Sunday 1 November 2009

Wet market versus supermarket: Beware of topless butcher

Let's say you have a big fancy soirée to attend tonight, like one of those you read about in the "Fly On The Wall" pages of The New Paper on Sunday.

So you decide to get your hair done in a salon. You discuss with your hair stylist which celebrity look suits you best.

Your hair is washed, cut and processed just the way you want it.

You admire the stunning new you in the mirror and feel like you're ready for the red carpet and those pesky paparazzi.

You open the door of the salon and the first thing you see is a fat middle-aged guy clad in nothing but flip-flops and short shorts, chopping raw meat in the butcher stall so close to the Super Trim Beauty & Hair Salon that a stray piece of animal entrails could cannonball into your face as you step out.

And I haven't even mentioned the smell. Ahhh, the glamourous life.

Welcome to the Choa Chu Kang Street 62 wet market near my home.

It was one of a number of wet markets in Singapore supposedly in danger of being displaced by supermarkets, sparking a farm-fresh debate with stale themes long past their expiry date.

New versus old. Progress versus heritage. Big business versus community. Star Trek versus Star Wars.

Been there, done that, bitched about it on Twitter.

Accept it: The days of the wet market are numbered - along with music CDs, service staff who speak English and my six-pack abs.

It's doomed by its name, "wet market". How can it possibly have a chance against "supermarket"?

Imagine pitting Superman against Wetman.

One is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The other is able to make you slip and fall on its wet floor with a single step.

One is faster than a speeding bullet. The other is quick to overcharge you if he senses you're a wet market newbie.

One is more powerful than a locomotive. The other, uh ... doesn't wear a cape.

Or a shirt, like the aforementioned topless butcher at the Choa Chu Kang wet market.

According to news reports, supermarket chain Sheng Shiong, which is interested in buying the wet market along with four others, said it no longer plans to convert them to air-conditioned markets.

The company is prepared to continue renting out the wet market stalls to the existing stall holders, presumably including Mr No-Shirt, who brings new meaning to the term "pork belly".

But if the wet market does close down, I know of at least one hair salon customer who wouldn't shed a tear.

Now please excuse me, I have to go to my movie premiere - after I wipe the pig fat from my eye.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 November 2009

SM (is that Senior Minister perhaps?)

loved the story on the topless butcher, had conversation with the topless (and for all I know bottomless as well) fisho at Geylang Serai this morning.

Watched the guy (perhaps he should be Botak Ikan-man) expertly chopping up fish of all types and sizes for different dishes, quite the sight in his surgical green coroners apron, bare skin and bald head.

Wonder if the cause of death of the fish was at all considered, still too late, one of the lovely fresh and pink ones (looks like a small schnapper) if already being currified in the kitchen as we speak.

Love the column, compulsory reading, especially the shorts at the wedding! A true Singaporean.

Peter Coleman