Markets like the night bazaars and wet markets have been a timeless part of the Singapore landscape. Night bazaars tend to spring up every few months in the housing estates or during special occasions like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali.
Haggling and elastic pricing are part and parcel of shopping at these places.
They’re filled with all sorts of colorful characters hawking wares from carpets, savory snacks and traditional costumes.
Loud hailers and playing dress up are de-rigueur for many stallholders during the bazaar to attract patrons to their stalls.
In recent years in cookie cutter Singapore, wet markets are being phased out in favor of supermarkets. These chain supermarkets offer a larger variety of goods, and sometimes at cheaper prices too. But why lose the allure of the wet market?
Many of us surely remember waking up on Sunday mornings, going for family breakfasts at the neighborhood coffee shop and trudging to the adjoining wet markets. Our parents would arm us with a few 10 cent coins so that we could ride on these ‘kiddy ride’ machines to distract us while they shop for groceries.
Smelly, wet and noisy, these are the things that make the wet market what it is. We have been buying our groceries from the same people for years. It has evolved from a simple weekend business and financial transaction into a personal relationship. It is this personal touch that makes the wet market truly special in most of our hearts.
Without needing us to say anything, the fishmonger will know to cut the fish into 4 slices (for our family of 4) just the way my mum likes it. He remembers which fish my mum prefers and will actually dissuade my mum from buying fish that he thinks my mum won’t enjoy.
The butcher usually greets us with “daging 2 kilo as usual eh kak?” (the usual 2 kilos of meat?). On special occasions, he takes pre-orders from us without the need to pay a deposit. He goes out of his way to order special cuts or marinated meat for us if we inform him a week in advance.
Night bazaars and wet markets hold a special place in many of our hearts because they’re so quaint, with the cacophony of dialects and bantering being tossed around and the personal touch of many of the stallholders. The thrill of haggling for lower prices, the smell of cooked food while mingling with the throngs of other shoppers makes shopping at night markets such an experience. It’s such a departure from the clinical and orderly side of Singapore that stepping into a market feels like taking a step back into the past.