Chatuchak Night Market in Singapore to close by end March due to Covid-19
[UPDATED, March 20]
Singapore’s Chatuchak Night Market will be closing its doors by the end of March, less than two months into its planned three-month run.
It opened on February 4 and its last date of operation will be March 29.
According to a statement from the organiser, the early closure is due to the current Covid-19 situation and “the government’s recommendations for social distancing”.
However, it added that a second run of the market may be planned “for July and August 2020, depending on how the Covid-19 situation pans out over the next couple of months”.
Visitors to Singapore's Chatuchak Night Market are in for a Thai-tarik treat that their eyes can feast on, and it's not just about the food.
Mastering the tarik (Malay for 'pull') technique perfectly that is often-seen on our shores but not quite in the Land of Smiles, this particular Thai vendor at Khon Wanna Roti & Teh Tarik stall holds a live performance for his customers.
While they wait for their orders, he skilfully pulls the tea while spinning around gracefully on his feet.
The stall was easily the most popular one when we were there and commanded a lengthy queue, though we wondered if people were there for the drink or the spectacle. Here he is in action:
This cha yen stall is but one of a total of over 400 vendors at what's marketed as the world's first Chatuchak market outside Thailand. But not all vendors are from Thailand.
According to organisers, only a third of stalls are from there (and not necessarily Chatuchak), with local vendors making up two-thirds of the stalls. Singapore-based vendors are also offered an attractive rental rate starting from $300 a week.
No surprise then, that we stumbled upon a cute Singaporean-Thai couple who were promoting freeze-dried fruits at their stall. Singaporean Adrian Yeo told us that he was helping his Thai wife, Bee Poomrittigul, in the business.
The product which they distribute, Greenday, is a Thai brand which has been sold in Singapore for a number of years. Marketed as a convenient snack where you can bring on-the-go, the fruits are removed of all moisture and turned into a crispy snack.
"It's a healthier alternative to things like potato chips" said the 43-year-old. They offer kid-friendly products as well, with smaller cut-up dried fruits so that parents are able to pack it in lunch boxes.
"We are trying to get mothers to make kids eat vegetables because some kids don't like the texture. So we make it crispy and kids love it". The kids' multi-pack which consists of five flavours such as banana, beetroot, pumpkin, strawberry and okra, costs $5 at the stall.
We checked the prices and a 25g bag of Greenday chips costs $2 at the market, compared to $3.90 on RedMart, so we would suggest heading down to buy onsite instead.
While the array of food stalls are impressive, there are some pretty interesting retail stalls to look out for as well.
One stall that caught our eye was Hom, an outpost of a shop located in Bangkok's new Iconsiam shopping mall. According to the owner, Om, the name of her shop means "kiss" and "good smell" in Thai.
It is also a literal translation for the Flaccid Conehead plant, from which indigo colouring is extracted and used as a dye for her fashion products.
According to the 53-year-old, the whole process takes about 10 days, whereby ladies from Northern Thailand villages cut the cotton by hand and ferment the leaf of the plant in rice water in order to extract the blueish tint.
The product designs are also exclusive and in limited quantities. "Each piece is unique, not even two pieces are the same", said Om proudly.
From Om, we learnt that she will be in Singapore for two weeks before flying back to Thailand to oversee her shop there.
According to organisers, as there are many Thai vendors who wished to be a part of the market, there will be a rotation of vendors roughly every two weeks throughout the three months that they are here.
WUHAN VIRUS OR NOT, LIFE GOES ON
Despite reports of an increase in the number of coronavirus infection cases locally, it is clearly not keeping people down or out.
When our team went down to the media preview on the second day of the market's opening on Wednesday (Feb 5), I was surprised by the many people already thronging the space. However, quite a number of stalls were not opened yet.
We learned that more stalls will be opened over the weekend to cater to the expected peak traffic, so if you want to experience the full variety of food and retail stalls, it'll be better to head there towards the end of the week.
But, you'd better be prepared for a crowd.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, organisers said measures have also been taken to ensure that all vendors are screened in line with MOH regulations and there is a team on standby for people who are feeling unwell.
With Singapore in code Orange response mode as of Friday (Feb 7), organisers said visitors will also be screened and those found to be running a temperature will be refused entry.
PRICEY, BUT EXPECTED
As expected, food and retail prices at the market are definitely higher than what they would be in Bangkok. So I would recommend a budget of at least $50 for meals and shopping.
Some stalls may also take a longer time for food preparation so heading there slightly later around evening time on weekdays may be better.
