Singaporeans love to travel. For our family, we love to visit places where we can immerse in local culture. From Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to Seattle’s Pike’s Place (birth place of Starbucks!), from Australia’s Victoria Market to Tokyo’s Tsukiji, we’ve seen that in any major city, there are markets – melting pots of the unique sights, tastes, smells and sounds that define their way of life.
Though our country may be young and small, look within our multicultural ethnicity and you’ll realize that Singapore’s markets too, have defined her people. In fact, markets have been instrumental in promoting social cohesion. From Ang Mo Kio to West Coast, Yishun to Tiong Bahru, each neighbourhood has a market where people from all walks of life, regardless of race, language or religion, would throng and trade. Even more interesting is that even as a small city state, we have evolved our own unique subculture which can be seen and felt in our markets.
Sadly with urbanization, the characteristics of these markets are slowly fading and becoming homogenous. Smaller stalls are giving way to larger supermarket chains. Where stall proprietors once knew the preferences of their loyal customers; where bonds with customers were forged across generations. Today, the larger supermarkets, despite providing more modern facilities where we can shop in comfort, could not offer that personalized touch which we once receive at the humblest markets.
In this “To Market, To Market” blog series launching today, we’ve invited a group of 24 parent bloggers to come and celebrate this unique aspect of our Singaporean way of life – our markets. We will each take turn to document a market which is close to our hearts and share it with our readers. We start the train chugging by making our first stop at the legendary Ghim Moh Market.
Ghim Moh Market (Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road):
Ghim Moh is a tiny estate situated between the two sprawling old housing estates of Clementi and Queenstown. It is a mature but bustling estate. Though small, the demographics in this tiny estate can’t be more diverse. The estate features a mix of blocks of HDB flats as well as some landed properties comprising of condominiums and houses. Unknown to most, Singapore’s famed Raffles Junior College (RJC) was originally situated here from 1984 till 2004 , alongside 2 neighborhood schools which has since closed down.
Ghim Moh estate has a special place in our family’s history. It was here that David began his career as a teacher, clocking in long hours alongside many dedicated mentors and experienced colleagues tirelessly inspiring and educating the youths in this estate.
It was here too where Dana attended infant care from the tender age of 4months. We did not have any extended home support so infant-care was the only option. We owed much of Dana’s early developments to the caring teachers at The Little Skoolhouse situated inside the Ulu Pandan Community Center (opposite Ghim Moh Market). It was also here at the Ulu Pandan CC where Dana started her first Eduplus Mandarin enrichment classes on Saturday mornings, giving her strong foundation in the language; and where David and I took up half a year of Zumba classes on Tuesday nights. We hold so many fond memories whenever we step foot in Ghim Moh.
While the younger generation may be unfamiliar with the estate, ask any of our elders across Singapore, and they will probably know Ghim Moh, particularly for its market and hawker stalls. Since discovering its market years back, we’ve been making regular visits on weekends. We like this market not only because of the diverse range of fresh produce and yummy hawker food but mainly because the stall holders are really personable. We found it really interesting that most of them speak impeccable English! Our visits to Ghim Moh Market typically start with a leisurely breakfast from the popular hawker stalls at the adjoining Ghim Moh Hawker Centre before we proceed to do marketing. We then buy lunch back when we’re about done. How convenient!
Currently, the Ghim Moh Market and Hawker Center is undergoing a major renovation and slated to re-open by Nov/Dec 2015. The holding site for the market is directly opposite its original site but tenanted by only half its usual occupants. Nevertheless, most of the stalls we used to patronize are still there. Follow us as we introduce some gems of Ghim Moh Market to you.
Fishball noodles is my comfort breakfast food (the other being Wonton Mee). One of my favourite stalls is the Fishball Noodle stall owned and run by Joyce and her parents. Joyce and her younger sister were David’s former students. Their parents have been selling Fishball noodle for as long as this market has been around. The fishballs are handmade fresh daily. The noodles are cooked al-dante, with light seasoning and lots of crunchy bean sprouts thrown in upon request. Her parents are passing on the trade to Joyce while her sister is pursuing a degree in a local university. I feel heartened to see meritocracy at work, even in the marketplace.
