Saturday, August 31, 2013

Singapore ~ Balestier Road (Balestier Market)

At the opposite of the Fragrance Hotel, you can find a market next to Boon Tong Kee.

Balestier Market - 411 Balestier Road
Balestier Market is built in the early 1920s, Balestier Market provided local vendors with a permanent place to sell their produce. The original market, which was described in 1924 as being "secluded but busy", was an open-air-affair; a roof was added only in 1925. During the Second World War, the market served as a centre for distributing food rations. Due to its proximity to a dark timber bridge said to have spanned the Whampoa River, the market was popularly referred to as Or Kio, which means "Black Bridge" in Hokkien.

Such early attempts by the authorities to set up permanent market spaces were in part to remove temporary hawkers who would otherwise sell their wares by the roadside as well as to improve the licensing and regulation of hawkers. Perhaps to elude the authorities and avoid paying license fees, some hawkers continued to sell from makeshift stalls by the roadside.

The original market consisted of a row of small huts with a pitched zinc roof. This facility was renovated in 1999. Unfortunately, the number of vendors had fallen by then, so customers preferred to do their marketing at the bigger Whampoa Market (also known as Tua Pah Sat or "Big Market") at Whampoa Drive. As business dwindled, many stallholders who had been at Balestier Markter over generations close to retire when the market closed for redevelopment in 2004. Today, the only surviving "rural" market on mainland Singpaore houses a food court serving local favourites. The market building was gazetted as a conserved building on 1 December 2003.

The market and its neighbourhood offer hungry visitor a wealth of dining choices such as chicken rice and bak kut teh. Bak kut teh is a dish consisting of pork ribs stewed with spices, and served with rice, vegetables and you tiao (fried dough fritters). Old-time fans of this dish would wash down their meal with freshly Chinese tea to help cleanse the body of the oils and fats consumed. There are at least eight bak kut teh sellers along Balestier Road.

However, during this period Balestier Market is under construction. I have no chance to taste the food and enjoy the local delicacies.

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