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!