Not far from their stall is the Chwee Kueh stall which has also been around for almost 40 years. The old couple still shucks their handmade chwee kueh by hand, one by one and serves them with its slow-cooked radish condiment. The queue at this stall bears the testament of the smooth texture and savoury lingering taste of this unique Singapore dish.
Next to them is the Prawn Noodle stall which have been around for over 30 years. The slow-cooked prawn noodle stock is super flavorful and at only S$2.50 a bowl, it is a winner. The husband and wife team serves the dish with a smile despite the long hours and manic crowds.
These are just three of the hawker stalls we patronized during this visit. One look around the hawker center and you’ll realize that queues, short and long, are seen everywhere inside this Ghim Moh Market foodie heaven. In fact, the hawker center alone deserves its own blog post! An idea we might just pick up when after the renovation is completed.
The temporary wet market, though smaller than its former, offers an eclectic range of fresh produce and grocery items which mirrors the diverse culture and taste of this neighbourhood. The friendly Aunty at the biscuit stall was proudly displaying and introducing us to the traditional cookies and biscuits her stall was selling. It was like a step back in time for us, only better because these biscuits are now ready-packed into small sachets (instead of large tin boxes). Buy as much or as little as you want to match whatever occasion. Good for those of us who enjoys snacking on these old school treats!
Next to the biscuit stall is a small florist who sells very unique flowers, uncommon to other wet market florist stalls. The stall owner tells us some are air flown weekly from Holland, hence her flowers are more long-lasting (such as the purple round Alliums and pastel-coloured Eustomas). This reflects the small group of sophisticated clientele she serves in this Ghim Moh – Holland (landed) neighbourhood.
Take a whiff and your nose will lead you to the stall next door selling fresh grounded local coffee. The Aunty was busy grinding and packing the different varieties of coffee for her customers. The many different varieties of local coffee are certainly intriguing. I’ll return another day to chat with the Aunty to find out what is the difference across varieties when she is not so busy.
Not far down, there is an Indian lady selling a plethora of Indian spices and beauty products. How diverse to have boxes of hanna hair dye right next to potatoes, gingers and curry spices! We are always intrigued by Indian stalls especially its sweet aroma of the spices and the fresh curry powders sold. It seems that there are curries for every different occasions! A customer was lamenting to us that none of this Indian stallholder’s children was willing to inherit her stall, hence she will soon have to fold up her business soon. What a pity. Another vanishing trade.
A common feature in any wet market would be the general spice stalls and veggie stalls. One stall we like to patronize regularly would be Andy’s which sells a small selection of organic vegetables. Andy speaks good English and attends to each of his customer’s requests efficiently. I like to buy the Huai Shan (淮山) from Andy as he imports them from Japan.
In the fishery section, there’s Eddy – our friendly fishmonger. You can’t miss his shop nor his affable personality. Eddy also speaks good English and today he is proudly showing off his air-flown Norwegian whole Salmon that just arrived that very morning. We come to him for our fresh fish meat since Dana was a baby. Eddy’s fishes are a tad more pricey than the supermarkets but definitely much fresher. David and Dana are fish lovers so I try to buy some weekly. I typically buy Salmon, Sea Bass, Threadfin (for Buddy) and the occasional Cod.
Right at the back of Eddy’s stall is a very special stall which is rarely found in wet markets – a ‘Chinese Beef Stall’. It’s quite uncommon for Chinese to be selling beef as it is not a staple in normal Chinese diet but Alice sells really good beef cuts – from steaks to ox tails to beef tongue! Whenever we need to replenish our supply of fresh beef for beef stew, shepherd’s pie or beef bolognaise, we come here. Her beef’s texture is superior to supermarket’s and tastes sweeter.
