Jonathan Cheng, WSJ’s Korea bureau chief – r/IAmA

Hi, I’m Jonathan Cheng, and I run the Korea bureau for The Wall Street Journal in Seoul. Covering North Korea is a challenge unlike any other in the news business. It’s not just opaque, it’s a country that has made it a deliberate goal to obfuscate, and that makes even reporting the simplest of facts — how old is Kim Jong Un? Is he even really the leader of the country? — a tricky question. One might think going to Pyongyang would help. And it does, to some extent. But going there also raises as many questions as it answers. A delegation of four of us from the Wall Street Journal just returned from North Korea last week, a six-day trip that appears part of a coordinated effort to send a message to Washington about where it thinks it stands and what it wants — and what it will and won’t tolerate. We’ve written one [essay-ish account](https://www.wsj.com/articles/letter-from-north-korea-what-life-looks-like-as-nuclear-crisis-mounts-1506097544) of our week in Pyongyang, but in some ways, it only scratches the surface. So…feel free to ask me whatever you like.

Update: Thanks for the questions! I do need to wrap up now, but feel free to follow me on Twitter for updates. I’ll also circle back and try to answer some of the ones that I’ve left hanging. Thanks everyone!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/zx0qw3jscpoz.jpg

Question: If you could ask anyone in the DPRK’s regime one question and have it answered honestly and sincerely, what would it be?
Answer: Hey guys! I’m back to answer this one. It’s a tough one because there’s so much that we want to know, and there are plenty of good questions that would be perfectly adequate, but you always want to find that perfect question, if you ever got the chance. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a perfect one. Most of the things we want to know are things that nobody knows, or that are likely to change quickly depending on circumstances, like, “How close are we to war?” or “Do you ever plan to use your nuclear weapons?” There are also a few that would fall into the unsolved mysteries category, like “What happened with Otto Warmbier exactly?” or “Did you order the hit on Kim Jong Nam, and why?” (North Korea has a lot of these unsolved mysteries, stretching right back to 1945 and beyond, but these would be two of the more recent ones.) Then there are the frivolous ones, like “Why Dennis Rodman?” or “Why that haircut?” I suppose I could also go down another line of reasoning: “What really keeps you up at night?” “Does your conscience ever nag you?” And I guess the one I’d really like to ask would be along those lines, and it’d be like this, for Kim Jong Un: “Did you ever contemplate a different path for North Korea when you took over from your father? You were educated abroad, and the country you inherited is in a very different position, and the world is a very different place, than when your grandfather founded the DPRK in 1948. Did you give any serious thought to a different path, and why did you ultimately choose this one?” I’m not sure how thoughtful and contemplative Kim is, but given the parameters of your question, Josh, with the prospect of an honest and sincere answer, that’s probably what I’d ask. But hey, if anyone’s got a better question, I’m all ears!
Question: If you could ask anyone in the DPRK’s regime one question and have it answered honestly and sincerely, what would it be?
Answer: Josh, I’m saving this question for last, because I think it’s a great one and my brain needs to process this a bit more…
Question: Hello, Mr. Cheng!

Looking back at the trip now, what would you say has made the biggest impression on youself?

Also a general question, if OK. How did you become interested in North Korea?

Answer: Hi there, and thanks for the question. The biggest impression, I think, was the same one I had when I was there a few years ago: the cult of the Kims is something truly to behold. It’s certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced, or even read about.

As for your second question, I became interested the same way many of our readers became interested. I read the newspaper articles for years before moving to Seoul, and was intrigued by it. Many of us in the newspaper business, of course, are drawn to things that we can’t quite understand. The origins of the state, and the rise of Kim Il Sung in particular, are also fascinating to me. I studied history in college, and focused a lot on East Asian history, so that has always been an extra source of interest as well.

Question: How many North Koreans do you think actually believe most of the propaganda?
Answer: I think a lot more of them believe a lot more of the propaganda than one might think. Keep in mind that this isn’t a country where there are multiple sources of mass media and information. North Koreans have been provided with one narrative for their entire lives, and it’s only with the beginnings of alternative sources of information — USB drives, more travel to China, the internet (as restricted as it is) — that this is beginning to change. But only just a little, so far.
Question: How do they treat forigeners?
Answer: We were invited guests of the Foreign Ministry, so our treatment was very good. Tourists are paying customers, so they are treated well, with a few notable and tragic exceptions. Aid workers, too, are bringing in things and providing services that the state is not, so they are also treated well. Foreigners from friendly nations are allies and comrades, so they too are treated well. With respect to Americans in particular, the line that we often heard is that they don’t like the U.S. government, but they’re fine with Americans as individuals. (Many Americans would say the same of North Korea.)
Question: Do the people want war? Nuclear war? Do you think they really know the ramifications of a nuclear war?

In general, what was it like?

