don’t appear naturally in our midst. Keep searching for that one nice elusive spot, it’ll come soon, we know it will.