Pick produce like a pro—how to get the best quality ingredients from the wet market

Wet markets like Tekka Centre and Chinatown Complex are institutions synonymous with fresh ingredients, offering mountains of lush fruit, vegetables, fresh seafood, and more—without a single artificial preservative in sight. Aside from flexing your bargaining muscles, a key part of wet market culture is being able to choose your own quality ingredients. Without any information labels or expiry dates, however, picking your produce isn’t as simple as you might think!

In conjunction with our wet market campaign running from 19 May–1 June 2022 (featuring deals of up to 60% off fresh products!), we’ll teach you everything you need to know about identifying the tell-tale signs of less-than-fresh products before they make it into your grocery bag. All thanks to the know-how of our pickers—here’s our guide to picking quality fresh produce!

1. Fish

Fresh fish should look like it could jump up and swim away! Here’s how to tell if you’ve got yourself a perfect catch:

  • Fish skin should be bright, shiny, with a slight sheen and close-fitting scales. Dry, dull, and loose scales are signs of age.
  • Their eyes should be clear and bulging (not cloudy and sunken).
  • Gills should be red and damp, not sticky.
  • If you get the chance, feel the flesh! It should be firm and bounce back when you prod it, leaving no indentation.
  • Take note of any unpleasant odours!

2. Seafood

Seafood should look firm, glistening, and fresh out of the water!

  • Prawns. Fresh prawns should be entirely intact—heads, legs, and tail included. Their shells should be hard and firm to the touch—prawns should not be limp or slimy. Look for black spots on the head which signal oxidation—not what you want for peak freshness!
  • Sotong / Squid. Squid should have a clean, distinct ocean scent and should look shiny. Avoid anything dull, wrinkled, or with a fishy smell!
  • Clams. Molluscs—clams, mussels, oysters—should be bought alive. To check, gently tap them on a surface and see if they close. If they remain open, discard. 

Our pickers always keep a lookout for these signs when picking fresh fish and seafood. Only the freshest catch gets sent to your door—with our freshness guarantee.

3. Vegetables

Packed full of fibre, vitamins, and natural goodness, vegetables always taste better than they’re fresh and crisp!

  • For leafy greens, look for deep green leaves and avoid black or white blemishes. Leaves should also be lush and crisp, with firm stems. Avoid anything limp and soggy.
  • Some vegetables such as broccoli and kailan may have a purple tinge. Don’t be alarmed—this is a sign of healthy anthocyanins, not mould.
  • Peppers and gourds should feel dense—slightly heavy for their size. Cucumbers and capsicums should feel firm and not rubbery. Also note that small peppers tend to have more intense flavour than big ones—get the best bang for your buck!
  • Dirt is completely normal—just make sure you wash your veg thoroughly when you’re going to use them.

4. Root Vegetables

Other than ensuring that there are no signs of sprouts coming out, root vegetables should be smooth and solid—no mushiness or sliminess. 

  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes. Smooth, firm, without any noticeable black blemishes. Being able to smell earth is normal and a good sign. Take note of any mouldy or bitter odours—it means they’ve gone bad!
  • Garlic and onions. Make sure bulbs are firm and plump—and no sprouts!
  • The presence of dirt is OK and somewhat inevitable, so don’t worry about it. It’s easy to get off as long as you wash them properly.

5. Fruit

Apart from checking for bruises and blemishes, the juiciest, fleshiest fruit should feel slightly heavy for their size!

  • Melons. It’s more than just knocking with your knuckles! Just like any other fruit, melons should feel distinctly heavy.
  • Pineapples. Fresh pineapples will give off a strong, sweet, but not fermented aroma.
  • Lemons. Round lemons tend to be juicier than oval ones. The most flavourful lemons will also smell distinctly zesty.
  • Apples. Apples should have a waxy sheen to them.

We make sure we handpick only the freshest, crispest fruits and vegetables for your order. With seamless service straight from the aisle to your door—and in as fast as the next day—you’ll handle any last minute dinner requests like a pro!

6. Aromatic Spices

It’s no secret that fresh spices pack way more punch than the pre-ground stuff—aromatic compounds are the most robust when you get the real thing! Also, different spices come in different variations—so make sure you look out for the right punch that you want.

  • Ginger. Young ginger that looks smooth and plump is good to eat as a condiment with fish and dumplings, but most Asian cuisine uses the spicier, more intense old ginger—its smaller, more wrinkled alternative.
  • Dried spices—cinnamon, peppercorns, star anise, etc. While it may be hard to tell when dried spices expire, you may be allowed to grind some on the spot so you can smell how fragrant they are. 
  • Chilli. Chillies should be smooth, waxy, and firm. Chilli padi should be plump and without wrinkles. Look for bright green stems too—stems that are beginning to darken show signs of age.
  • Lemongrass. Select firm green stalks with yellowish bases. Avoid stalks that are dried out, have visible stalks, or are brown at the top.

If you’re looking for gourmet spices or gluten-free products, check out Ryan’s Grocery, available online at FairPrice. Alternatively, if you’re looking for authentic Indian spices, check out Kampong Life!

Get ready to pick produce like a pro—we hope this article has helped you in your wet market endeavours! At FairPrice, we believe in putting only the best ingredients onto your table. Our professional grocery shoppers will handpick only the highest quality ingredients for you—just like at the wet market—and deliver them straight to your door! Also, check out our wet market campaign from 19 May to 1 Jun 2022, where you can grab wet market deals of up to 60% OFF on an amazing assortment of fresh products! Plus, 2-day Lelong deals are dropping on 23–24 May & 30–31 May. Enjoy some great, bargain-worthy prices during these dates! 

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Did You Know?

Kimchi is a type of "banchan" meaning side dish in Korean. In historical dramas, the number of side dishes given was based on status! Read more about it here.