Answer: I don’t think the people want war. I think what they would probably say is what you hear coming from the U.S. leadership: We don’t want war, but we’re not afraid of war if that’s what it takes. Do they know the ramifications of a nuclear war? I don’t know that any of us really do, on a visceral level. It’s been 72 years since an atomic bomb was used to kill people, and I know a lot of disarmament and arms control experts have been working overtime to try and convey the seriousness and horror of nuclear war to a world that’s a bit inured to it all, but I still think a lot of us don’t get the ramifications. And in North Korea, I’m not sure they have any voices trying to convey this message — not that I’ve seen, anyway.
Question: what’s the most surprising opinion you’ve heard from someone in North Korea?
Answer: I think what struck us as a group (and I’m just recalling this off the top of my head) was hearing our handlers at the Foreign Ministry complain, genuinely, about how obsessed their kids were with computer games and their smartphones. It’s just not something we were expecting to hear, I guess because we ourselves have our own conceptions about what life in North Korea is like. On the more conventional, political front, I think what was most surprising was a quote we included in our story last Saturday, which was a waitress/bartender telling us that she wished Pyongyang would fire off 20-30 missiles per day. It was a reminder that there may be even more hawkish opinions inside the country than we hear/read about.
Question: What was the scariest thing you saw there?
Answer: On the second night, three of us from the Journal went out on an evening stroll from our guesthouse (circa 10pm). It was pitch black outside, and we were in a rather remote rural guesthouse. Why did we walk out? Because the Foreign Ministry officials said we should, and we wanted some fresh air and to stretch our legs after a long, grueling day of being shuttled around Pyongyang in cars. We wandered down a hill in the darkness (I had my phone flashlight/torch on), and I definitely heard someone coming towards us. It was just four armed soldiers marching past us. Didn’t glance up at us. Didn’t seem to pay us any mind. Just doing their marching thing. It made me recall the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean woman who had gone up to Keumgangsan (Mount Keumgang, Diamond Mountains), a resort set up just north of the DMZ on the east coast, where South Koreans were — until the shooting — able to visit the North on vacation. While the circumstances of that death remain a pretty bitter source of dispute between the two Koreas, we figured it was a good reminder that we should probably get back inside.
Question: What do North Korean people think of South Korea and is the goal of reunification on their minds?
Answer: Officially, many of them are repulsed by South Korea because, in their minds, it’s not a real country. It’s a puppet state propped up by the U.S. after the Korean War. But obviously, there is a lot of pathos and intrigue with the South as well, since — more so than in South Korea — they still keep very much alive the dream of unification. Not to say they don’t in South Korea, of course, but you feel it and see it more when you’re north of the DMZ. At least, based on my limited interactions…!
Question: Did you feel any kind of tension in Pyongyang? Is the population aware of Donald Trumps recent threats against North Korea? Does the state-run media mention it?
Answer: Unfortunately, we were in Pyongyang just before Donald Trump’s UN speech, which really raised the heat. We’ve seen DPRK’s state media come out ferociously since then, in a way I haven’t seen in my four years watching North Korea closely. (Nicholas Kristof was in the country after me, so maybe he’ll have some thoughts on this…) While we were there, though, in mid-September, it really was quite calm. Yes, there are posters and cakes and all sorts of other messages plastered all over Pyongyang warning of destruction and war and all of that, but you don’t see it in the people — unless, of course, you ask them how they feel about the U.S.
Question: Are the NK people preparing for war?
Answer: One way to answer this is to say that they’re always preparing for war. The country is on a perpetual war footing, and the language and rhetoric of their state media really has made it seem like a U.S. invasion has been imminent for a very long time. Are they more prepared than usual at the moment? It’s hard for us to know, unfortunately, on a five-day guided visit to the capital. But my sense is that it must be at least a touch higher than usual, given — as I mentioned in answer to another question — that the situation these days is truly more unstable than in the past. North Korea is near the finish line on its weapons program, and a very unpredictable — you could say a proudly unpredictable — president is in the White House.
Question: Would you go again for non business reasons?
Answer: Good question, but one that’s hard to answer without asking a lot of follow-on questions. Presuming you mean under the current leadership of the DPRK (if you don’t mean that, then that’s a very different question), my answer would be a cautious yes, in principle, but the reason would have to be a very good one. Even if I don’t see a risk myself, there are many others around me — my wife, my family, my employer, my colleagues, my government — for whom the risk calculation is very different, and by going, I’d be potentially making life more difficult for them. But in principle, yes, cautiously, with big caveats.
Question: I’ve heard many people talking about how marijuana is both legal, and socially accepted in NK. Is that actually true?
Answer: I’ve read that as well, but it’s not something I know for sure either way — and I must confess, we neglected to ask our Foreign Ministry counterparts about this while we were there. All I can say is that we didn’t catch any whiffs of weed while we were there.
Question: What do you think are the biggest problems in the western media’s portrayal of North Korea and what do you see as the underlying reasons for it being what it is? What could be done to improve/diversify the coverage?

The image people get from the media has a huge effect on how they think. The larger audience aside, how much influence do you think the media narrative has on those actually deciding the policy? Mostly referring to the U.S. here but also elsewhere.

Thank you! Please keep doing what you do, love reading your articles & KCNA quotes on twitter 🙂

Answer: The biggest problem in the western media, I think, is the same thing that bedevils western media coverage of other parts of the world: resources are few, and they’re not likely to get any better. That means that you have very few people on the ground trying to cover a country of 23 million people (in North Korea’s case) or of 50 million people (in South Korea’s case). Many western media outlets don’t have anyone permanently stationed, or permanently focused, on Korea. That’s not to say good work can’t be done, but it does make it more difficult for in-depth work and careful consideration to be given to the issue. We have a bureau of five in Seoul, which is pretty good all things considered, but I’d sure love to double that size. (I’m dreaming, I know.) And then, of course, there are some things that even adding more bodies can’t fix: access to North Korea is extremely limited, and even when it’s granted, it’s debatable how helpful it really is, since that access does come with serious strings attached.

As for policymakers, it’s hard for me to know, not being a policymaker. I know that senior U.S. officials have far more sources of information than just the WSJ, or NYT/Washpost/FT/Bloomberg/Reuters/AP/etc., at their disposal. I presume we are one factor in that, and that we are read by policymakers as much for the impact it’ll have on public sentiment as we are for the actual content of what we write.

Question: You wake up in Kim Jong Un’s body. You can speak and understand Korean. Without getting assassinated by your commanders, how do you transition North Korea and its people from an Orwellian state of despair to a prosperous nation so you can then ride your fame to launch your career in music?
Answer: Tell the Chinese I want out, have them sub in a puppet leader for me in Pyongyang and have them promise to veto any UN resolutions that would ever target me. Then, call up Dennis Rodman and start a record label or something.
Question: How was the soju? I’ve had some pyongyang soju and that shit was like gasoline.
Answer: Be careful with that stuff!
Question: Will your answers to this questions effect your next visa in anyway?
Answer: To be honest, it’s impossible to know what they read, how much of it they read, and how much they care. There’s certainly plenty that I’ve written and said prior to our trip last month, in the WSJ or on Twitter or otherwise, that I suppose you could argue would be dealbreakers, depending on what one considers a dealbreaker. But there we were in Pyongyang. I do always try to be careful and measured with what I say and write, knowing that it’s a complex and delicate situation, but if they don’t want me there because of something I’ve written, then that’s a price that I’m willing to pay.
Question: What is your most memorable quote coming from the DKPR news agency? There have been some real winners I know as I follow you in Twitter.

Also, do you believe the journalists actively help subvert the truth or actually believe what they report to be true in the DKPR?

Is there basically a mass delusion effect going on because they are so cut off from the world?

