Most locals may pass by without a glance, but Tekka Centre is a mecca for people looking for some of Singapore's most unusual, varied and reasonably-priced produce.
Madam Choo Swan Neo, 80, has been visiting the market since she was a teenager living at the nearby Sungei Road.
She recalls her first visits: "I used to dislike coming with my family as I was made to carry all the groceries. But over the years I have grown to love this place, it's got character that no other markets have."
She is a longtime patron of Mr K.K. Seah's stall, for his supply of buah keluak, an ingredient that is used in Peranakan cuisine.
Mr Seah has been selling the black Indonesian nut at his stall since Tekka market was opened more than 30 years ago, and Madam Choo loves his store for the quality of the produce.
She holds the nut to her ear, and shakes it vigorously to listen to the sound that the kernel makes while rattling inside.
She does this to find the ones with the larger kernels - the size can be gauged from the sound that they make when knocking against the hard outer shell.
Nestled between the butchers and vegetable sellers is Mr Akbar Rahman's store, selling a dazzling assortment of Indian spices and condiments.
His most popular items are his spices, which he stocks by the bucket-full. A simple order of his curry blend would have him scoop up different powders and putting them in a small plastic bag.
While visitors may be able to find similar condiments elsewhere in Little India, one customer tells The New Paper on Sunday that it is hard to beat the prices at Tekka.
A 55-year-old chef, who wants to be known as Rose, says a bag of curry powder weighing about 200g costs only a dollar.
She says: "Even though I live near Sin Ming Road, I come all the way here just to get the curry powder. It is the cheapest and best source of curry powder I know."
One shop sells only banana leaves. Store owner Madam Thanikudi, 60, has been at it since 1985.
Although it is quite a niche market, there is a steady stream of customers, she says.
Walking along a narrow path through many vegetable stalls, the smooth jazz music blaring from a set of speakers in one of them catches our attention.
When asked, shop assistant Victor says: "We set up the speakers because we spend most of our day here, so we try to make it as enjoyable as possible."
Indeed, the shop owner, who wants to be known only as Mr Chia, is the embodiment of that spirit, treating all his customers like longtime friends.
He and a patron, Ms Suprini, 50, walk around with hands on each other's shoulders as they cheerfully chat about his freshest produce for sale.
The shop has a large variety of vegetables including fresh jalapeño peppers, kale leaves and artichokes, in addition to the usual selection of vegetables.
Madam Choo, who visits the market every day, says: "I've been here for so long that I feel connected to this place. It's not just the things I can find here, but it's the friends I've made over the years."
This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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