Seafood aficionados love Singapore for its barbecue stingray, black pepper crab and cereal prawns — and with the city-state surrounded by water, the seafood here is as fresh as you can get. But where does your seafood come from, between the sea and your table? Enter Singapore’s fish markets.
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) operates two fishery ports at Jurong and Senoko, which also house wholesale fish markets where buyers can snap up seafood in bulk, and cheaply. Even if you’re not a buyer, a visit offers a glimpse of the supply chain that ultimately makes it all tick for Singapore’s food scene, from the numerous seafood eateries on its East Coast beachfront to the tourist-soliciting restaurants on the banks of the Singapore river.
We visited Senoko, located in the north of Singapore, where land meets the Straits of Johor. While it’s open 24 hours to support the port activities which never seem to cease, the fish market, which houses more than 30 lots, are open daily from 02:00 till 06:00, except on Mondays — this is why Singaporeans often avoid consuming seafood on Monday. On other days, up to 1,000 seafood retailers and buyers come to Senoko to stock up. More than 200 tonnes of fresh fish changes hands each day.
While the rest of Singapore is asleep, the fast-paced action here makes for a night’s fun. Leave your leather sandals and sneakers in the hostel, and get those flip-flops out. This is a wet market at its best. Fishy-smelling water sloshes around your feet, while half-dressed fish merchants tramp around in galoshes, stack baskets of squid and anchovies, and weigh shrimp with traditional scales.
Yes, wholesale markets are why discerning restaurant owners eschew sleep to get the freshest produce they can. Sometimes, when there’s a prized catch, fishermen call these owners to come examine their goods and hopefully purchase them after bargaining. It isn’t only fish — you’ll see sea cucumbers, sharks, squids, shrimp and more, depending on the haul that the currents of the fisheries-rich Straits of Malacca and South China Sea sweep to Singapore shores. About half the produce is locally caught; the rest imported.
Tired of getting in the way of frenzied fish merchants and their trolleys? There’s a canteen where you can grab a bite and a hot cup of coffee. And when you devour your barbecue squid the next evening in the cool comfort of the East Coast breeze, just think of the long journey it took to land on your table. Long after you’re done and back in bed, the Senoko market will continue to hum.
By Fen Chia
Last updated on 3rd December, 2015.