Answer: Yeah, this is another impossible question. KCNA is truly masterful at the insults and memorable quotes. Some of it is definitely because of translation issues and the linguistic gap (e.g. “dotard”), but a lot of it is by design. As with the rest of their capabilities, the DPRK is very good at playing the asymmetric game, and having an arsenal of bet-you-never-thought-of-that zingers at their disposal is a sign of how sophisticated they are, I think. Or maybe I’m giving them more credit than they deserve. But alas, I don’t think I can choose just one. They’re all my favorite!
Question: Did you get to speak with any North Koreans other than your guides? What did they say?
Answer: Hi there. Yes, we did, but only a couple of short exchanges in each case. The only truly extended conversations we got were with our two Foreign Ministry handlers, who were with us throughout the day everyday, and with the senior official who we got to sit down with for extended chats a few times (in our case, a man named Ri Yong Pil). We quoted some of the other North Koreans in the article that we ran last Saturday, and what they said — surprise, surprise — wasn’t terribly different from what we heard from the Foreign Ministry officials. People ask if that’s because they were coached. I don’t believe they were coached (i.e. “You’re going to meet these foreigners from the Wall Street Journal. Here’s what you should say.”). I think that the message is so deeply inculcated into society that they don’t need that kind of coaching because I think they truly do believe the narrative. It’s a compelling one: We’re a small nation that stood up to the world’s most powerful country, an empire that seeks to swallow us whole. Once you accept that, much of the rest of their message — we need nuclear weapons to defend ourselves, for example — isn’t so much of a stretch.
Question: I saw a few photos from another group that just visited NK and I was surprised at how modern some parts of the country seems. What are some misconceptions that the US public may have about NK that you, having taken this trip, would like to help clear up?
Answer: Yes, indeed! Keep in mind that you’re probably looking at photos of the capital, Pyongyang. That’s not to say that things are filthy and awful elsewhere, but the most modern parts are generally in Pyongyang. We published a bunch of photos of this too in our Saturday essay last week, if you want to have a look. The main misconception I think that persists in the U.S. about North Korea is that everyone is struggling and wants to get out (that’s a bit of a blanket statement, but there are many people in the U.S. who feel this way). There surely are North Koreans who want to get out — 30,000 have resettled in South Korea, and there may be many more who would like to leave but can’t. But there are also many millions who don’t want to leave. For one thing, they don’t know much about the outside world, and what little they do know isn’t positive (you can thank North Korean state media for that). And many of them may believe that life is much better outside the country, but the risks, and the costs, of trying to leave are simply prohibitive. And life is definitely improving for the higher classes in North Korea, so arguably there is less reason to leave. I could go on and on, but I hope this makes sense. And to be clear, I’m not saying everyone is happy there (or that everyone who is happy would remain happy if they knew more about their own country and about the rest of the world), but if you got to ask people freely how they feel about their country (and if they were allowed to freely answer), I think most of them would genuinely tell you that they like where they are.
Question: What’s the feeling among South Koreans right now? How’s it impacting their political environment? Thanks!
Answer: Good question. Many South Koreans are definitely concerned (though not all of them, not by a long shot), but life goes on. This is life in the shadow of a North Korean threat that’s existed since the 1950s, just like I imagine life in NYC or London rolls on under the threat of terrorism. (Not the same, I know, but perhaps the mentalities are the same?) As for the politics, the most striking thing we see is just how left out and wrong-footed the new administration has had with the crisis. Moon Jae-in is a left-leaning president, the first in nearly a decade, and he had a very different vision for how things would play out on the inter-Korean front under his watch. I don’t think he expected things to play out this way. And the feeling of being left out is very real here. Donald Trump seems to portray the issue as one either between himself and Kim Jong Un, or at most, one that involves China and Japan. South Korea and Russia, it seems, are more tertiary players in the way he’s framed things, or at least that’s how it often feels in Seoul.
Question: What do you think is the maximum provocation North Korea is likely to undertake?
Answer: Thanks Fred, that’s a tough, almost unknowable question, but I think the answer, roughly speaking, is that North Korea will find ways to come right up to the line — whatever that may be — without crossing it, and it will probably do so in a way that we don’t necessarily expect. Take an example from recent weeks. They threaten Guam with a pretty specific scenario, and then they test-launch a missile over Japan (and then do it again). Now, they’ve threatened an H-bomb detonation over the Pacific…my hunch is that it’s a red herring and they do something else instead. Not that I know for sure, of course…
Question: Hi Mr. Cheng, thanks for doing an AMA!

I have a couple of questions: First, is the North Korean regime (whether it’s Kim Jong Un calling the shots or not) actually nutso, or are they playing with a Madman policy, or are their actions actually fairly reasonable/logical? Secondly, what is your take on the sanctions in place on the country (and its leaders?)–do they impact the leadership in any meaningful way, or do they end up just falling on the people anyway?

Thanks again!

Answer: Thanks for the question. I personally do not believe they are nuts. Nuts can work for a little while, but it generally doesn’t work for three generations, over the course of 72 years, when stacked up against the world’s biggest political and economic powers (the U.S., Japan, China, Russia, South Korea). I’m not saying it’s reasonable or logical, per se, but I do think they know what they’re doing, and they’re very smart about it.

And I’m not sure on sanctions, to be honest. It’s been a hot debate for, oh, years and years and years. No question the leadership have ways to ensure that the pain to them is minimal.

Question: Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?
Answer: Vanilla. But please don’t overinterpret that. I really do just like vanilla ice cream.
Question: Hey Jonathan,

Love reading your coverage of Korea in WSJ every morning (well, not every morning, you need a day off too, but you know what I mean).

How did you get the DPRK to even agree to this? I would think WSJ would represent everything that they hate about this country. Do they see this as a win? I’d think they’d find it quite easy to just say no way. Why do they see this as a good thing?

Answer: Great question. I think they really had a message they wanted to get out there: We have nukes, we’ve won, give up and sign a peace treaty with us already. And we were far from alone in being invited — as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the New Yorker went in before us, the NYT after us, and I suspect the message was quite consistent. We at the WSJ have an extra edge, in the sense that we’re perceived as being the paper closest to the current administration, and are therefore a good conduit of this message. (I’m not going to go into a long spiel here on the differences between our news and opinion pages, but suffice it to say that the four of us who went in for the WSJ work for the news pages, and aren’t aligned with any political party or ideological commitments.) That’s my best guess of why they wanted us there.
Question: Hi Jon. RHHS represent!

If NK was to welcome any North American boyband, which one would it be?

And which boyband member would get caught doing something ridiculous to sabotage the event?

Edit: one letter of the alphabet.

Answer: RHHS was a great place! North Korea has brought in some pretty strange acts over the years. I’m going to vote for 98 Degrees and Nick Lachey, because Kim Jong Un is a child of the 90s and I can just kind of picture that happening.
Question: Hi Jonathan! I love reading your coverage on NK. You do excellent work.

Most of the questions I’d like to ask pertaining to NK have already been asked, so instead I’ll ask about the atmosphere of working in WSJ. How do you like it? Did the WSJ experience a spike in subscription post-Trump’s election (I believe I read that it did for TNYT, so I’m wondering about WSJ)? Did the work atmosphere change after it, and if it did, was it for the better or the worse, in your opinion?

Also – what news sources do you regularly read that are non-WSJ? Thanks for your work!

