Exploring Wet Markets

— This article appeared in the March 2017 Bamboo Telegraph, Singapore

Singapore offers several interesting venues for grocery shopping.  One such venue is the wet market.  Wet markets offer a true Singapore experience.  From sights and sounds to smells and tastes, be prepared to be have your senses invaded!

Tips for visiting:

  • Arrive early for best selection and make sure you check closing time.  Many wet markets close by noon.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor for recipe ideas and uses.  Many vendors will provide a free sample.  If you aren’t sure what it is or how to eat it, ask!
  • If you are concerned about the quality of your produce, be sure to ask the country of origin.  Not all countries have the same quality standards.
  • Take cash.  If you are purchasing several things from one stall, try your hand at bartering.
  • Be prepared for a variety of scents; not all pleasing!  Bring a scarf or breathe through your mouth.
  • It is best to wear closed toe shoes as most wet markets have many water puddles from melted ice.
  • Bring a cart or large tote to make carrying purchases easier.


What to buy:

Greens – Wet markets offer a bevy of interesting greens.  From kai lan to bok choy to water spinach there are ample selections for every taste bud.  This is a great opportunity to try new flavours and perhaps find a new favourite green.  Consider taking your kids to the wet market and involve them in the selection process.  Finicky eaters may enjoy having a say in what to taste.

Fresh made tempeh, tofu and noodles – Look for tempeh in banana leaves; tofu sold in large blocks and noodles in a heaping pile.  Once you try fresh made you will be spoiled for life!  The taste and quality is far superb to that which is purchased at your grocer.  Bear in mind that tempeh, tofu or noodles that are made fresh will not last very long in your refrigerator.  There are no preservatives so be sure to use promptly.  It is important to note that cooking times are less for these fresh made ingredients.  Noodles will cook in just a few minutes.

Fruit – One of my personal favourite items to buy at the wet market is fruit.  Depending on the season, one can purchase some delicious local treats.  Try rambutan, longan, mangosteen, pitaya (dragon fruit), rose apples and, if you’re brave, durian!  Pick one of each and take them home for a smorgasbord of new flavours.  Vendors will frequently ask you when you plan to eat an item and help you select the perfect piece of fruit that will be ripe on that day.

Spices – Some wet markets have dried spices.  Look for markets that specialize in specific cuisine such as Indian or Middle Eastern.  Take advantage of finding some new flavors to spice up your next meal.  Look for za’atar, paprika, dried chilis, fenugreek and amchoor (mango powder).

So, grab a friend and head to the wet market!  You will find excellent prices, unique food options and have a lovely experience!

Bon appétit!