Saturday, June 22, 2013

Haze Myth: PSI vs Visibility vs PM2.5

Rumours abound in times of trouble...and its' human nature to 'panic' and fear the unknown or unnatural. As a medical doctor and recent public health graduate, sometimes we see things differently through broader lenses. Rational, educated mind is a good defense against irrational feelings and emotions. Despite what our eyes tell us, let us focus on creating solutions and calming those around us, instead of creating more anger and fear. That's why I was quite impressed with what PM Lee said recently regarding this crisis - no megaphone diplomacy for this statesman.

Firstly, the PSI has been adopted in Singapore to give the public an up-to-date information on the air quality in this country, as opposed to the different indices used in US, Malaysia, etc. It's a composite of various substances in the air which may cause harm to the human body if we are exposed to it in significant concentration, depending on what is your health status. A normal healthy adult obviously could tolerate the pollutants a bit better than a sickly person, the young and the old. However, if you are exposed to it in significant amounts over a prolonged duration, there may be both short and long-term effects.

Secondly, I would say of all the pollutants being reported, the most insidious and hardest to clear from our body is the PM2.5 particulate which is lodged in our alveoli. These particulates are suspended in the air, but invisible to the naked eye and odourless. When its consistently high (as reported by various authorities), it can cause long-term lung damages, especially lung fibrosis in the future. Not now. What's happening now is the sequelae of direct irritants in the air, to our airway - sore throat, cough, asthma attacks, shortness of breath, conjunctivitis, headache etc. It's usually a brief episode unless the hazy condition persists.

Thirdly, staying indoors is a good advice, provided that you have air purifier or a good working air-conditioner with functional air filter. Indoor air quality can be worsened if u open the doors/windows intermittently and trap the haze within the closed compound. Especially for those susceptible to the effects of haze, please take precautions - wear a well-fitted N95 mask properly whenever u are exposed to hazy outdoor air but do not hoard. There are more than enough masks around - just be patient and resourceful. Visibility is not equivalent to high PSI. Check the official results regularly to be well-informed.

Lastly, public health problems require public health has be long-term sustainable solutions, tackling the root causes and not just a one-off assistance. Short term measures like creating rain artificially or fighting the fire are temporary measures. We have to work together to tackle the root causes of why these fires are started at the first place. Eradicate poverty, improve on peat-fire surveillance, tighten legislations and change this burning practice. This is a man-made calamity, which means, we can work together to eradicate the cause and not point fingers. Empty vessels are of no help now. Human behaviour may be hard to change, but it's not impossible. The collaborative task-force should be sustained long-term and not hastily convened at the sight of trouble. Prevention is better than cure....

Meanwhile, continue to keep calm, drink lotsa water and pray on.

Caveat: This article is purely personal opinion and doesn't amount of professional medical advice. Please seek a doctor's consultation if you are suffering from the effects of haze. Thank u.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rediscovering the famous noodles of Malaysia Part 1

Sometimes I feel that I kinda neglect talking about the wonderful food I grew up with. Short of making atonement (i.e. constructing the dish myself), I've decided to dedicate this entire post (in all its' brief glory) to the wonderful heritage of hawker food in Malaysia. Starting with my beloved hometown/city, KL.

Go Google Imbi Pork... and immediately this foodstall (Imbi Pork Ball Noodle) at Win Heng Seng corner coffee shop pops up. Numerous posts have been dedicated to this scrumptious concoction. How I even begin to describe this delicacy - the soft, smooth rice noodle bathed in dark, savoury gravy to the robust, flavoursome minced-pork laced with plenty of fiery Sarawakian white pepper and finely-chopped spring onions...ah, my mouth still salivates at the thought of this Michelin-star worthy dish. IMHO, it ranks quite high up the top 10 food in Malaysia, sitting up there among the Penang CKT at Lorong Selamat, Hokkien Mee, etc.

The perfect accompaniment to the white ribbons of delicious kway teow is usually this bowl of peppery soup made from some secret-broth. Especially if you order the 'dry' bowl. It's not easy to find this springy, dense near-perfect chu-yok-yun (pork ball) and Chinese sausage gently floating in the amazing broth. Therefore, it's unsurprising that the crowd is often-time huge despite the fierce heat and lack of proper seats/ventilation. Go and experience this heritage-food before another huge corporation gobbles up this recipe or company & ended up having (inferior) franchises in malls and airports, ok? YY said that he would drive 400+ km from Singapore just to have this for lunch and then go back. Sort of a foodies' mini-pilgrimage in lieu of even further distance to another food-mecca (Penang).

There was also another kind of noodles I grow up with. Along the North-South Expressway, there lies a small town called Tangkak. To most people, this one-lane settlement is famous for Mount Ophir but I've recently discovered that this town is equally well-known for its myriad of emporiums selling all sorts of fabrics, especially curtains. And a type of noodles called herbal beef soup noodles popularized by Kuang Fei off the main road of Tangkak.

It's probably true that we Chinese can probably eat anything with the back facing the sun. Each part of the cow's anatomy could be used for multi-purpose cooking and this bowl of perfectly-balanced meehoon soup is the prime example of it. What amazes me most is that there is the extremely juicy beef meat-cubes mixed with all sorts of 'innards' that resembled something I took out in the OT the other day. Stuff of legend. If you are yearning for a hearty bowl of beef noodles and wouldn't taking a detour on the NSE, do drop by this flagship store at Jalan Solok, Tangkak for the most yummy, value-for-money noodles this side of the country. You'll love it!