Answer: Hi there, thanks for the question. I’ve been at the WSJ for more than a decade now, and I love it. It’s hard to separate out what change in atmosphere there was post-Trump in the WSJ, as opposed to the many changes in atmosphere that were apparent everywhere else in the world. I don’t think there was anything particular to the WSJ that changed after his election — I think the world changed to a large extent. And being in Korea does insulate me as well in some ways, simply because I’m so far away and the time zones are inverted and we’re not watching a lot of developments in real time. As for non-WSJ sources, most of my Twitter links should give you a sign of what I’m reading. I don’t tweet everything I read, but most everything I find interesting, regardless of whether it’s WSJ or not, I will tweet, presuming it’s credible.
Question: Hello Mr. Cheng, I follow your twitter! You’re cool.

What do you think it would take for internal collapse of the regime? Do you think it’s possible within the next few months? I live near Seoul, so I’ve been very worried. Honestly, I’m hoping for a miracle that could kill KJU without some sort of war.

Thanks for your reporting, and venturing into NK for the rest of us 🙏

Answer: Hi there, predicting the collapse of the regime is a bit of a fool’s errand. We may as well try and predict the collapse of…well, any other state in the world. I think the only thing we know is that it never happens when everything thinks it’s going to happen. There are many internal contradictions in North Korea — but there are in any country, including the U.S. — and that doesn’t in and of itself doom the current leadership to ruin. Internal contradictions can run on and on for a long time. On the other hand, I think people who assert that North Korea will never collapse, simply because it’s been wrongly predicted by others, is also misguided. It really could collapse, and it may have nothing to do with anything we’re thinking of right now. But yes, I think we can all agree with your sentiment: nobody wants war.
Question: Do you think North Korea has the capability to launch a full scale attack on the US?
Answer: No, but if it were, say, to strike one or two large American cities with a nuclear device — which is something they could conceivably do in the coming days/months/years, missile-defense willing — then you have to ask the question, how different is that really from a full-scale attack? It’s not boots on the ground (which I don’t think anyone really thinks is possible), but it’d be incredibly horrifying…
Question: How far did your observations differ from the reality of North Korea being a place of poverty and famine? Did the North Korean officials stage anything?
Answer: I don’t think they staged anything for us in particular (beyond little things like the orphanage visit and children’s musical performance), but that’s overlooking that all of Pyongyang is a stage in a sense. Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, who went in a week or two before us, made that analogy. North Korea did indeed suffer a famine in the 1990s, which it has been quite open about (though it hasn’t been upfront about all the causes of it), but it’s not in famine any longer. Poverty, though, surely exists, though we didn’t see much of it in the showcase capital.
Question: If you had to predict, how do you see this all turning out? Do you think we are going to be in a state of Cold War-like tension for years with no actual military conflict? Do you think there is going to be a war? Do you think there will be some kind of coup or regime change that comes internally or from China or somewhere else that doesn’t have anything to do with us?
Answer: I’m no seer, but I’m presuming a military conflict doesn’t break out, though that may be more a reflection of what I want. That leaves us, likely, with a state of Cold War-like tension, as you put it. North Korea develops its capabilities and becomes a de facto nuclear state, though the U.S. denies it for a while. Finally, someone in Washington throws in the towel and tries to strike a peace treaty with North Korea — mostly on Pyongyang’s terms. Not a pretty outcome, but I think this is my working base-case assumption.
Question: What effect do the sanctions placed on NK have on their missile program? Considering that they have seemed to largely ignore them
Answer: I think Vladimir Putin put it best when he said a few weeks ago that the North Koreans will eat grass, but they won’t give up their weapons program (that’s a paraphrase). That’s not to say sanctions have no place in policy, but if anyone’s expecting sanctions alone to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons, I’ve got bad news for you.
Question: What do you think the US could do to calm the situation? What do you think would be helpful at all to get to some kind of peaceful resolution or at least de-escalation?
Answer: Many of us who live in South Korea and the region would certainly sleep more easily with some kind of deescalation. But it seems like the current U.S. administration is trying to use escalation as some kind of a policy tool. But I haven’t spoken with the president lately, so I’m not sure exactly what is going on.
Question: What would you estimate the probability of war and how would you describe your confidence level of that estimate?
Answer: Hi again Fred. I’d estimate the probability as still being south of 50%, maybe even as low as 10%, but I’m not sure I’d ascribe a high level of confidence to that estimate. As has been pointed out by many, many others, the concern really is on both sides, these days. Under previous U.S. presidents, you could be reasonably confident that the U.S. would never launch a unilateral strike, and you could be reasonably confident that the North would never do one either. But Pres. Trump truly changes the calculus on the U.S. side, and that in turn I think changes the calculus on the Pyongyang side. Keep in mind too that Trump’s election is not the only major new factor here; the other is that the DPRK is more or less at the finish line of what it needs/wants — a credible nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the U.S. Once it has that, it will presumably continue to develop its weapons programs, but that’ll be gravy for them, I think, on top of a baseline credible deterrent.
Question: Have you covered on any other issues other than on North Korea working as a bureau chief?

And what was going through your mind when you first covered on North Korea?

Answer: This year has been a pretty busy one for Korea. In addition to North Korea, we had a major corruption scandal in South Korea that took down the president and put Samsung’s heir in prison. That took a lot of time to cover!
Question: How would you describe the poverty in NK? Is it really as bad as American media makes it seem?
Answer: There is poverty in North Korea, but none of it is really visible if you stick to Pyongyang, as we did. You’d really have to get out to the provinces — North and South Hamgyong Provinces, for example — to get a better sense of that. On the outskirts of Pyongyang, we saw lots of oxcarts doing agricultural work, but I presume you mean more urban poverty.
Question: Jonathan, have you seen evidence that the North Korean regime maintains gulag style labor camps?

Also, have you been able to slip away from the parts that the regime “wants” you to see to get a better sense of how North Koreans live?

Answer: This is a relatively simple question to answer: Yes, I’ve read evidence of these labor camps, in the U.N. Commission of Inquiry’s report from 2014, among other places. Have I witnessed these camps firsthand in North Korea? No, alas, I have not.
Question: Let’s say the US takes out Jong-Un and many government officials without harming citizens. Do you think the citizens would even want to be under US influence? Or do they view America as an evil country that should never be trusted?
Answer: I think many of them do view America as an evil country, and more importantly, Korea has long been an independent nation that has chafed at any semblance of foreign control — instincts that have been sharply honed by Pyongyang over the years. So I think that even if North Korea’s leadership was removed and the U.S. was someone able to exert its influence over the country (quite an assumption, since China will surely have a strong opinion on this), it’d be wise to not play up those aspects too much.
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Worst eating places in Singapore according to Reddit.

/u/kronograf
What’re your personal dining-out nadirs? Maybe we can crowdsource a list of places to stay the fuck away from.