For pork, we go to Kuan – a busy and serious man. You would be too if you had a queue like his! His stall is easily the one with the longest queue in Ghim Moh Market any day of the week. Within the stern and stoic exterior is actually a friendly and obliging stall owner who attends to his customers’ requests patiently. Like Alice, the meat he sells is really tender and fresh. He is ever ready to give advice on the type of pork to buy for whichever dishes we want to cook. I’ve noticed Kuan frequently throws in extra for his customers, just to make them happy. With Kuan, I feel assured I will not be overcharged so I tend to buy a bit more for freezing.
Just like any visit, before we knew it, our grocery shopping’s done for the week. As we bade farewell to this market that we know so well, we leave with a happy heart knowing that we’ve gotten the freshest food for the family for the week ahead, enjoyed our cup of Kopi (and Tea-C), indulged in our weekly local breakfast. More importantly, we’ve struck conversations and made connections with fellow locals who are just as much part of the community as we are. Together, we make what is unique to our community tick and it all happened right here, at the market.
Markets are excellent places to teach our children our unique heritage and culture. So, before our markets fade into obscurity, it’s time to re-visit our markets and give our young the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of what is uniquely their home.
Tomorrow, Dorothea of A Pancake Princess will bring us on a visit to the Bedok South Market (near Tampines Junior College). Dotz is a SAHM to two little boys and a bunny, and a recent convert to wet-market-ing. She blogs about family life, faith, craft adventures and fun outings at A Pancake Princess (http://apancakeprincess.com). In her free time, she loves scrapbooking and baking, and writes freelance for The New Age Parents, an online parenting magazine.
Follow our “To Market, To Market” Blog Train in August as we visit a different market each day with a different parent blogger!
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To Market, To Market Blog Train (August 2015)
3 Aug Mon – Angie, www.lifestinymiracles.com, Ghim Moh Market
4 Aug Tues – Dotz, www.apancakeprincess.com, Bedok South Market
5 Aug Wed – Michelle, www.mummyweeblog.com, Bukit Batok East Market
6 Aug Thurs – Pamelia, www.lilacpetal.blogspot.com, Tiong Bahru Market
7 Aug Fri – Summer, www.ahappymum.com , Sengkang New Market
10 Aug Mon – Pamela, www.tanfamilychronicles.com, AMK Mayflower Market
11 Aug Tues – Andy, www.sengkangbabies.com, AMK Cheng San Market
12 Aug Wed – Eddie, http://strangerinbangkok.blogspot.sg, BKK Market
13 Aug Thurs – Debra, olimomok.livejournal.com, Shunfu Market
14 Aug Fri – Vera, www.lifeisinthesmallthings.com, Empress Road Market
15 Aug Sat – Shirley, www.sayshappymums.wordpress.com, Chinatown Market
17 Aug Mon – Debs G, www.owlswellblog.wordpress.com, Commonwealth Market
18 Aug Tues – Lyn, www.lilbluebottle.com, Blk 85 Fengshan Market
19 Aug Wed – Karen, www.mumscalling.com, Tekka Market
20 Aug Thurs – Diana, www.thedomesticgoddesswannabe.com, Bedok North St 1 Market
21 Aug Fri – Jiahui, www.mumseword.com, Toa Payoh Vegetable Night Market
22 Aug Sat – Danessa, http://prayerfullmum.net, Potong Pasir Mini Wet Market
24 Aug Mon – Mrs Kam, www.thekamfamily.com, Chong Pang Market
25 Aug Tues – PC, www.scrapmumloft.com, Admiralty Market
26 Aug Wed – Mei, www.finallymama.wordpress.com, Pek Kio Market
27 Aug Thurs – Meiling, www.universalscribbles.com, Pasar Bella Market
28 Aug Fri – Ashlyn, http://ashlynthia.blogspot.sg, Clementi Central Market
29 Aug, Sat – Steven, http://theperfectfathersg.blogspot.sg, Telok Blangah Rise Market