Koh Choon Hong Family

Koh Choon Hong was a well known lawyer. He was the first Chinese to be appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor in 1940 and also became the first Chinese to serve as District Judge in 1938.  He was a member of the Malayanisation Commission, Founder Member of the Labour Front and also the Member of the first Legislative Assembly representing Joo Chiat in 1959.

This is his story based on the tombs in Bukit Brown...

The story starts with the discovery of his mother tomb in Lao Sua, on the hill opposite the tomb house sometime in Oct 2015

Tomb of Mrs Koh Eng Tiong nee Lee Siok Puay


In Memory of 
Lee Siok Puay
Beloved wife of 
Koh Eng Tiong 
Born 1884
Married 1906
Died 1907
Leaving behind a son 
Koh Choon Hong 

風藏成大地 水住振家聲

The wind harnessed to make the land great
The water held to rise the family fame

From the tomb, one can see that Koh Choon Hong would be born in 1907, and most likely his mother died shortly after giving birth to him.

His grandfather ,Koh Teng Kay died in 1918 and was also buried in Lao Sua



Age 67 years

Leaving Two Sons

Koh Eng Hoe 許英和
Koh Eng Tiong 許英忠

Three Daughters 
Koh Bian Eng
Koh Swee Eng 
Koh Eng Lian 

Koh Choon Hong 許春風
Koh Chwee Bock 許水木

In Memory of Koh Teng Kay
Born 1851
Died 1918

Malaya Tribune, 27 March 1940, Page 13

His grandmother Lee Hong Neo  age 80 passed away at 490 Sims Avenue on 25 March 1940 and was buried in Bukit Brown Blk  4 

GrandFather : Koh Teng Kay 

GrandMother : Lee Hong Neo 

Uncle : Koh Eng Hoe 

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 

13 November 1925, Page 8

In 1925, Koh Choon Hong went to study law at Cambridge and was called to the bar in 1931


Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle, 9 March 1940, Page

In March 1940 Koh Choon Hong married Stella Fung from Sandakan , third daughter of John S Fung , a retired Deputy Asst District Officer of  Sandakan

Mainly About Malayans

The Straits Times, 28 July 1940, Page 8

Koh Choon Hong also known as C H Koh 

Malaya Tribune, 15 September 1950, Page 2

Master Koh Choon Hong, son of the Singapore lawyer of the same name, celebrated his second  birthday yesterday with a party his home at 6 Anguilla Park. Picture shows him mowing the candles while his mother and sisters Tootsie, Indira and Seok Ho and friends look on.

(Note: It is not common to name the son with same name as the father for the Chinese)

THE RESULTS of the 1959 Legislative Election

The Straits Times, 31 May 1959, Page 4

Koh Choon Hong won the seat for Joo Chiat, while the PAP swept 43 of the 51 seats

S'pore Assemblyman's daughter wins Perth beauty title

The Singapore Free Press, 25 October 1961, Page 4

Koh Choon Chong has two beautiful daughters

Koh Siok Puay , 19, Siok Puay Koh, Tootsie (born c 1941)

Koh Siok Tian, 17, Indira Siok Tian Koh (born c 1944) 

Same as he name his son name same as his,  it is highly likely he named his first born daughter Siok Puay after his mother who most likely died giving birth to him

Siok Puay Koh, known as Tootsie, was the long time partner of Len Buckeridge who founded Buckeridge Group of Companies, commonly known as BGC, a private corporate group of construction and building-related companies operating primarily in Western Australia and a billionaire


Siok Tian Koh, known as Indira, was married to famed actor Scott Wilson


Koh Teng Kay

Koh Teng Kay


In Memory of Koh Teng Kay
Born 1851
Died 1918

Leaving Two Sons

Koh Eng Hoe
Koh Eng Tiong
Three Daughters 
Koh Bian Eng
Koh Swee Eng 
Koh Eng Lian 
Koh Choon Hong 
Koh Chwee Bock 


Malaya Tribune, 27 March 1940, Page 13


Name : 嚴植邦
Ancestry place: Guangzhou Nanhai
丙子 1936 

This tombstone is found the West Coast Park . Date of death inscribed on the tomb should be 1936, so most probably this broken tombstone was an exhumed tombstone from Pek San Teng cemetery in Bishan for which there is now ongoing construction work and dumped there in West Coast Park

Agak-Agak, Chukop Rasa - A cookbook review by Catherine Lim

 Agak-Agak, Chukop Rasa - A cookbook review by  Catherine Lim

Agak-Agak et al by Gavin Koh is more than a cookbook, it is a “memoir” of his “Mama”, his maternal grandmother.  

The kitchen is the hearth that holds the memory, and food is the love that nourishes it. 

And the flavours are further enhanced in the pastel coloured illustrations by Qin Yi, that bookmark the recipes, adding to the charm so evident in the cover.