For me:

The Ramen House @ Selegie – truly the mediocre-st ramen I’ve ever had locally. Flaccid noodles, blander soup than Maggi, straggly chashu…

True Blue @ Peranakan Museum – horrendously, horrendously overpriced basic-bitch Peranakan food

Yeo Keng Nam @ Upp Serangoon – taxi-driver disputes aside, hawker centres have better chicken rice than this

https://www.reddit.com//r/singapore/comments/786f6m/the_terrible_singaporean_restaurants_thread/

/u/Malvagor
Answer: My sister and I don’t understand how Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe has so many outlets all over, the food is terrible and not cheap at all. Is there a particular dish or something that has a cult following?
/u/not_haha_funny
Answer: Menya Musashi: The last time I was there, I thought it tasted like Ajisen’s. Sure enough, when I was footing the bill, I saw they were both under the same group.

Sushi Express: I guess you get what you pay for. Really low quality stomach filler.

Kinza-ya: Just don’t.

/u/littlefiredragon
Answer: One of my very worst restaurant meals was at Som Tam in Orchard Central. I ordered the “Tom Yum Prawn” burger i.e. “Prawns topped with cheddar cheese & Thai Tom Yum Spices”.

No burger buns so changed to rice buns, I said ok. Ended up getting 2 bowls of plain rice (LOL?), 2 slices of supermarket plastic cheese unmelted (wut), and no fucking tom yum sauce on those prawns. It’s one of their recommended items btw.

Made Ajisen look like a Michelin star restaurant.

Sent them a complaint letter and negative review, they apologised, but the damage was done. My date and I never went back.

/u/DarthDanial
Answer: I have a irrational hatred for pastamania. I cant put my finger on it
/u/Jammy_buttons
Answer: Jamie’s is terrible for the price.
/u/gottaname
Answer: no saeki sushi on this list?

food quality is so bad you its worse or on par with food court japanese food.

/u/lizhien
Answer: Can we agree that anywhere that has that 10% service charge and 7% additional above the menu price counts as a restaurant?

Sometimes.. The service is so appalling.. I don’t know why I pay that 10% for.

/u/keltzerlandarts
Answer: not a restaurant but burger king standards dropped also. last time was so nice like it was real quality and then they suddenly just went to shit. idk why tho.
/u/NutTheChipmunk
Answer: Thai Express. How dare it compare itself to Thai food. Really bland and 0 spice. The food is also very tiring to eat. (Ni in Chinese. Is there an English equivalent of that word?) No balance of flavours.

Even at Golden Mile, a lot of the Thai food is bad. The one that is most popular with Singaporeans is Diandin Leluk. Probably the biggest restaurant tenant on the ground level. Flavours are changed to suit local tastes and the food ends up tasting really weird. Also, very expensive.

Special mention to Nongkhai Eating House beside Diandin Leluk. Oily and fishy and very…ni.

So far I’ve found Nangfa Cafe and Beerthai House Restaurant to be the better ones at Golden Mile.

/u/thegreatnoobcac
Answer: Ramen Play – The Ramen I had was tasteless and unauthentic

Swensens – Mediocre, I only go there when I receive Swensens gift cards from insurance groups

18 Chefs / Hot Tomato – Cheap food but poor quality and really basic. Only good for students on a budget

/u/j_fat_snorlax
Answer: EIGHTEEN FUCKING CHEFS. Why would anyone pay for rice in cum sauce and literally 1 hot dog cut into 4 pieces? Because free ice cream with student meal? REALLY?!
/u/lewloy
Answer: Menya musashi – the ramen taste like Maggie mee… Like, seriously, it shouldn’t even called ramen. It’s insulting.

Fei fei wanton mee – used to taste good when I was younger, but the father passed his arts to his children. Then it got worse over with time, e.g. noodles became more soggy, chilli became worse… Especially after all that franchising came about – this kind of thing not supposed to franchise one.

I don’t mind sushi express, though. Where else can I eat 18 plates of sushi at quite an ok cost?

/u/penguinQP
Answer: Royz et vous at Telok Ayer. Took a Muslim colleague there for a lunch treat thinking it was “atas” but ended up apologizing to her because the food was so bad.

In fact, a lot of halal western / eastern places (ie non Malay / Indian) are terrible – Swensen’s only got really terrible after it became halal. And don’t get me started on halal dim sum……

/u/guyuntian
Answer: bbdc canteen commits crimes
/u/Treetrunkcustard
Answer: Woo ricebox. Overpriced and tasteless. They make worse Taiwanese fried chicken than shilin and they dont even cut the chicken for you while making you use plastic cutlery.
/u/kukubirdsg
Answer: Toa Payoh KFC.
/u/loverangel1
Answer: Pastamania

Eighteen Chef – standard and portion size dropped so much

Soup Spoon – tried it recently after a long break. Was served room temperature soup

/u/Cubyface
Answer: Wheelers Estate.

Just go there take pictures can liao, no need to waste money on their food.

/u/redcountrybear
Answer: Paris Baguette Bugis – go if you like to get snubbed by cashiers.
/u/PM_ME_OWLPICS
Answer: Soup spoon – their soup doesn’t taste great, servers are a bit rude

Old town cafe – I’m sure its only popular because Mark Lee owns the business. Their food is bad and their coffee is subpar and has a weird taste

Kuriya – its owned by Ichiban sushi but why are their standards **SO DAMN DIFFERENT** ?!?!?!?!? (But then again it’s not like Ichiban sushi is good either) Is Kuriya even trying?!?!?

I see a lot of ppl hating on sushi express like?? The miso soup is not great but it’s still my fav place for cheap sushi

/u/Enterland
Answer: Outback Steakhouse! Like ewwwwwww. Terrible food portion for the price you paid and the steak isn’t that great either, even though it is their specialty.
/u/r3lvalleyy
Answer: 18 chef and hot tomato
/u/daveo18
Answer: Any Soup Spoon. The amount of dicking around that goes on by the cashiers when the business model involves getting a ladle or two of soup into a fucking bowl is horrendous.
/u/angelorohit
Answer: I’m gonna toss in The Manhattan Fish Market, the one at Junction 8. I ordered the Grilled Glory Dory and they served me this wet microwaved mess. Service was horrible too.
/u/DavlosEve
Answer: Jin Ho Mia of Alexandra Retail Centre. Blatant rip-off of Jiak Pa Lang, and food is fucking horrible.

It’s owned and operated by the same people who used to run Atmosphere Bistro at the same premises. Just like before at Atmosphere, the food was colder than LKY’s corpse and the staff clearly didn’t give a shit.

/u/backpfe1fengesicht
Answer: ITT; various cheap restaurants, people expecting more than what’s paid for.

I don’t like Singaporean ckt. Each one I’ve tried seems so be a too mealy, powdery, oily or everything at once.

18chefs on a bad day is especially bad.

