My name is Rosie Lee but everybody calls me Aunty Lee. Everybody in Singapore knows Aunty Lee’s Shiok Sambal and Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar, and my cafe shop, Aunty Lee’s Delights—which sounds like a house of ill repute which is fine with me. Food and sex are both natural and necessary parts of life but being obsessed with either is unhealthy.
Today dear Dru Ann came all the way from America to spend a day with me at the shop. I didn’t think she would want to discuss sex with an old woman so I decided to fill her up with food and hope for a murder instead.
We only open at 11am, but since Dru Ann arrived late last night I thought the best way to get her adapted to Singapore time was to pick her up early from her hotel and take her to the wet market with us. Nina, my Filipina helper (who is a qualified nurse back in the Philippines), insisted we sit down for some breakfast first. I have a stepdaughter, Mathilda, in London and a stepson Mark in Singapore, but Nina is my live-in sidekick. I am trying to get her to learn martial arts so that she can do real side kicks but Nina is learning computer programming instead.
We serve Peranakan (a Singaporean blend of Malay and Chinese) food at Aunty Lee’s Delights so I wanted to introduce Dru Ann to Indian hawker food at Tekka market near Little India. On the ground floor is the largest indoor wet market in Singapore and one floor up is the food centre. We had roti prata; small, thick, flat, rounds of wheat dough that are fried in ghee till crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside and come with free dipping curry.
“So unhealthy!” Nina’s nurse side objected.
“But Dru Ann is only here for a day!”
“Then ask for fish curry with no coconut milk. Or dahl. And get plain prata,”
I obeyed the first part of that (besides dahl is really good) but made up for it by ordering cheese prata and banana chocolate prata as well as sugar prata bombs from another stall. The Malay version of prata dough contains more eggs, sugar and condensed milk than the Indian version and a prata bomb is thick and fluffy and comes with raisins, cinnamon sugar and flaked almonds in its whorls. Nina stayed healthy with a tissue prata dipped in fish curry (which was good too—of course I tried it) but Dru Ann was a good sport and joined me trying everything else.
I notice the way people eat often reveals whether they are adventurous or cautious, and how much care they take with their meals when eating alone reflects how well they look after themselves. Another thing I’ve noticed is that all the nicest people like chocolate with hazelnuts but Mark says I’m biased because his wife Selina is allergic to hazelnuts. But in all my years of cooking and mystery solving I have never encountered a murderer who likes hazelnut chocolate. Which is just one of the reasons why I keep a very careful eye on that Silly-Nah.
After breakfast, we went downstairs and picked up seafood, meat and vegetables for the week before heading over to Aunty Lee’s Delights in Binjai Park. Ingredients can be ordered and delivered, but visiting markets myself is one of my favourite things to do.
At the shop Nina got straight to work washing and chopping vegetables and preparing sauces and marinades. Of course, we turned on the radio first, so I didn’t miss anything exciting. Nina’s friend Salim (who is a very nice boy even if he is a policeman) says it is bizarre so many of my customers end up being murdered or murdering people. I was showing Dru Ann my pre-mixed items and dried mushrooms, anchovies and lily buds when Cherril my new partner arrived. She was already in full flow as she walked in the door.
“I’m thinking of putting Milo Dinosaurs on the drinks menu, what do you think? I know it’s not exactly a health drink but it’s so Singaporean right? And maybe if I add raisins that would help—what’s today’s special, Aunty Lee?”
“I went to Tekka so I’m thinking of a seafood day. Black pepper prawn, chili crab, sambal stingray… and oyster omelette, maybe,”
“Sounds good. I’ll make sour plum tea then.”
As always happens around good food and good friends, the rest of the day flew past.
We weren’t lucky enough to get a murder on the premises today but we all ended the day alive, which is good too.
You can read more about Aunty Lee in Aunty Lee’s Delight, the first book in the “Aunty Lee” mystery series, published by HarperCollins. Book is available at retail and online booksellers.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on December 17, and you will be entered to win a copy of Aunty Lee’s Delight. One winner will be chosen at random. Unless specified, U.S. entries only.
Meet the author
When Ovidia Yu attended her first Bouchercon after the launch of ‘Aunty Lee’s Delights’, a murder mystery set in Singapore, she felt like she had found her network/ tribe/ niche/ walked into a big reunion of a family she didn’t know she had until then. For the first time she was surrounded by people who were as fascinated by murders and murderers as she was! (And of course she met Dru Ann there which led to the discovery of Malteses and pulled pork…)
The second book in the Aunty Lee series, Aunty Lee’s Special Poison will be coming out next year. When not writing or reading, Ovidia loves going on long walks with her dogs, nurturing and being nurtured by her fish, turtles, plants and has already signed up for Bouchercon 2014!
Follow dru’s book musing on Facebook for book giveaways, contests, posting about discounted books and some of my reading musings.