But go too late, and you risk some stalls selling out — we learnt that the hard way when we did not manage to get our hands on the much-anticipated mango sticky rice.
So, I suggest queuing up for the dishes you want to try first as some shops issue queue tickets so you can "chope" the food item first before coming back later to collect.
Here's our take on what dishes are worth (or not) to splurge your budget on:
WHAT'S WORTH A TRY
PHAD THAI, $6
You can't say you've truly tasted authentic Thai food if you haven't tried phad thai. For an additional $2 you can even get prawns on top of this delicious fried noodle dish.
The 15-minute wait for this popular stall seemed like a waste of time for the portion we had, but one spoonful was enough to change our minds.
Topped with bamboo shoots, spring onions, a generous sprinkle of peanuts and freshly squeezed lime, this dish was considerably the best of the night.
THAI MILK TEA, $4
We ordered the Cha Chak (literally 'teh tarik' in Thai) and green milk tea to check out the difference, and we loved both drinks either way. The creamy Thai milk tea is truly the real deal, and I thought it wasn't too sweet either.
The green milk tea was slightly sweeter than the original, with a hint of green tea. Nevertheless, both are worth a try.
EGG LAVA, $5
The big question is, is it really worth $5 for a bite-size snack? Without question, the answer is yes. Why go to the night market at all if you try to scrimp and save, potentially missing out on the good stuff.
Known as Korean geyranppang, or Korea eggbread, a bite into the thick pancake immediately livens up your tastebuds. The gooey and piping hot lava of egg yolk and cheddar cheese makes the price for this wee snack a little less painful.
FRIED GOLDEN MUSHROOM, $5
As a mushroom-lover, this was one of the snacks I was most looking forward to, although it's not really unique to Thailand. And boy, did it deliver. With four different flavours of cheese, barbeque, hot and spicy and paprika to choose from, we ultimately ended up with cheese.
The mushrooms were freshly deep-fried on the spot, making it really crispy. The portion was not too bad as well, but not enough to fill your stomach though.
SKIP THESE IF YOU HAVE LIMITED TUMMY SPACE
BOBO BUN, $2
While the picture looks mouth-watering, the actual confection was honestly a disappointment. There were four options to choose from: Hokkaido milk, Thai tea custard, pandan custard and dried shredded pork.
We decided to try the first two flavours, as the pandan flavour was unavailable when we got to the stall.
The first thing we noticed was the lack of ooziness of the bun filling, unlike what's shown in pictures. But hey, don't judge a book by its cover right? Uhm, wrong.
According to my colleague, the Thai tea custard bun tasted just like kaya bread with no tea taste. On the other hand, the cold Hokkaido milk filling tasted quite refreshing on the palate, without it being thick or cloying.
Overall, it failed to live up to expectations, but it wasn't that bad either.
PURPLE POTATO SNACK, $5 - $10
As one of the organisers' recommended stalls to try out, we decided to give this stall a shot. A first look at the round pastry filled with mashed sweet potato made our mouths drool.
Our expectations climbed even higher after finding out that they created a durian flavour just for durian-mad Singaporeans.
We ordered both, but the taste was unfortunately just… meh.
For the sweet potato flavour which costs $5, we could not really taste the sweet potato. The pastry was crispy though, so props to that.
As I'm not a huge fan of durians, I found the snack just palatable, as there wasn't an overbearing taste. For durian-lovers on the other hand, I can't be too sure. One thing I can be sure of is that it is a tad too pricey at $10.
KHANOM KROK, $5 (10pcs)
This was another aesthetically pleasing but largely overrated dessert, at least in our opinion.
The small coconut milk pancakes are freshly cooked and come in flavours such as coconut, coffee, strawberry, pandan, Thai tea and durian.
After popping one in our mouths, the flavours do not stay long. Well, it could be because it is only flavoured on one side of the pancake. But don't take our word for it, you can try it for yourselves.
USEFUL TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
- Entry is free but bring enough cash or install Fave Pay on your mobile phones as these are the main methods of payment (most of the Thai vendor stalls only accept cash)
- ATMs and toilets are not available onsite but at The Grandstand mall just beside the event
- There is all day free parking at The Grandstand main carpark as well as free shuttle bus services from Botanic Gardens, Sixth Avenue, Clementi and Toa Payoh MRT stations
The Singapore Chatuchak Night Market is located at The Grandstand South Carpark, 200 Turf Club Road, Singapore 287994. It will be open for three months from now till May 3, from 4.30pm to 10.30pm. Note that the market will be closed on Mondays.
This article was first published on Feb 7, 2020.