Hot tomato is a little on the trim side of what you pay for but at least the food is slightly above average.

Sakae sushi can DIAF. Genki all the way. Sushi express at 1.5 a plate really is pay what you get, unless you’re the kind that goes to standing bar sushi on Mondays and Thursdays to whack the salmon big time.

Don’t eat anything else at tang kitchen (that green one at simpang bedok) other than the deep fried bee hoon, or if no choice you’re there at 3am, good luck

~~Zam zam~~ that serangoon gardens place. I also for curry they give mutton curry then charge me $4. Man, I should have known better.

That Maxwell food ctr chicken rice. For the wait, you’re better off eating something else yeah. Go when there’s no q.

There’s this odd ramen place near haji lane that’s filled with msg and shitty noodles.

Pastamania can DIAF.

Kfc can DIAF.

Astons express on a busy period is horrendous.

Fei Fei wanton mee tastes weird at 4am.

/u/sodiumwaste
Answer: Fish and Co – the fish and chips are the worst. Everytime you eat it, it just gives way too easily in your mouth. Not sure what I was thinking when I ate a few times at the one beside Park Mall (closed).

Hans – I cant remember what I ate at Hans that one time I went but I hated everything there. All I remember is that the food was bad…

/u/dodgethis_sg
Answer: Long John Slivers
/u/FantasyBoudicca
Answer: KFC. Half the chickens they cook died of old age and everytime they say “OMGGGGG THIS IS THE SPICIEST THING WE’VE EVER CREATED” about their chicken, kena it’s so mild that even those who can’t eat Curry Maggi Mee can eat it no problem.

Ajisen – ugh. I’m a bit spoiled by Tonkotsu King and Baikohken but hot damn that is bad.

Himawari gets dishonourable mention purely for its very slow service.

/u/shian243
Answer: Nobody mentioned four fingers? A complete ripoff. Dunno why the queue so damn long, the portions are pathetic, and then to top it off and remind you of terrible NS days they serve you in the fucking army mess tin
/u/helloseb
Answer: Saizeriya
/u/SkittyLover93
Answer: Just Acia. I barely consider it food. I think even fast food is higher quality.

Ajisen. Also very mediocre ramen.

I work in a Chinese restaurant kitchen, AMA r/Singapore

Question: I remember your delightful and very detailed post. I enjoyed your descriptions of the job breakdowns. You are a good writer. There was a [recent post about typical Kopitam economic rice stalls](https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/74lycq/the_dirty_secret_behind_economic_rice_that_you/). The poster there said they don’t wash vegetables enough. How true is that in your experience in high end restaurants?
Answer: No lah, not true at all at Chinese restaurants. Of course we wash our vegetables. It’s the saikang that is done by the butcher and/or prep cooks like me.
Question: 1. What is your favourite kitchen equipment or gadget?

2. Favourite kind of knife?

3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

4. ‘Never trust a skinny chef’ – how true is this?

5. What do you have for lunch and dinner daily? Do you meal prep or eat whatever’s on the menu for that day?

6. Favourite disney movie?

Answer: 1. Sounds boring but the strainer. Strainers of any kind. They are indispensable to any kitchen. We need them so much, all the time. BUT I WILL TELL YOU MY ABSOLUTE WORST NIGHTMARE – chopsticks. Fucking hate chopsticks. But Chinese restaurant cooks always plate with chopsticks. I always choose the tiny tongs over chopsticks. Fuck chopsticks.

2. This is quite a standard and trusted brand, can find at Sia Huat or Lau Choy Seng – http://www.chanchikee.com/ChineseKnives.html

3. Hopefully I get promoted in two years! In 5 years I’ll still def be working the 8-ish am to 1030pm life

4. No lah most cooks are rather thin/slight/lean from the work.

5. Omg I don’t want to disappoint y’all but we mostly eat rubbish lah, outside of staff meal we eat nonsense like maggi mee and bread. A lot of us steal from dim sum. Staff meal: If non-hotel, we have a dude who makes our staff meal every day. It’s almost always cabbage/bittergourd/spinach/lettuce with chicken (steamed/braised) and white rice. If hotel kitchen, we have canteen food, which is basically cai png. I’m not complaining! I’m happy for any food at all, most of the time I’m hungry by the time I get to sit down and eat.

6. Mulan forever and ever amen.

Question: What most surprised you about the restaurant industry/commercial kitchens?
Answer: Very few people talk about the kitchen’s mundane discipline.

I’ve watched Chef’s Table etc but like any good TV series they focus on the creative process of the head chef/owner, their inspiration, their back stories. But the food that is served to your table was made by moments and years of muscle memory, of routine distilled by repetition and crushing pressure, by a team of cooks junior and senior.

Every day is war. Our work is about sorting through chaos. An average day for me starts like this – I come in at 830am voluntarily. I am early, the first one in. I must first gather all the steel bowls, trays, and saucers I need from the dishwashing area, over to my work area. I wash my cloths and the rice cooker. I have a look at the preorders for the day. Already there’s a table of 10, 8, 8, 6, 2, 3 with their preorders scribbled in barely legible Chinese. I switch on the power, lights, gas, wok pilot lights. I put seasoning racks back in place, set up each wok station with potato starch, ginger juice, egg yolks and whites, new cooking oil in steel drums. I check all my garnishes, for spoilage. I guesstimate how many trays of eggs I’ll have to crack and separate, how much ee fu noodles to give wok 2 to blanch, etc etc. This is maybe the first ten minutes of my day. Most of the time I scribble notes to myself like “cucumber slices long and short, mandolin baby radish, kungpao sauce ” that make absolutely no sense, or mean anything to an outsider, but would be absolutely critical to my dinner service war.

Question: What’s a dish to stay away from
Answer: Okay if you’re the squeamish type who doesn’t like people touching your food with their bare hands, stick to old favorites like fried rice, hor fun, etc. Don’t order the more elaborately plated items at fine dining Chinese restaurants. At peak hour I promise your plated wok fried Australian lobster for 8 pax has met our fingers. I’m sorry.
Question: I’m curious about [(social) class in Singapore](http://www.asiaone.com/business/peeling-away-spores-class-layers) – so could you talk about that? If you need some elaboration:

1. [You’ve come from an upper/upper middle class background](http://www.tnp.sg/news/others/she-gives-law-studies-train-be-chef), while kitchen staff are usually seen as working class – do you feel that there is a different perspective between you and your colleagues? Does that affect how you interact with them? What was the biggest difference?
2. Do you feel that your colleagues/people treat you differently because of your class background?
3. Do people treat you differently now (between when you were a university student and when you were a cook)?
4. Do you feel that your colleagues and, for example, the people you met in NUS Law (usually associated with upper/upper middle class) had different concerns/perspectives?
5. Do you feel that there is still social mobility? Do your colleagues feel that there is social mobility?

