Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Leaves

This is the Sweet Potato leaves, which is a favourite with the locals. One could stir-fry it with sambal chilli, or with fuyi (fermented tofu, I think).

Anyone has good recipe for a stir-fry sweet potato dish? I think you can find this dish in some Peranakan Restaurants as well as in the Soup Restaurant (I think it was Ah Kong's favourite).

This plant grows very fast. So in times of hardship, this would be a plant to consider. (^^) I believe it must be a valuable source of food during the WWII times.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seafood at Chinatown Wet Market

Popped by the market after a great beehoon breakfast at the Chinatown Food Centre. Captured some pictures to share with you. The crowd was getting bigger at the wet market as many started shopping for the great Chinese New Year cooking. Great news that there's still many cooking at home for the Chinese New Year Reunion.

Just some local delights, at least for me.

Sotong (Malay for Squids)

Hum (Hokkien for Cockles)

Tua Tao in Hokkien (Siput Biji Nangka in Malay, Glauconome virens)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vegetables in Chinatown Wet Market

If we were to look at all the wet markets and supermarkets included, we are going to see quite a big spectrum of vegetables available. In the Chinatown wet market today, I tried my best to take photos of as many vegetables as I could while my wife went about picking up the vegetables for the next meals and chatting with the stallholder.

This could be perhaps the difference between a supermarket and a wet market. The stallholders know their regular customers and would exchange greeting followed by perhaps some updates of the economic situations - perhaps preparing the customers for price increase (^^), and recommending what's the latest in the vegetable scene. From mainly Cantonese in the old days, we see a bigger variety of Chinese dialects and the inevitable Mandarin these days (with younger Singaporeans and mainland Chinese) and English with the Singaporeans who are more comfortable with English and the domestic help (commonly known in Singapore as maids) - Indonesia and Filipino forming the bigger groups. In Chinatown, there are some Singapore Indians doing the marketing and so, there's some Malay being used (the common language in the old days).

There are also the business customers, mainly from the food stalls in the Food Centre on the 2nd storey in this Chinatown complex. From what I observed, there are also the chefs from some restaurants who came to pick what's the freshest for the day. Big restaurants might order directly from the wholesalers in Pasir Panjang wholesale market.

Customer loyalty could be seen when we saw some stalls with many customers while other "pa mun" (beat mosquitoes as they say in Hokkien) - meaning idling and hence looking for the unfortunate mosquitoes, but it would be a tough exercise these days in Singapore. Some customers are repeat customers over more than a decade. Despite the change of location after the last renovation, they came flocking back once they could locate them. Some of them would even asked about the stallholder's children, tracking them since the time when they were born. They even know which stallholder has married a wife from Indonesia or mainland China!

In some stalls, there are already two generations working together. The older ones might recommend how to treat the vegetables and how they should be cooked. No, no takeaway recipes, just some aga-her and aga-there (approximates as is typical of Asian cooking).

I hope to post pictures of the vegetables and might need your help in identification, especially in how each is called in various languages, in various Chinese dialects and other languages, be it English (English and American!), Malay, Tamil, Hindi or even Tagalog, or Javanese.

What vegetable is this?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fresh Herbs

Once upon a time, in any wet market, there was bound to be one or two fresh herb stalls. While dried herbs being sold in the traditional Chinese Medicine Shop could be found in Chinatown (Singapore) and in many of the old HDB estates, they are slowly fading away. Perhaps to be replaced the new-look Chinese Medicine Shops like Eu Yan San and others that come together with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners. In the old days, when the days were hot, the grannies have their passed-down recipes of cooling tea (Liang Cha) which could be some leaves with rock sugar or sugar coated winter melon strips.

That was when they would go to the fresh herb stalls to get them. Of course, the more knowledgeable ones could go to the field to pluck or dig for them. For some, they might have planted them in the small pots dotted along the HDB corridors.

I spotted this fresh herb stall in the Chinatown Wet Market. By the look of the fresh leaves of various herbs, there must have been demands. It always fascinate me on the use of the fresh groundnuts. Anyone knows?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What's in this wet market that is not found in the supermarkets

The Chinatown wet market has a long history, from its days along the streets like Trengganu Street to Smith Street, it had gone down below to the basement of the new HDB flat. It has lost its colourful background of the so called pre-war houses. And also some of the exciting actions, owing probably to the reducing demands of certain food.

I wonder if there are other similar signs in other wet markets in Singapore.

Can you spot the outstanding meat being offered here hardly found elsewhere in Singapore? It would be great to know more too about the purpose of taking such meat. For one, I know from my mum is about the frogs. If a baby is not able to walk when it is supposed to, then, grandma will recommend making frog soup for the baby. Frogs are reputed to be able to leap and surely have strong leg muscles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wet Markets in Singapore

For those who love cooking or those who have to cook for a living, the wet market is the place. In almost every country (or all countries), there are wet markets of all sizes and catering to different customers.

In Singapore, in the old days, one could identify quickly the established wet markets catering for different communities. Chinatown wet market was mainly for the Chinese, offering fresh produce and catch for the Southern Chinese (like Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, Hakka and more). Tiong Bahru wet market has its unique attraction mainly for the residents of Tiong Bahru, but is well known amongst the Chinese community in Singapore. Geylang Serai wet market caters mainly for the Malay community, offering more spices and other varieties unique to Malay cooking. In Tekka wet market (in Little India), as the location tells, it is one location for the Indian community. Singaporeans with their home kitchen being evolved into the Singaporean fusion cooking will still flock to Tekka Market during festive days to get their favourite ingredients and fresh produce. Mutton must be the best option here. And for the Peranakans, Buah Keluak and the various leaves used for cooking.

As urbanisation took place in Singapore, more wet markets sprung up in the housing estates. And then, supermarkets start to take over. From the single biggest Cold Storage at the Orchard Road, next to the Orchard Road wet market, more Cold Storage appeared. And then, there was Fairprice - created to combat inflation and price increases. And then, Giant came into the scene, and then, Sheng Shiong the latest wet-market style supermarket. And more smaller supermarket chains sprouted too.

In the old days, there were also some specialised markets, probably because of the wholesale business. Some of these were at Beach Road (no more there), Maxwell Road (now a food centre), Lau Pa Sat at Robinson Rd (now a food centre) and Ellenborough Market (no more there).

Each market has its character. And each stall holder has its customers and fans. Watching them trade greetings and haggling over the few cents is interesting. The more colourful ones are when they converse in the local dialects. It will become rare to see the Chinese stall holders explaining in Chinese-styled Malay to the Malay or Indian customer. Or the Indian speaking fluent Hokkien to the bibik!

welcome to the colourful world of wet market. Do share your stories and experiences. And share with the world your favourite wet market!