Read Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials Online
Authors: Ovidia Yu
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Women Sleuths, #Cultural Heritage, #General
For Richard, PP, and H
17 Aunty Lee’s Delights Closed
18 Lunch with Commissioner Raja
26 Illegal Organ Traders Caught
P.S. Insights, Interviews & More . . .
TGIF Morning Drive Time News:
Though several residents of the Ang Mo Kio Housing Development Board block of flats
heard a loud crash sometime after midnight early Friday morning, none of them made
their way downstairs to investigate.
Our reporter spoke to Mr. Toh Kang, 78, who said, “I thought it is car crash. Car
crash what for rush downstairs to see? So late. Car will still be there tomorrow,
But it was the body of a young People’s Republic of China woman that two students
found at the foot of Ang Mo Kio Block 352 on their way to the bus stop just before
“There was blood everywhere,” Tristan Tan, 14, told reporters. “She was just lying
there wearing a lacy white dress all covered with blood. It was so shocking I almost
fainted and I couldn’t go for band practice and my mum had to call my teachers and
say it was because of the trauma so that I wouldn’t lose points.”
Straits Times Online:
Police traced the dead woman to an illegally sublet ninth-floor flat in the block.
Seven other PRC women renting beds there said they did not know her well. She had
arrived only a few days before and kept to herself. They gave the police a note the
woman left before climbing over the barrier at the lift lobby and dropping into the
My beloved husband-to-be, you came to Singapore for the sake of our future together.
Because of me, you were willing to sacrifice part of your own body. Because of wanting
life with me, you lost your own life. I followed you to Singapore to die where you
died and be with you forever. But I can find no sign of you. I pray that when I am
dead we will be together in the next life. (
Translated from Chinese
(Singapore’s Chinese evening tabloid, known for covering movie-star scandals and
The dead woman was Bi Xiao Mei, 24, a factory worker from Xixiang Village in Shandong
Translated from Chinese
Bi Xiao Mei and her coworker Zhao Liang, aged 23, had been dating for several months
when Bi found she was pregnant. Zhao arranged to come to Singapore to sell a kidney.
They calculated the money would be enough to pay for a wedding and an apartment and
seemed their best chance to start a life together with their child. A family member
who did not want to be named said that Zhao was a responsible and devoted son.
“He knew such transactions are illegal. But his intention was to save a stranger’s
life and at the same time gain enough money to provide for his wife and child.”
Unfortunately the operation went wrong. Zhao Liang’s family was informed he had not
survived the procedure. They were offered compensation money if Zhao Liang was cremated
in Singapore. Alternatively, if they were willing to pay for tickets, they could go
to Singapore to collect his body. Zhao’s family accepted the compensation money. In
life, Zhao Liang had always wanted to travel, so they decided to let their son’s ashes
rest in Singapore. They saw no reason to provide for Zhao Liang’s pregnant girlfriend.
They blamed her for their son’s death and said there was no proof her baby was his.
Bi Xiao Mei came to Singapore intending to kill herself and her unborn child in front
of Zhao Liang’s funeral niche. But with her limited English, she could find no record
of his death or remains. It appears she killed herself as publicly as she could, hoping
to be cremated and her ashes left with his.
It is not yet clear whether this will be permitted under Singapore government regulations.
“Madam, you will kill anybody who eats that!” Nina said.
Aunty Lee continued shaking drops of chili oil into the spicy peanut sauce she was
stirring. “Just a bit more. Just for flavoring,” she said. “This oil is not too hot.
Read me some more about the dead woman.” Aunty Lee was working on a new line of chili
oils to go with Aunty Lee’s Shiok Sambal and Aunty Lee’s Amazing Achar. Glass jars
containing a variety of thinly sliced chili peppers fried in different oils lined
the kitchen counters.
“Finish already, madam. No more.”
“If you want hot, you should try the one I made with my naga king chili,” Aunty Lee
said. She had started growing imported chili plants in the garden of her Binjai Park
house to see how they did in Singapore. The hot, humid climate seemed to suit the
naga king chili, reputed to be the hottest chili in the world, and Aunty Lee had just
bottled her first harvest. “The naga king chili is so hot the Indian army is trying
to use it as a weapon! In tear gas and hand grenades!”
