Singaporeans are now used to the fact that Lee Kuan Yew is gone and life has to go on. During the period of mourning, we see many people coming out to praise Lee Kuan Yew for his frugality and thriftiness. Two notable people who spoke of Lee's frugality was Mr Sidek Saniff (Former Minister of State) and Lee's daughter Lee Wei Ling.
The former revealed that before his official trip to China, Lee Kuan Yew asked if he could take the harsh Chinese winter and when Sidek said that he would buy an overcoat and boots, Lee told him to borrow from his cabinet colleagues instead of wasting money buying expensive winter clothing.
As for his daughter Lee Wei Ling, she shared that Lee Kuan Yew would rather mend his old clothes than buy new ones. When he went overseas for official reasons, despite being a country's Prime Minister, he would not pay for the expensive hotel laundry services and choose to wash his own underwear just to save some money.
Despite Lee Kuan Yew earning millions of dollars throughout his political career, it seemed that he led a spartan and frugal lifestyle. This frugal image was further supported when images of Lee's Oxley Road home surfaced and Singaporeans were pleasantly surprised at the old furniture and the simplistic design of his abode.
Love for expensive Japanese Cuisine
But what the mainstream media failed to mention was Lee Kuan Yew's lavish dining habits by the average Singaporean standards. Lee Kuan Yew did not eat at hawker centers, neither did he dine at coffee shops. What we do know is his love for Japanese cuisine, an expensive dining experience.
The owner of Tatsuya, a high end Japanese restaurant in Singapore, said that Lee Kuan Yew was a fan of sushi and sashimi, particularly Chutoro (semi-fatty Tuna belly). How many Singaporean can afford such expensive delicacies? A simple check on popular local food websites show that the average cost at Tatsuya Japanese Restaurant range from between $80 – $150 per head.
When the restaurant owner himself proclaims Lee Kuan Yew to be "very well-versed in Japanese cuisine", Lee Kuan Yew must probably have dined regularly at top Japanese restaurants for him to attain that level of familiarity with Japanese fine dining.
So is Lee Kuan Yew still the frugal man most Singaporeans think he is, or is he a man with hidden expensive tastes that few are aware of? Or is Lee a frugal man with this one weakness, a soft spot, an illogical splurge for Japanese cuisine?
What do you think?