Answer: This is the best question of this thread.

1. Yes. From their perspective I’m insane, and I don’t blame them. To them it’s like “gurl why why do you choose this life, if I had your options I would 100% stay far away from this line of work, you are stupid, and you are throwing your future away”. They are correct, but I stand by my decision. I think I enjoy a sort of financial security (no dependents to care for, living rent free, parents in good health and far out-earning me) that allows me to treat work like an internship/bootcamp.

2. When I first joined Crystal Jade my colleagues were very wary of speaking to me, or giving me tasks to do. Half a year later, over drinks, a senior colleague said “we laughed when the head Chef told us some daughter of some doctor was gonna join us. The day you showed up might’ve made history, this company’s history at the very least. You won’t understand. For all of us it was the first time in our 20 years of experience working with a woman. Let alone some girl who’s gone to school.” In general they sayang me a lot but I didn’t come to work to be coddled. I forcefully take over tasks until they just let go of that responsibility to me.

More on 3-6 later, I’m in this company orientation thingy :3

Question: What dish do you not put MSG in?
Answer: Hahahaha nothing. When we say “lok mei”, 下味, the general term for “season the dish”, we refer to the Four Heavenly Kings of sugar, salt, chicken powder, MSG. For vegetarian dishes we omit chicken power. But unless the customer specifically requests “no MSG”, there will be MSG in it. Except, I dunno, sweet and sour pork? Because there’s technically no MSG in the formula, just yknow a shitload of brown rock sugar slabs.
Question: What’s the most fun dish to prepare/cook?
What’s the most annoying dish to prepare/cook?

What are your long term goals? Opening a cze cha place soon? Or do you want to head a Michelin Chinese restaurant one day? Or both?

Have you ever thought of the western side of the kitchen? Do you ever think if it would have been a better choice than your current choice of working in a Chinese kitchen?

Answer: I still enjoy making fried bee hoon, because I like to eat fried bee hoon. Also I will always remember the first dish I ever learned to make at the wok – stir fried cheong fun. I like getting a nice sear on the cheong fun, and then the challenge is to get the seasoning + soy sauce + dark soy sauce distributed evenly without breaking/damaging the cheong fun.

I hate making wok omelettes. Hate urgh much difficult to flip, digs up all my insecurities and personal failures

I just want to see how far I can go in this line, and then when I’m older and I’m ready for it, I want to teach at culinary schools, but I’m not sure.

Question: Thanks for doing this AMA! Actually, I’m curious as to why you’re willing to be so open about your work (down to naming the restaurant). I feel like most Singaporeans would shy away from doing so for fear of getting in trouble with their management or just not wanting to self-dox.
Answer: I’m actually under a non-disclosure agreement so this might be a violation but I try not to reveal too much, and also I make sure I don’t say anything bad about the company
Question: My sauses are too thin and a corn starch slurry doesn’t seem to work. Should I use more corn starch? Also how can I get super crispy chicken bits? Coat in corn starch Only? Egg bath? Double bread?

Also what’s it like being a women in the cooking world, in the states it is a rather male dominated field and very rough.

Answer: 1. Try potato starch instead – commonly sold as 风车粉 at any supermarket or mama shop. Mix with water, it behaves like cornstarch. Here is how to thicken successfully – once your sauce boils, switch off the heat. Trickle in the starch water slowly with one hand. With the other hand, stir it in. Only after stirring it in, turn up the heat. Your sauce will come to a boil and achieve magical, glossy thickness. If it is not as thick as you like, repeat the process. Switch off the heat, trickle and stir, turn the heat back up until it boils.

2. Here is a widely recognised technique for making crispy sweet and sour pork, that -stays- crispy – take your marinated pork cubes and add some potato starch and water. Mix it in. Add a bit of egg, mix well. Now dump the cubes in dry potato starch and coat them evenly. Deep fry in very hot oil until cooked and insanely crispy.

3. I am a person who isn’t afraid of heat and fire and knives, and I think I have physical presence (tall and quite an athletic build). Men always try to patronise me and baby me when they first get to know me. Eventually I gain a reputation for my intensity and endurance :3 I really despise men who tell me to smile more/ get an office job/ quit this life because my hands won’t be nice and pretty anymore. It’s not funny.

Question: What do customers usually order?
Answer: Yuppies often come in small groups (2-5) and order off the set/tasting menus. Families with children and old folks often order old favourites like Yangzhou fried rice, seafood hor fun, garlic kailan, century egg porridge if in the afternoon. We have big ticket customers with their very specific and unique orders, like this rich guy and his posse who would always order his tomato braised red snapper in a claypot, followed by an egg gravy hor fun, with hokkaido scallops instead of our regular assorted seafood. Once the manager comes in and says “Mr XX is here” we know what to do.
Question: What culinary school did you go to? How did you apply and any tips to get accepted? I’m taking A levels this year and I hope to get into a culinary school
Answer: I went to VJC, graduated 2011 :3 no need A levels lah. I went to At-Sunrice and all they wanted from me was O/N levels. It’s easy to get in, but many don’t stay in this line of work after they graduate.
Question: I’ve always wondered, but for someone like you who graduated from culinary school, what are your working hours like and what is the average salary?
Answer: An average work day is 12 hours with a break in between (the split shift). Some of us work 5 days a week, some 6, very few of us get weekends off. Salary really varies, I’ve seen graduates bag >$2k straight out of school, mostly at Western kitchens. They tend to pay more humanely. Entry level Chinese cooks are worth very little money. When I first entered Crystal Jade I was getting $1600 take home, when I left recently I was getting $1900. I left for this hotel job and they tried to give me $1300 but I negotiated earnestly and now I get $1500. If I work more than 5 days a week, I get OT, but they try not to let that happen.

Please don’t rat on me. We can leave this thread here on reddit but if you know anyone in the hotel line personally, don’t alert them. :3

Question: What’s the secret of fried noodles! I get them to taste really CLOSE to the restaurantones but.. something is missing
Answer: Have you tried Maggie seasoning? :3
Question: How important is knowing how to speak Cantonese in the kitchen?
Answer: Very – but for a junior level person, it’s enough to be able to listen, no need to speak fluently. That’s me, I can understand some, but not enough to speak. It’s okay though, I don’t have to speak very much at work, just listen and follow instructions.
Question: I was wondering, someone like you who seems pretty good at writing and from relatively good academic background, why did you choose Chinese cooking and the hierarchical route?

Many young people interested in the culinary world take shortcuts like start their own cafes etc. what do you feel about that?