We decided the best way to review this cookbook is to test one recipe. Gavin suggested I try his grandma’s “rempah-less” rendang with an option to add a rempah if one wishes. I took that option. I was warned that without a slow cooker, one is supposed to stand watch and stir constantly over simmering heat, an exercise which can take up to more than two hours. 

Preparation for the rempah 

The cut was shin, but it was supposed to be shin on the bone so there is marrow to enrich the cut. That option only appears to be available at Tekka Market when I was marketing. And the market was closed at that time.

After an hour of occasional stirring, it looked like the liquid was not rendering into gravy. It didn’t help that I forgot to add coconut milk before I covered the meat with just water.  I took some of the liquid out and supplemented with some coconut cream. I finally tested the texture of the rendang at the 90-minute mark, agak-agak. And was surprised to find the meat had become tender, not dissolved- in-your mouth, tender, but enough to equal the Malay version where a firmer rendang is preferred.


Ready to serve !

My guests all enjoyed the taste, found it more than fulsome in rendang flavour, but not melt in the mouth tender, as Gavin also likes it. 

I will certainly make it again, and try it rempah-less, as Gavin recommends. Instead of shin,  I will use brisket, plate or chuck as the helpful cow in pages 68 and 69 recommends.

I had also used a cooking hack for a more robust burst  flavour at end, but that’s my family’s’ secret. 

Agak-agak means to estimate, chukop rasa, means just enough flavour, Gavin has done more than agak-agak, he has measured out the recipe down to the size of the galangal ( lengkuas),   “3 cm”.

 And that is what it takes to make the recipe precisely just as  his Mamas’ would have cooked it. 

Agak-Agak Chukop Rasa: Stories from my Peranakan Childhood

Buy it from Epigram BooksInstagram



光緒戊子年菊月廿八日吉 1888
文仲 Ong Boon Tiong 
文源 Ong Boon Guan
文煌 Ong Boon Hong  
文淵 Ong Boon Yean 
榕泉 Ong Yong Chuan 
振盛 Ong Chin Seng 
振榮 Ong Chin Eng 


J P Tham family

Tham Cheng Tong






AGE 63






MISS CHUAN NEO (Tham Chuan Neo)

Burial entry 

Blk 1 G Plot no 400

Mrs Tham Cheng Tong nee Ang Tiam Tee 


Malaya Tribune., 22 September 1925, Page 6

Mrs Tham Cheng Tong nee Ang Tiam Tee 





泰福 J P Tham 

泰祿 Tham Thye Look 

泰寿 Tham Thye Siew 

全娘 Tham Chuan Neo


Malaya Tribune, 9 April 1932, Page 8

Mrs Tham Cheng Tong nee Ang Tiam Tee 

J P Tham (Joseph Peter Tham)

T L Tham 

T S Tham

Blk 3 B plot no 246

63 years old 

born circa 1869

Chinese Star Athletes In Singapore

Malaya Tribune, 19 February 1935, Page 17

Page 2 Advertisements Column 1

The Straits Times, 13 November 1939, Page 2

Teo Choon Lim (son of Yeo Ee Neo and Teo Ah Kee) married Tham Chuan Neo 

Captain Tham

Sunday Standard, 17 June 1951, Page 3


The Singapore Free Press, 24 August 1960, Page 7 

Mr Tham 

A descendant search for his roots in Bukit Brown - Cheang Sam Teo Part II

 My great grandfather was Cheang Jim Chuan, the second son of Cheang Hong Lim. My eldest aunt was born before the war and she remembers the mansion on Pasir Panjang Road (extravagantly named ‘Palm Beach’). It stood on land the size of two football fields, and the house was double fronted: a neo-Classical portico facing Pasir Panjang Road for guests arriving by car, and a matching portico on the opposite site for visitors approaching the house by sea. Birthday celebrations for up to five hundred people (including European guests) were held at the house with a military band, ronggeng and Chinese wayang to entertain the guests. These events were large enough to be reported in the society pages of the local newspapers.


My grandmother did not have fond memories of the time. She was sixteen when she married my grandfather, Cheang Theam Kee, the second son of Cheang Jim Chuan. Her mother-in-law, the matriarch of the family, was ferocious. Nothing she did was right and nothing she did could please her. Things became disastrously worse when the Japanese came in 1940, and she found herself shouldering the whole burden of caring for the family. It was her own mother, not the Cheang family, who managed to find the family a house in which to live. When she cooked, my grandfather would eat first, then the children, and if there was any food left only then would my grandmother eat. Things did not become easier until some decades after the war, when the children went out to work and were finally able to contribute to the upkeep of the family home.

