Thursday, August 06, 2015

To Market to Market: The One and Only Tiong Bahru Market

One of my favorite things to do when I was young was to wake up really early to visit the markets. There's something about being there before the day breaks, watching how the vendors put out their wares and seeing the world come alive.

The thing about markets is how much of a melting pot it is for the local community. The mornings when I'm there, I always note the heart warming interactions going on. "Hi uncle!" "How're the flowers this morning?" are exchanges I hear. Unlike a supermarket, it's fun going back to the same hawker and develop a relationship with the vendor. We often end up have short banter on how their day has been.

When the kids were younger, I used to bring them along during these grocery trips. It was a fun way to introduce to them the food that they are eating. They would pick and poke at the different vegetables and often, to my mild disapproval, pinch their noses when they get to the fish section of the market. These days, with early school starts, it's hard to bring them along but what good memories they were. 

One of my favorite local markets is the iconic Tiong Bahru market. It's where the famous chwee kway stall resides. The market is one of the first modern markets built in 1955 in a housing estate. When I was a kid, my parents used to drive me to the old market for some pepper steak! Those were the days!

On my market run, the first place I normally hit is the flower stall. Uncle Teck is known for his reasonably priced flowers. You can't miss his stall, it's the first one that you see once you step into the market. I often buy my blooms from him. He's quite a friendly chap and would throw in a few extra stalks of flowers in when I pay. 

Next up would be the chicken stall. I love to boil chicken stock as a base for the kids. The stall owner, Stanley, has a big love for fishing! His stall is always busy it all times! In fact, his clientele include the Japanese housewives and lots of other nationalities. His friendly disposition makes them giggle a lot. For me, it's easy to just order and do a pick up later. So I always go back to him.

And when it comes to pork bones and all, uncle lee next door is the man to talk to. He's a funny chap. I love chatting with him in Hokkien! One of the few chances I get to speak in dialect! (It's my secret parenting language with my husband when we do not want the kids to understand what we are saying.) He's very generous with his advice on which cut of meat I should use for different dishes. And more often than not, he would give me a discount on my purchase.

One of my favourite stalls is the yong tau foo stall. My kids love fish balls and this uncle sells the handmade ones. So whilst I'm there, I would pick up a boxful of assorted yong tau foo for dinner that evening. The variety is good and it's really fresh. Plus, you gotta eat your colors so this is definitely one way to get the kids to eat their vegetables.

Speaking of vegetables, you are spoilt for choice in this market. There are numerous stalls selling a wide variety of vegetables. From organic produce to a wide array of mushroom, you can definitely find what you are are looking for here.  I generally like to buy my vegetables from the stall next to the flower stall. There are neatly packed garlic and onions which I always pick up, and organic broccoli and carrots that I use quite frequently in my cooking. 

I love boiling asian drinks like lemon grass ginger or water chestnut. So I normally ask for a bunch of those when I'm there. Best of all, this stall sells herbs that are so reasonably priced, it makes the ones at the supermarket look ridiculous.

Of course, you can't forget the dry goods stalls in the market. For me, it's reminiscence of my childhood when I used to shop with my auntie. She would often stop by for rock sugar or curry powder.  It's kinda full circle that I'm doing this now. I can find a few types of rock sugar, and a whole lot of condiments for cooking here. In fact, the auntie here would recommend the "proper" type of barley to boil when the kids are heaty.

And then, there's always the egg auntie. You won't miss her corner stall. She's really easy going and lets you pick the eggs that you would like before packing them up for you with a smile.

Foodwise, Tiong Bahru market is second to none in terms of hawker variety. You are absolutely spoilt for choice when you head there for a meal. In fact, whenever we have visitors from overseas, it's one of our first stops for a local food experience.

This is my favourite lor mee stall. There are two in this market but I do prefer this one. The thick broth, combined with cospicious amounts of chilli and garlic, makes it a tasty way to start the day.

This stretch of stalls is perpetually busy. I grew up drinking pigs organ soup. The hot peppery soup base coupled with the salty vegetables always bring me back to my childhood. It's one of the oldest pigs organ soup stall in Singapore. The auntie is really sharp at taking orders so you can customise the different items that you would like in the soup. 

The soy chicken noodles in the middle stall is pretty yummy too. There is a long queue though so I hardly patronise it anymore. But once in a while, when I spot a shorter queue, I'll drop by to buy a plate of noodles.

And then there is Hariann's Nonya delights. It boasts of the best Kuey Dadar in town. Actually my husband really enjoys it, he said the thin wrap is second to none in SG. I love the kuey salat and K loves the 9 layer rainbow kuey. 

One of our favourite stalls is the chicken rice stall just at the right side of the escalator (when you come upwards). The chicken is tender and the chilli is sedap! My boys love the cutlet rice there. They always wipe their plates clean. Unfortunately, I didn't manage a picture that morning when I was there as it wasn't open. Oh and Tian Tian dessert stall as well. Always heat relief when the weather gets too warm and we need a cheng tng or ice kachang to cool off.

I guess this is it!! We've only barely scratched the surface of this market so I suggest that you head on down to experience it  (and the neighbourhood!!) itself!

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Life's Tiny Miracles, to celebrate this unique aspect of our Singaporean way of life - our markets. 

Next up, Summer is a media executive turned SAHM from Singapore who stepped into the motherhood journey during her four-year stay in Sweden. Life has never gotten more fulfilling since then and she is now the mother of two lovely girls. She believes that contentment is bliss and that happiness is about making the best of what you have. A Happy Mum is a place where she blogs about motherhood, babies, kids, love, DIY crafts, travelling and all things happy. Check out which market she visits and how she handles it with one, or sometimes two kids, in tow!

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