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«Hallo! Satay, Satay!»

Singapore (Singapore) Lau Pa Sat or Telok Ayer Market, 18 Raffles Quay (map)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The oldest market hall in the city presents itself like a demonstration of the cultural and culinary mosaic of the country. Here, one can eat Singaporean specialities such as Rojak, Hainanese chicken, Hokkien hae mee or carrot cake. One also gets Indian curries, Japanese teppanyaki dishes, spaghetti, croissants or Pak kut the, Thai, Turkish, Philippino, Indonesian and Malaysian dishes – all under one roof. Only the satay-grill stalls stand in a row in front of the hall on the edge of the street. But nobody’s sitting at their tables at the moment because of the incessant drumming salvos of rain – that’s why the satay sellers are flitting around nervously, menus in hand, searching for customers. They greet each one like an old friend; the competition is huge: «Hallo! Satay, Satay!» Women in orange shirts wipe the tabletops clean, while an old Muslim sells paper handkerchiefs: «Three for one dollar!» The income is certainly not good enough to acquire a new set of teeth. Now and then the wind blows whiffs of the sweet-‘n-spicy smoke of the satay grills into the hall where it billows against the oily vapour rising out of the fish-head soup and the steam wafting out from the baskets of dumplings. Every quarter of an hour the Big Ben strikes – drowning out the murmur of the ventilation system and the crunch of sugarcane sticks being squeezed against their will in silvery machines for their juice. Sparrows flit from table to table, pecking their way through the cultures.

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First Publication: 25-12-2015