Friday, 14 September 2012

6 am on a Saturday Morning



Every Saturday morning, I hop out of bed at the crack of drawn-- ok, who am I kidding, I slam the alarm button off, snooze for ten more minutes, then very grouchily drag myself out of bed and go into a mad frenzied rush-- and make my way to Pimlico farmer's market. As horrible as I make it out to be, I actually really do love my Saturday mornings running the market. I remember a few years ago, looking for a part-time job outside of school to earn myself some pennies, and turning to all the random restaurants I've heard of but couldn't afford in the hope that they feed their waitresses well, and even being quite desperate enough to apply for retail jobs in the fashion high street stores (which give me a headache. I know, I'm not a girl.) It was absolute brilliance when I found my job as a farmer's market manager. I was the happiest girl on earth. The smell of fresh bread, the sight of all those (edible) purples and greens and orange and yellows and reds, and most of all, the banter with people who similarly love their food and where they come from.

Now that I'm back in Singapore, I'm afraid my Saturday morning starts at ten am, and lazily begins with  a plate of fried noodles that my mum has made, with fresh vegetables bought earlier this morning (and the madwoman has probably also begun the cooking for dinner). Perhaps it's a sense of guilt, or perhaps I actually miss waking up at 5am, or perhap because like all cooks, I love being in touch with the source of my food, I found myself doing that snooze-drag-rush routine again this morning.




And so I found myself, rather out of place, in a world of haggling aunties and hollering uncles, with cries of "Only $4 for one kilo!" and whispers of "I think the stall at the other end cheaper. My mum navigated the chaotic sea of people and gossip with the seasoned strides of someone who has been doing it for her whole life, stopping to say hi to the stallholders and friends, and driving bargains with unabashed charm. I just trailed behind making embarrassed smiles on her behalf.

Wet markets are called that for a reason. Unlike the pretty stalls and signs and prettily packaged produce you find in a farmer's market, the place is, well, wet. The stallholders slosh around in their oversized rubber boots, happily chopping away on the spot to get you your fresh fish or meat, not bothering very much about the chaos and mess around them at all. I poked at everything and pretty much annoyed my mother and amused the fishmonger with all my questions. Fresh is key, so think blinking crabs and (certain) fish still swimming in tanks of water.




Vegetables are huge parts of dinners at home, not simply relegated to the role of a side dish. Leafy greens, especially, go beyond the usual spinach and kale; we all know the bok choy, but there's also chye sim, kai lan, kang kong, all wonderful just stir-fried with lots of garlic or lots of sambal. One aunty is bent over huge rattan baskets, sorting through and plucking beansprouts; and another, weighing the bittergourds and luffah. Into my mum's shopping basket, goes many bunches of spring onions and coriander-- asian essentials-- shoved her way after a cheeky "I buy so much, nothing free ah?"



We all know the banana and pineapple, but there are some tropical fruits that probably looked too weird to make it to overseas shores. Pity. Rambutans-- red golf-ball sized fruits with thick curly hairs sprouting from it,  and a fragrant sweet white juicy flesh inside. "Dragon's eyes", or longans- black shiny seeds and translucent soft flesh a la eyeballs. And that thorny monster, durian, called the king of fruits and with a huge fan base sitting in front of their calendars counting down to this year's durian season, and an equally huge hate group pinching their noses at its very acquired stench.

We left, our bags loaded with goodies, my mum all pumped with ideas for dinner, and me, well, yawning. I love Saturday mornings at the market.

37 comments:

  1. What a brilliant way to start your day. I can only imagine the hustle and bustle mixed with all the smells and sounds. Very exciting ;0)

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    1. I know people complain about fishy smells and the noise, but I love it!

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  2. This brings back memories! I remember annoying my mother at the age of 6/7 waking up and demanding to be taken to the market with her. Hehe. I miss that.

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    1. Hehe unfortunately I was quite a lazy kid. I'm glad 15 years later, I made it to the market with her though (:

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  3. Aaaaagh! STOP! The photos, especially that last one, are so atmospheric I want to weep! Especially as I was skyping some relatives in Singapore only a few minutes ago... sniff! (think I might be unusually hormonal right now mind you)

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  4. I miss wet market...!! So want to be back in Singapore right now...... :(

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  5. Fantastic market. Have a great week.

