Kopi, a Wet Market and a Hawker Centre
Much like you may go to a coffee shop or cafe on a Saturday morning for a relaxing coffee or late breakfast. We took a trip to one of our local hawker centres to enjoy a morning kopi recently. Kopi is, I guess, South East Asia's unique version of a coffee and although it can be enjoyed anytime, what is nicer than one after a wander around your local neighbourhood on a Saturday morning?
Kopi is traditionally a very sweet white coffee made with condensed milk! So yep it really is incredibly sweet but definitely appeals to my sweet tooth. There are a number of other versions which you can have that are not as sweet but I've only ever tried kopi. I have been told what you should ask for to ensure you get one of these (if you want it) but I can never remember what you have to ask for and to be honest I'm happy with the sweet version.
Kopi is often served in places called Kopitiam's (at least here, these can be found all over Singapore). The name kopitiam comes from the Malay word for coffee (as borrowed and altered from the Portuguese) combined with the Hokkien dialect word for shop.
This particular morning actually began with a walk around the area where we live. Of course we've walked around here lots but never really ventured into the local shops asides from the two malls nearby. We also knew there was a mini wet market nearby which we were curious about and found. By the time we arrived there was not a lot left, we went mid-morning so I guess if you plan to buy from them you need to go early to ensure you get the best choice.
The floor in this part of the market was, as the name may suggest, wet so you needed to watch your footing. I gather that the floors are regularly washed and hosed down with water to keep them clean hence the name wet market. In the days before refrigeration wet markets were the only way of ensuring meat was fresh particularly in hot climates such as Singapore's. Animals were slaughtered there the same day as they were sold (often with the customer present) therefore ensuring freshness. As well as the wet market there were a number of other shops etc. selling all manner of goods including household items you'd find in a supermarket and a stall selling the king of the fruits, the durian. Usually the smell does not bother me too much but that stall really did smell strong! We didn't try or buy.
After our kopi's we later wandered over to a bigger hawker centre near to us (Old Airport Road) to have our lunch. For those who may not know a hawker centre is an area occupied by lots of different food vendors selling all sorts of food and drinks from traditional local dishes right down to Western food in some cases. It is usually in an open-air environment, there are also food courts in Singapore which are indoor, air-conditioned versions in malls etc. The food is usually cheap (in comparison to restaurants) and very good. The vendors don't have specific tables attached to them rather there are tables dotted all around the hawker centre and you sit where you like after you've bought your food. Similar to the food courts that you often now see in large shopping centres in the UK.
In Singapore, at least, it is not uncommon for locals to travel to the other end of the island to go to a particular stall for a particular dish because it is regarded as the best. Often they'll then also be prepared to queue for an hour or more to get the food (that is usually a sure sign the food is good). In some cases stalls will only be open on certain days and at certain times and once all the food is gone for the day / night that's it until the next time they are open. This doesn't deter people though, in fact I get the impression the stalls with limited opening times are often the best places to eat if you are in the know. Dining out really can require military precision and planning at times.
We had a lovely relaxed day living less like a visitor and hopefully more like a local.