Lor Arh (braised duck) stall
Above lor arh (braised duck) stall is currently selling at Queen Street Food Centre. On the left hand corner of the photo is a picture of a pushcart and written on the attap roof four Chinese characters (六十年代) meaning the stall has been in lor arh (braised duck) business for 60 years. I was disappointed when the stallholder answered me that he was not aware of the 'si go luck' dice game that accompanied the lor arh business before. He did not look very old, so I assumed that 60 years ago, his father was the hawker and not him.
Today's gourmet has to travel to a food centre or an eating house to eat lor arh or braised duck. In the 50s and 60s the reverse was true. The itinerant lor arh hawker would come to your door announcing his braised duck "lor arh, lor arh!".
Recently, a fellow blogger Jame Seah and I had the opportunity to act a lor arh hawker and his customer as in the old days, for a tv documentry on Heritage Food. The scene acted out was nostalgic and unique because only the lor arh hawker would play a game of dice with his customer, giving him a chance to win the braised duck instead of buying directly from him.
Lor Arh vendor and a customer getting ready for action
Sound, Lighting, Camera & Action!
Itinerant hawker acted by James Seah
Customer played by Philip Chew
The Dice Game (4,5,6 or si go luck in Hokien)
Three dices are used. The customer throws the dices first into a bowl and let them roll. The dices must resulted in a paired number (say two 3s) and a single/challenged number (say 4). When there is no paired conbination, the player must continue to play the dices until there is a result. If the 3 dices show number 1, 2 and 3, or a pair with the challenged number 1, the customer loses outright. That is the odd against him. If he wins the first round, he has to continue playing until he wins the best of 3 games to claim his prize of 3 eggs. He could return the 3 eggs to play for a quarter duck, and then to half a duck and finally the whole duck. For each bet he must win the best of 3 games. The basic price per game was 30 cents for the prize of 3 eggs. A customer could pay more to play for a quarter duck instead of starting with the basic 30 cents for 3 eggs.
Fast rewind back to the 50s and 60s at Joo Chiat.
Every Sunday my home was like a club house. My friends, mostly shopkeepers in the vicinity gathered to drink beer, hard liquor and played mahjong and cards. That was where I learned all the vices as a teenager. The itinerant braised duck hawker usually arrived at my house about lunch time. His mobile stall had lor nun (eggs) and lor arh (braised ducks), plus gizzards etc. He gave free sauce(lor), cucumber and chilly sauce. Many of us took turn to play against him until somebody won a whole duck or two and some eggs. Unlike today's hawker stall where you can buy a bowl of rice or porridge, this guy had no rice at his stall. Anyway, no rice was fine with us drinkers. I remembered there was one or two occasions we won all his ducks, eggs and all. He did not mind at all for we lost to him a sum of money which could be more than the cost of his goods. The players had the satisfaction of winning the briased ducks and the hawker was happy to make more money by playing the game of dice. It was a win win situation for both. No wonder it was so popular in those days.