travel bite: Tekka Market, Singapore

I’m stumbling to the bus stop in the thick early morning air with sleepy lids. It’s still dark. The moon above has chosen to show more than one face today: resting upon a slim grin is an opaque disc only just apparent, the glimmer of a circumference peeking out from behind.

6.30am. After four hours sleep and a thoroughly enjoyable amount of red wine I have managed to make it out of the house for a trip to Tekka Centre’s daily food market.

On the journey into town the bus is filled with school children. A young girl’s head bobs about with each rock and roll of the vehicle, body precariously teetering on the edge of her seat. As I begin to follow in her footsteps we emerge from the snail trail of traffic and I am finally deposited outside of the Tekka Centre.

Inside it’s not hard to find the market. Passing alongside the already busy cluster of hawker stands I find myself at the mouth of a maze of stalls selling a variety of produce, from fruit and vegetables through to meat and fish, with the odd egg or spice stand popping up in between.

My favourite stand is 81. I’m transfixed, mesmerised by the sea creatures before me. Glistening, yellow finned fish line up side by side, diamond shaped silver jewels nestle within their new white polystyrene home, crabs sporting porcelain blue extremities are piled high, and baby sharks are casually flung in a heap. I hover, unsure as to how long is an indecent amount of time to be stood staring at such beauties.

Out of the corner of my eye I spy another stand proudly displaying coral pink bodies decorated with dark spots and I’m off, exploring deeper into the narrow alleys. My lungs are filled with the alternating smells of seafood, raw meat and incense whilst I smile at all who greet me (as the only Westerner here I am being warmly welcomed).

A woman is sifting bean sprouts in a woven basket as wide as her arm span; an elderly, skeletal gentleman in a wheelchair rearranges bags of noodles; and a little old lady picks out plucked chicken wings with her bare hands to purchase.

Dodging those that are going about their daily shop, skipping over puddles of fish water and leaving behind a waft of cumin and coriander, I head in the direction of the hawker stands, empty stomach rumbling.

By now it’s 8am, fried garlic fills the air and people are tucking in to prata with curry sauce served on banana leaves and bowls of noodles bathing in steaming broths. A baby is cradled on the hips of a big burly man, passed by on either side by those rushing to work – takeaway coffee pouches in hand.

Not yet accustomed to eating nasi (rise) and mei (noodles) for breakfast I opt for a Peanut Sesame Ball and plop myself down on a table round the corner.

As I tuck in to the sesame coated deep fried pastry – hiding a sweet peanut paste within – I have the continuous whirring of an overhead fan system as company. Combined  with the distant whistling of traffic police and scraping of plastic crates against tiled flooring it makes for a comforting cocoon of noise in which to contemplate the morning so far.

My exotic pastry finished, I make for the exit. I pass a group of gossiping women on the way, exclaiming amongst each other, perched at various levels upon the tables and benches, smoking.

Despite the haze in which I got to Tekka Market, I am pleased I made the effort. Small yet perfectly formed, it may not provide hours of entertainment but it’s a great way of immersing yourself in local life before wandering the streets of Little India just outside.

Tekka Market

Tekka Centre, Singapore

Open daily 0630 – 0930 (except Monday)

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