PM Lee: We Will Dream Big

The Prime Minister gave an exceptional speech. I think and feel that it was one that spoke sincerely to heart. If you think otherwise, don’t bother reading this to the end – find something else to read.

Sure, some issues were not discussed, such as the Population White Paper, the cost of living and the state of transport. But those are stories for another day and post.

I want to talk about social mobility, as the PM spent great length on the issue by talking about improving the education system to give young Singaporeans the chance to succeed in life.

It has been nine years since Mr. Lee took over as Prime Minister. Observing his speeches through the years, one thing is clear: the PM is determinedly optimistic. This year’s speech showed that he cannot, in all good conscience, be faulted for trying. There is no doubt about his intentions at all.

The Sky Is The Limit

Indeed, Mr. Lee’s desire to improving social mobility in Singapore can be seen symbolically and tangibly. For the first part, he held this year’s National Day Rally at the ITE College Central and HQ, a move that he said reaffirms his commitment to education. For the latter, he gave several “tweaks” to the education system, fine-tuning it.

What is social mobility? To me, it is a function of three components in the following order: opportunities, attitude, and hard work.

You need to have opportunities to channel that hard work and attitude, otherwise you won’t be able to shine. It thus falls to the Government to provide these opportunities in our education system.

But opportunities alone do not suffice. You need to seize those opportunities. Thus, you need the right attitude, and that begins with the right habits of mind.

Yet, having the right attitude and opportunities will mean nothing if you don’t translate that attitude into actions.

Three outstanding youth were mentioned by the PM in his speech – each of them embodying social mobility. The education system, though imperfect, gave them the opportunity they needed in life. They had the right attitudes and they slogged hard. On a more emotional level, these youths represented the indomitable fighting spirit that we all yearn to have – to not give up in the face of great adversity.

I cite one example. Dr. Yeo Sze Ling became blind when she was four years old. But she has gone on to NUS, topped the Faculty of Science, pursued her PhD in Mathematics and is now a researcher at A*STAR. Holding back tears and emotion, PM said “Sze Ling proves that you can do well if you work hard, it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are. And that’s what we have to try to do, to contribute back to society and keep the system fair for all.”

Dr. Yeo embodies the social mobility and the ideal fighting spirit that have been and will continue to be the key ingredients of Singapore’s success.

It is social mobility that has given generations of Singaporeans the chance to do better than their parents have. We saw drastic changes within generations of Singaporeans. But at the same time, globalisation has made our society less mobile and stratums have begun to calcify at the extremes.

Singaporeans voiced these concerns regarding social mobility during the Our Singapore Conversation sessions. The Government has heard them and the PM talked about keeping social mobility alive in Singapore. Indeed, Mr. Lee’s legacy as Prime Minister may be defined by his dedication to preserving social mobility for all of us.

To do that, we need the fighting spirit that Dr. Yeo and the two young gentlemen exuded. It is that fighting spirit that says that we will live to fight another day and we will do better than before. It is that same fighting spirit that says that there are no challenges that we cannot overcome.

And truly, what challenges are there that we cannot overcome? Looking at our history, the odds were stacked against us in 48 years ago. But because generations before us bore that flame of desire to do better for themselves and their families, Singapore has survived and prospered.

Today, our challenges are different. Our external environment has become more complex and our problems are much harder to solve. But it is not impossible. I am confident that with sheer grit and determination, we will overcome them together.

Referring to the vision he charted for Singapore, the PM said “(t)hese are not just plans, but an act of faith in Singapore and in ourselves…We will dream big, and achieve what we set out to do. Together, we can create a brighter future for all Singaporeans.”

We will dream big because the sky’s the limit. I am hopeful that our best days are ahead of us. Majulah Singapura!

Pork Rendang!

Yes, aside from observing politics, I enjoy cooking to whet my pseudo-Peranakan palate. I never thought that I would one day be posting recipes online until a good friend of mine made a request earlier. So here it is, the recipe for pork rendang!

Pork Rendang

Ingredients

  • 400g pork shoulder (ngoh huay bak, 五花肉; take the one with a bit of fat)
  • 5 pieces of shallots
  • 5 pieces of garlic
  • 1 thin slice of lengkua/galangal
  • 2 small and thin slices of turmeric
  • ⅓ stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 6 to 8 pieces of kaffir lime leaves
  • 200 ml of chicken stock for deglazing (this is more than enough; the remainder will be wasted)
  • 200 ml of coconut milk
  • Chilli paste (bought or homemade is fine; mine is homemade)

Method 

1. Slice the shallots and garlic. Put aside.

2. Remove the first one or two layers of the lemongrass stalk. Bruise it lightly so that the flavour will be released. Finely chop ⅓ of the lemongrass stalk from the white part upwards (I find this to be the part with the stronger flavour).

3. Prepare the rempah via blender.

3a. Pour a bit of water in the blender.

3b. Throw in the shallots, garlic, lengkua/galangal, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, and lemongrass.

3c. Blend for a few seconds until a paste forms. Add water if necessary, but not too much, just enough to make it thick and runny.

4. Add the chilli paste. Blend. Make sure the blender doesn’t go up in smoke.

5. Chop the pork shoulder into rough, bite-sized chunks. Remove the extra fat if you wish, but keep a modest amount there for flavour.

6. Sear the pork chunks in a saucepan with a heavy base, not a wok/kwali because you don’t want the wok hei but the brown bits that come after searing the pork.

7. Sear the pork until it is nicely brown on all edges. The pork does not need to be fully cooked at this stage, but it is important for all edges to be brown. Once done, put seared pork chunks into a separate bowl.

8. Deglazing means that you pour just enough stock to remove the brown bits from the saucepan. You will have this sauce that you will need to pour over the pork in the bowl.

9. It is time to fry the rempah. First, put a few drizzles of oil in a large pot. Heat up the pot with oil over a medium fire.

10. Once the oil sizzles, throw in the rempah. Fry the rempah until it is fragant. Then, add in the pork, coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves.

11. Cook over a small fire. Do not let the mixture burn. The rempah will still be on the watery side. Keep stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated.

12. Rendang is ready for eating once the lime leaves have turned a dark brownish green, the pork meat is firm, and the gravy is thick.

Enjoy! Do feel free to give your comments on this recipe J