    PS I know you have probably been busy. Just a wee reminder that it would be great if you followed Carole's Chatter back. Cheers

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  6. I love these photographs! I've never been to Singapore, but they bring back great memories for me of other parts of SE Asia. :)

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    1. Wet market is se asia are pretty similar! I've been to those in Thailand too and they remind me of the ones from home. I just love the vibe and buzz of markets, so I make it a point to go to one everytime I travel.

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  7. look like you have enjoyed walking in pasar in Singapore huh..

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    1. Yup! It was fun going to pasar, esp with mum (: Been trying to spend more time with herwhile I'm here.

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  8. What an exciting start to the day. I love going to our local market on a Saturday morning, the earlier the better! This market sounds and looks amazing.

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    1. It is! I'm just liek you, well, except for the earlier the better bit.

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  9. The photos capture the feeling you've described so well, I feel like I can almost smell all the fresh fish and produce! Definitely an awesome way to spend Saturday mornings.

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    1. Thanks kat! I don't really fancy smelling fish early in the morning to be honest but yes, it is a visual spectacle (:

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  10. i do grocery shopping about once a week and it is probably always the highlight of the week. There is no wet market around but even going to a supermarket makes me happy. I just love looking at, touching, and smelling all the stuff available in a supermarket or farmer's market. I wish there is a wet market in New York though. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Wet markets are very asian aren't they! I do sometimes miss them in London, but I get my market fix at the farmer's market every saturday too, and it always makes my day (:

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  11. Aw, great post. I love markets that specialize in one thing, only vegetables, or only fish. That last shot is scrumptious!

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    1. Actually, they have pretty much everything, but my mum and I only stopped for those that day! Thanks!

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  12. ah what a lovely read, reminded me of a fav. german column, that I used to read when i was in europe.

    You actually miss getting up at 5 am? lol

    Rambutan and dragon fruit are 2 different fruits or the same?

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    1. Heh, well not really..

      Rambutan are totally different from dragon fruit, they're much smaller and taste and look quite different!

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    2. Love dragon fruit. First time I had it was 11 years ago in China and I didn't have them again until last year when I saw them in a store near me. So expensive though... omg... €10 for 2!!

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  13. Getting up early in the morning and shopping in the fresh produce market is great way to begin the day. I lived in Singapore 10 years ago and there was 1 wet market I went couple of times, I forgot the name of it but it was nearby the Dutch village (I think..., if that neighborhood still exist). The fish looks so fresh!

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  14. What a great way to spend your Saturday morning, tiring I'm sure but worth it. Lovely selection of fruits, some I've never heard of!

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  15. So are you no longer in London Shu Han? No more farmer's market? You trip to the market looks lovely all the same and your photographs are stunning as usual. What are you up to in Singapore?

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    1. Hi emily! Nope, I'm just back for a month's break. been up to lots of eating and less cooking hehe, being fed well by mum. Will be back in london next week, yikes!

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  16. I used to love going to the wet market with my grandma in Hong Kong. So smelly! So hectic. I only wish we could get such produce (at a reasonable price) here in London

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    1. Farmers' markets are surprisingly not that expensive, but yes, I think it's hard to find a place with the same smelly hectic vibe in london :(

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  17. Ack, such early mornings - you're crazy :D I could never do it, although I'd love to have such an experience once or twice to say I've done it. Who knows - going to such a lively market might turn me into a real morning person! Right now I'm so terrible... really difficult to get up :(

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    1. Hah I've reverted back to my lazy sleep-ins to be honest. I can't keep this up :/

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  18. Brought back my childhood memory as I liked to go to the wet market with my mom. I remember I used to be very enthusiastic the night before, then found it hard to wake up the next morning!

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  19. Hi Shu Han,

    Fabulous post-I could almost hear the fish flapping!! Wow so you will be back in London next week-that month has really flown by!

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  20. Oh I'm so envious, I love farmer's markets so much, this one sounds so wonderful. Your writing made me (almost) feel like I was right there with you and your mum and the wetness and the fish and produce... And what an awesome student job you have to manage a market in London, I actually can't think of a cooler one :-) Gorgeous photos.

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  21. Really a good description and photographs, sea food is better than any other food.

    Food Technology Jobs

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