MARKET BLUES

“Kiri Pak,” he calls out to the driver, tapping the roof of the angkot with his forefinger. The angkot comes to a full stop at the side of the road and they clamber out. He hands the money through the window of the passenger in front, uttering “Tiga orang”. 

 At half past seven, on a Sunday morning, she and her two friends are en route to the wet market, a 10-minute angkot ride from their apartments. The wait for the angkot across the road is fast as those tiny vehicles come in droves. It’s crossing that takes a wee while.  Without any zebra cross marks for pedestrians, it’s a game of chicken to get to the other side.  Fortunately, the drivers of taxis, cars, lorry and angkot, and motorcyclists are considerate of people travelling on foot.

 The wet market in Kalimalang, Bekasi, is hardly the place for the finicky. It’s completely bereft of supermarket glamour of neatly arranged aisles, pleasant smells, product signage and the gentle humming of air conditioning units. But it holds its ground in the departments of sheer freshness and low cost.

 The parking space is already teeming with earlier marketers loading their stuff in the boots of their cars when they arrive. Provision shops, stores selling pirated DVDs, eateries, sugar cane drink stand and fried tempeh (soya cake) – yam – and – banana cart line the left side of the wide rocky dirt road. Parallel to it, the unpaved parking space that meets with hawkers selling bananas good for making banana fritters, posters of Hollywood stars and local pastries at the end.

 “I wonder if there’s kway kochin (steamed sticky rice cake),” she thinks aloud as she passes by the pastry stall.

 Through a narrow footpath, past the oil – and – egg store on her left and the provision shop on her right, they head to their first stop – fruits for the two men and kampong tofu for her.  As the two haggle over their papaya, melon, mango and pineapple, she walks towards her regular tofu vendor. Wrapped in cheese cloth, the blocks of tofu are placed atop one another and arranged in two rows on a red tray.  Compared to the tofu sold at SuperIndo, kampong tofu is fresh and has a smooth creamy texture like the Japanese tofu used in Agedashi.

 Her mouth waters at the thought of mixing steamed, cubed kampong tofu with couscous, diced tomatoes and a squeeze of lime.

 Stowing away her two tofu blocks – a steal at Rupiah3, 000 per block she muses – the trio trek to their next regular market vendor, vegetable man. With a smile, he hands her a little basket then turns his attention to the other two. She drops in a pack of three ears of corn, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes and several limes into her basket. Meanwhile, vegetable man scours his stock of pechay, looking for a small one for her friend. Pechay in hand, he bundles it up together with his long beans and ridged luffa and wraps her vegetables after that

 The fish section is next. They make a left from the vegetable stall and another left to reach their regular fish man. A throng of women are dropping fishes into little baskets to be weighed, cleaned, cut and wrapped in plastic carriers. She watches fish man gut the fishes, wielding the razor-sharp knife with the dexterity of a professional swordsman. The jaw-dropping performance is her favourite, mesmerised completely by the synchronised hand dance.

 Checking her list, everything is in the bag except for chicken. She’s in the mood to make Chinese chicken adobo, her mum’s sweet – boiled egg – decorated version of adobo.

 “The chicken is really fresh,” quips her friend as he leads the way to the poultry section.

 She stares at the long row of chicken coops, almost half- deaf at the ear-splitting symphonic clucking, that greet her at the other end of the market.

 “It’s remarkably odd that city folks keep chickens as pets,” she remarks to herself silently, which is broken by her friend’s declaration.

 “See, I told you the chickens are absolutely fresh and they’re blessed, too!”.

 She gawps at him, her appetite for her favourite dish dissipating fast.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by I_am_aoisoba on September 15, 2009 at 10:02 am

    so no more adobo?

    Reply

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