SINGAPORE: Photos of a cake that was presented to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday (8 May), to mark his final parliamentary session as Singapore premier, has evoked memories of the “mee siam mai hum” gaffe he made almost 20 years ago.

According to ruling party MPs who paid tribute to the PM on social media, the special cake that was served after Parliament yesterday bears special significance to the PM as it includes items that means something to him.

The cake, which resembled a dining table, was adorned with fondant resembling tropical fruits, coffee, kuihs, a cell phone showing one of his Facebook posts, and a plethora of books. One of the books, curiously, was an Elon Musk biography.

While the items on the cake drew varied responses on social media, including comments criticising the selection of book titles, it was the centrepiece of the cake that drew the most eyeballs – a big bowl of mee siam.

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The prominence of the mee siam on the cake swiftly drew questions as to whether it was in reference to a controversial comment PM Lee made during his National Day Rally speech in 2006, when he took aim at a podcast by Mr Brown.

Referring to a podcast in which a fictitious Jeff Lopez orders bak chor mee without ter kwa (pig’s liver) at a hawker centre, PM Lee tried to make the point that politics “is not all fun and games.” He then famously said: “You put out a funny podcast, you talk about bak chor mee. I will say mee siam mai hum.”

PM Lee’s “mee siam mai hum” (mee siam without cockles) remark soon went viral since mee siam does not typically contain cockles. Several Singaporeans felt at the time that PM Lee’s lack of awareness that this common dish does not come with cockles in the first place showed how “out of touch” he is with ordinary Singaporeans.

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Meanwhile, the “mee siam mai hum” remark became a running joke in the coming years and even spawned song parodies and memes as it gained popularity.

This was not the only time PM Lee was called out for making an “out of touch” comment.

During an official lunch with then-Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in November 2018, PM Lee claimed that a wanton mee dish he had at Bidor, Perak years ago was topped with freshwater prawns.

The Malay Mail responded to his comment by clarifying that Perak wanton mee does not come with freshwater prawns and indicated that this mistake may show that PM Lee might have just mentioned wanton mee to look like Singapore “cares a lot about its hawkers…for the sake of the country’s publicity”.