This is a photograph of my grandfather and grandmother (Cheang Theam Kee and Seow Seok Kim Neo) outside the family home on Chinese New Year Day 

I did not learn to cook when I was growing up, but when I left home for university, it was food that I missed the most. I only started cooking in my second year at college, on a single electric ring. I used packets of supermarket rempah to start with, and a single saucepan also doubled up as a high-walled frying pan. The simplest dish to cook is chicken soup that is just left in the pot to simmer over many hours: so skill is required, only patience. On one her visits from Singapore, Mum gave me a Japanese rice cooker, which I still have today.


Mama passed away at the age of a hundred years old. She never wrote down any recipes, but my aunts recorded what they could, on scraps of paper and card. During the pandemic, my father was unwell, which means I was travelling between the UK and Singapore quite a lot, and during the pandemic, this means almost a total of six months in quarantine. My first spell in quarantine was at the Carlton Hotel, where I was issued with a single-use keycard to the hotel room and fourteen bottles of water.


I spent my first birthday in quarantine, with friends and family dropping food and other gifts off for me. The doorbell would ring, and on a chair by the door, I would find a sushi bento box or homemade spring rolls or other some other present waiting for me to collect. That year, my best birthday present came from my mother. She wrote down for me all of Mama’s recipes onto neat index cards, filed in a folder.


Over the next few months, when the snatches of time I had in Singapore, I asked my Mum, her sisters and cousins to teach me how to cook. The recipes were not easy to follow, because they had a language of their own. Twenty cents of chillis, milk from one coconut, water measured using an old condensed milk tin kept on the window sill. Steps were often left out: “But you didn’t mention sugar in the recipe!” “Aiyah, you taste you know need sugar what!” “Fry the peanuts? You didn’t mention frying the peanuts in the recipe!” “Who uses raw peanuts? Of course the peanuts have to be fried first before you pound them!”


But the most fascinating thing was the stories. Each recipe had its own story and as the sisters stood in the kitchen cooking, they told stories about times long past. About catching rats in a bucket with a piece of dried fish as bait; about the ducks named Patsy and Daisy who one day were slaughtered to become dinner; about cutting their feet accidentally on the Murex shells buried in the sand on Changi beach; about my great aunt chasing her grand daughter around the house with a hot needle and slice of ginger to piece her ear lobe for earrings. The stories came and came and I found myself in a different world, a Singapore that is long gone and which is irretrievably lost…except the food. As they cooked and they laughed and cried, the food was infused with all these memories so that the preparation of the food was just as important as the eating of it. It is these stories and recipes that I collected into a book called Agak-Agak Chukop Rasa.


I was moved to hunt for these stories before they were lost completely. I first spoke to my distant cousin, Darren Koh, who introduced me to others in the Bukit Brown group, including Raymond Goh. My family stopped visiting the graves on Bukit Brown some time in the 1960’s or 1970’s…certainly before I was born.


Raymond discovered the tomb of Cheang Sam Teo, the tomb of my great great great grandfather, more than 10  years ago, on top of a hill where the jungle had long since claimed it. Not being able to trace any family, he had maintained it himself, year after year at Cheng Beng/ Qingming 清明. This year, for the first time, a group of cousins and I visit the tomb with Raymond acting as guide, and he showed us the other tombs, including the grand tomb of Cheang Hong Lim, which has been maintained through the years by Cheang Jim Hean’s descendants through his daughter Cheang Tew Muey. My great grandfather’s tomb, Cheang Jim Chuan, had been cut off by a fallen tree, but Ah Beng, the tomb keeper cleared it for us, as well as a fallen stone lion and the roots which had come up through the concrete pavement.


I do not know why my family stopped visiting these graves and none of the surviving family are able to answer that question. Part of the reason is that all the surviving family converted to Christianity, which means the ancestral tablets were discarded and Cheng Beng tomb sweeping all stopped at some point in the 1970’s. Part of the reason may also lie in the legal battles played out in court, which brought different branches of the family into conflict with each other and so “family” came to mean something quite bitter.


Raymond’s discovery was important to me because I was born after the feuds had burnt out and many of the main players had passed on. Cheang Sam Teo’s tomb gives me a connection to Singapore which goes back all the way to the early 19th century, to within a few years of its founding two centuries ago. I have spent more than half my life outside of Singapore: UK, US, Thailand, The Netherlands… but Singapore is still home. Three generations of my family are buried in Bukit Brown, in Singapore soil, and led by Raymond, a group of cousins went to visit out great great great grandfather’s grave for the first time in decades. We had come together only because we discovered that we shared a common ancestor and so this visit to Cheang Sam Teo’s was something of a pilgrimage.


I don’t know how many descendants of Cheang Sam Teo are alive in Singapore today, but there must be hundreds, and many of them probably do not even know that they are related. I know that his descendants include lawyers, doctors, nurses, politicians, teachers, journalists, and entrepreneurs. The family have played a role in almost every corner of Singapore society. I don’t know how to measure the contribution made by a family over two hundred years? But there is a man buried on Bukit Brown, who came from China in 1820 and we know that that is when it started.

Written by Gavin Koh