“And you want to feed that to customers? If they all die, who will buy your food?”
“Hot country you need hot food. Besides, if it is so hot, you only need to use a few
drops each time, one bottle will last a long time, good value for money!”
“Good for the customers. Not for you. How are you going to make money if you sell
them one bottle and they no need to come back for years? You should be like the iPhone,
iPad, like that. Every year must upgrade!”
Aunty Lee could launch an iCook device, Cherril Lim-Peters thought. She smiled to
herself in the dining area separated from the small but airy kitchen of Aunty Lee’s
Delights. She was packing freshly cut fruit into huge plastic containers. At first
Cherril had been taken aback by how Aunty Lee and her maid, Nina, talked to each other.
But she had soon realized it was a game for them. Like children playing
a rubber disk topped with rooster feathers; the goal was to keep the “dialogue” going
rather than score points. When Nina was not around, Aunty would talk to one of the
photos of her late husband.
Aunty Lee’s Delights was a little Peranakan café in Binjai Park, less than five minutes’
walk from Dunearn Road. Binjai Park, one of Singapore’s oldest elite residential districts,
was rapidly becoming known, especially among wealthy local foodies, for the
and good traditional Peranakan food available at Aunty Lee’s Delights.
Cherril Lim-Peters was new there. And so were the blender and juicer health drinks
she was introducing to the menu. But that morning, as she peeled and sliced and diced
at the long stainless-steel table (that had supported the cooking demos and wine dining
events that had first brought Cherril to Aunty Lee’s Delights), the former flight
attendant felt she had found her new vocation. Her husband, lawyer and nominated member
of Parliament Mycroft Peters, was a much pleasanter man in private than many would
allow. But Mycroft had insisted Cherril give up her job with Singapore’s national
airline after their marriage. Cherril might have fought this (having been a Singapore
Stewardess, she was trained to fight all manner of battles with a smile), but the
man had won her over with a simple “I need to see you after a tough day. Even if you’re
already asleep in bed. Just seeing you makes me feel that everything is worthwhile.”
Mycroft Peters admitting he needed her still gave Cherril a shiver of pleasure. And
Aunty Lee had said she needed her too, that she cheered up the shop. Cherril had never
known anyone like Aunty Lee before. Her plump Peranakan boss was an overprotective
grandmother, inspiring teacher, and gossipy girlfriend all rolled up into a
Cherril was planning to buy the wine business Aunty Lee’s stepson had set up to complement
her food business. After the café had been involved with a couple of murders and a
gay marriage (which Mark and his wife, Selina, considered even worse), Mark decided
that the catering business did not really suit him.
Aunty Lee approved wholeheartedly. Mark would never have helped cater any event where
plastic cups were used, as Cherril was doing that morning. Also Cherril had got her
husband, Mycroft, to agree to finance her new venture while Aunty Lee had had to finance
Mark. Mycroft hadn’t liked the idea of his wife working in a café. But at least Cherril
would be on the ground.
Aunty Lee worked on the principle of doing what she could to make others happy and
letting them know how they, in turn, could make her happy. She thought people who
tried to earn virtue points by being martyrs just ended up making everybody unhappy.
Aunty Lee had realized Cherril could learn almost anything she applied herself to
but still had trouble fitting into her husband’s world. Aunty Lee had taken her on
(against the wishes of Mark, his wife, Selina, and Mark’s sister, Mathilda, who lived
in London) because after thirty years of marriage she had learned that fitting in
was a matter of deciding what made you comfortable. She was more comfortable working
with Cherril than with Mark.
Cherril turned her attention back to the mounds of freshly chopped watermelon, papaya,
pineapple, and guava. There were also chopped apples, pears, and carrots that had
spent the night in the freezer.
“We can call these drinks ‘doctails.’”
“Why you want to call them duck’s tails? What have they got to do with ducks?”
“Not ducks, Aunty Lee. You know, like cocktails and mocktails, only these are healthy,
like a doctor would recommend, so we call them doctails. I’m using green tea, barley
water, soy milk, and brown rice tea as bases for the freshly juiced fruits.”
Aunty Lee liked the idea enough to wish she had come up with it herself. “You can
bring the juicer with us. Then you can ask people what they want and then add fresh
fruit juice, like in the food court.”