I remember visiting the wet market frequently with my mum when I was a kid. We would get the fresh produce that we need and then head to the food centre for breakfast - typically consisting of chwee kueh, hor fun, chai tow kueh, and a cup of kopi for my mum and hot Milo for myself. Afterwards, we would cycle back home where I would get ready for school.
The incessant chattering among housewives, the sound of fishmongers chopping away on their chopping boards, the rattling of trolley wheels, the beckoning of vegetable stall vendors, the pungent smell of Asian spices, the splashing of water over stalls and drains to clean up, the small talk my mum would exchange with the vendors, the way she knew where she could and how much to bargain, the feeling of a community spirit - these are the things that remain vivid in my mind even up till today.
Fast forward to two decades later, I gave birth to my first kid in Karlskrona, a small town in Sweden where you get your groceries from supermarkets and hypermarkets. Did you know? For all those years, we had to be contented with frozen, not fresh fishballs, tau poks, pigs' intestine, roti prata, lotus roots, duck, steamed buns and durians. Yes, you'll be amazed by all the things that come frozen. And even if we wish to get these frozen Asian food supplies or fresh ones like toufu and vegetables, we either had to wait for the bus that comes to our town on alternate weekends or drive two hours to the next town. It's only after having stayed abroad that we realised how easy it is to take things from granted when living in Singapore, including the ubiquitous markets and readily available fresh food.
Anyway, there was no way I could replicate those memories of visiting a traditional market with my girl during those years. Then, we returned to Singapore when she was three and I was heavily pregnant with the second child. You could say that at that point, I was the one reluctant to venture back into the wet market with a toddler and a big tummy, even though I knew that by hook or by crook, I had to ensure that our meals were served.
Ironically, it was the husband, who by the way is a great chef but only cooks once in a blue moon since we got back, who first ventured into and explored the wet market closest to us - Sengkang New Market.
Today, the market has become one of the places that we go to on a regular basis to stock up on fresh food supplies and in this post, I'm sharing with you some of the stalls that we frequent.
She also helps you to debone, deskin or cut the whole chicken into chunks depending on whether you wish to fry, stew, braise or cook soup etc. You know, I've been so used to cleaning and chopping up a whole chicken on my own in Sweden (it's more for economical reasons and just so you know, a whole chicken usually costs less than a piece of chicken breast over there) so this was definitely a welcome change.
Then we move on to the stall right opposite which is the Fish stall. This is probably the hubby's favourite stall as he is a seafood fan so the fresh prawns, squids and cuttlefish will thrill him. For me, I get our supply of fish here as I find that they are usually fresher than the ones we see in the supermarket. We usually go for cod, promfret, seabass or red grouper. I remember seeing my mum checking for the freshness of the fish through 1) Firm, bouncy flesh, 2) Bright, clear eyes and 3) Healthy, red gills. At the beginning, I was a little hesitant about choosing my own fish and would get the vendor, who is a young chap, to pick for me. Over time, I became a little braver and decided it would be easier to pick the fish myself as I know what type and size would work best for us. The only problem I have is trying to prevent the toddler from wanting to play with the pail of water meant for customers to rinse their hands.
Our last stop will be the Fruit stall which sells a variety of fresh fruits. Just look at the durians! It's just too bad that this king of fruits somehow makes me nauseous since I was a kid and I've never liked it from then on. Nonetheless, I try to ensure that we have an intake of fruits everyday. Angel's favourite fruit is the red dragon fruit, Ariel loves mango while I like guava with a generous serving of plum powder. We also eat apples, honeydews, kiwis, pineapples, watermelons, grapes, peaches, nectarines, cherries, jambus, longans, lychees and more (I don't like my kids to be fussy, you too right?). If we are in a rush or just wish to have a small serving, we would get the ready packed ones which sell at three packets for $5. If not, I prefer to buy fresh whole fruits home and cut it up ourselves.
It's also a good way for them to learn to read labels and pick up some new words. I like to let them pay for the things we purchase so that they not only practice their math, they also realise that everything costs money. We also get this priceless sense of achievement when we return home with a stroller full of fresh food and groceries. Yes, I guess I've now replicated those fond memories to a certain extent and I'm just hoping that my kids will one day be able to do this with their children, grandchildren and then great-grandchildren.
This is part of the ‘To Market, To Market’ Blog Train blog train hosted by Life's Tiny Miracles. Join us as we visit markets around Singapore with fellow family bloggers and see if any of these evoke your memories!
Next up is Pamela from the Tan Family Chronicles. Also known as Mrs Tan of the Tan Family at Throwback: Balik Kampong, Pamela enjoys blogging about her family and their experiences.