Answer: Correct, because I am a glutton for punishment. It’s actually true, I chose this life despite repeated warnings. But I regret nothing

At Crystal Jade we had this other Singaporean girl, in dim sum. She left in her…8th month? To open a bistro with her friend- Marble at Everton Park. This girl is a woke badass, I loved that she was so confident all the time, I’m comparatively an insecure mess. Good for her, my dim sum girl. I don’t have an opinion, just you do you lah

Question: 1. How was culinary school compared to your other educations?
2. How did you manage to obtain a job in such a professional/high end kitchen? was it because you were good in your culinary school?
3. How is the aspect of being a cook in terms of finance and providing for the future? ie. your salary and do you plan to climb to higher positions or start your own restaurant in the future?
Answer: 1. Written and practical exams in culinary school were designed to help you pass, the whole point was to pass, not to beat some bell curve. Most of our learning happened during our internships, not really in the classroom or school kitchens. Culinary school was a very male environment (women mostly concentrated in pastry programs), but I was used to it. There were rules about your uniform, whereabouts, smoking zones etc, arbitrarily followed and arbitrarily enforced.

2. Nah all I did was call up HR. It was like “hello 我想问一下你们中餐厨房现在有没有请人?” (hello I’d like to ask if your Chinese kitchen is currently hiring). Then HR was like “oh you are asking for a friend or…?” Then I was like “no for myself” then there was a pause. Then she scheduled me an interview and the rest. All places were like that. I would call or show up at the door, they would pause or gawk or ask repeatedly if it was -me- looking for a job. Is okay, I’m used to it.

3. My take home pay is def less than 2k. It doesn’t bother me now but ideally I should be hitting 3k by 35 or that would be sad. The pay in this line is generally very sad, das why most cooks are in it by circumstance (ie. poverty and lack of formal education), or by vey deliberate choice. I would be a very shitty business owner, I am a much better writer and tutor. In 10-15 years I strongly believe there will still be plenty of opportunities in these areas. But I intend to work like this until my body just can’t.

Question: why did you dropped out from uni back then?
Answer: I was studying law at NUS, it was never what I wanted, and I was a resentful miserable asshole about it for 3 semesters. My parents were upset for a while but we’re cool now.
Question: Ahh so you are person behind that website! My friend linked it to me awhile ago and i really enjoyed reading the content inside, the way you described each workstation is very detailed and easy to understand.

I do have one question, if you come up with a new recipe, will the head chef even consider it or every recipe suggestion gets shutdown?

Answer: For most larger organizations (as in strongly hierarchical, not indie, not small or start up), junior cooks never produce recipes. It’s just not in our job scope. The head or sous Chef do that. This is 96% because minions like us have enough on our plate, there’s never enough time to complete our never ending prep lists, most of us try to survive from service to service.

There’s also a very social element to knowing your place, as in why would you be testing a cool idea you had when your fellow minions are prepping garnish, tidying the walk-in chiller, etc.? There’s a common refrain that means something like “hey you’re being paid to get shit done, not to playact Dai Lou (head chef)”

Question: I’ve been to numerous Chinese restaurants where they simply serve the same Tze Char dish with rather similar quality but at a more expensive price. What are some of the signature dishes at your restaurant, which you think people would not be able to try at Tze Char stalls.
Answer: At Golden Palace there is this braised fish by the name of 半煎煮,it’s lovely. The fish of choice (whole live fish, or some customers prefer filets of pomfret, or cod) is flash fried and then braised with white radish, scallions, Chinese celery stems, our rich shark cartilage stock, milky broth, sesame paste, fermented soy beans. 100% would recommend, very Teochew, not easy to find, tasty and rich, exactly my sort of thing.

Also I think you can order this at some obliging tze char but – there was this group of rich regular customers at Golden Palace who would order 麦片豆根. I love it too, I always keep the leftovers for myself. (If anyone wants the exact formula for the cereal premix, we can PM :3 )

At Summer Pavilion, the 生抽皇生虾 is very popular. Prawns are flash fried in smoking hot oil, such that their shells are brittle and crispy enough to eat. They are tossed in a simple sauce made of superior soy sauce, maggi seasoning, fish sauce, sugar MSG chicken powder, and LP sauce.

Question: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant and dish in SG?
Answer: I am very loyal to the fried bee hoon at Fatty Fong’s, Bedok market block 58 tze char
Question: What is your favorite Chinese restaurant and dish in SG?
Answer: Also the 猪手焖米粉 at 老友记, Tiong Bahru. Amazing amazing stuff, too bad I don’t go back because it reminds me of a kitchen dude who hurt me bad.
Question: What dish is popular amongst foreign customers or tourists but the staff would avoid?
Answer: Foreign customers like Yangzhou fried rice, but both kitchen and service staff are so tired of even the sight of the dish. Same for XO sauce stir fried carrot cake, century egg porridge, the very very popular dim sum lunch items. Just…sian lor, as cai png dude said.
Question: I’m curious about your worklife balance. How do you find time to run errands, spend time with your family & friends and basically get things done?
Answer: Aw man there’s really no time. There was barely enough time for this AMA. My friends and family never see me much, and I squeeze all my errands into my weekly day off. It’s true that there’s not much balance in this lyfe, we go to work to get off work to go to work again.
Question: Are you also the one who’s good at eyeballing weight/volume and does post-shift stouts and porters?
Answer: Yes ;3
Question: what’s the secret for the chilli oil? 😀
Answer: Okay if you would like, I could PM you the exact formula ((:
Question: What is the heaviest dish to prepare. Weight wise.
Answer: Soups/porridge for large groups. One time there was a group of 40, I think we had to have the Laoda and sous work on their sharks fin simultaneously, each of them making a roughly 20 portion batch. Something like that. Imagine if they ordered a fried egg noodles with gravy, dat gravy would be legit heavy
Question: Really admire your courage to follow your dreams. Is your father a famous surgeon?
Answer: Not sure if he’s famous but I respect and admire my dad for being excellent in his chosen field (colorectal surgery). He’s also a punny cheeseball which I appreciate very much.
Question: Do you only think you’ll be cooking/preparing Chinese food for the long haul?

What sort of food from other cuisines do you like? Bonus points if its meaty!

Answer: My favorite other cuisine to eat is Indian, north and south and everything. I love it because it’s so rich in flavour and texture. I have a heavy palate. I like the brisket at Meatsmiths Telok Ayer, and I love love love Moosehead as well. BURRATA FTW.
Question: Is the cleanliness of chinese restaurants (such as kitchen environment and food storage/preparation) something that people should be concern of?
Answer: Different places different rules lah. All of us been through food hygiene courses and we operate with common sense, so for example if the chillers stopped working overnight and we found out in the morning, we would throw out all our perishable items (all meat cooked or raw, cooked vegetables), and only keep sturdier sauces (kungpao; other acid-based sauces) and raw vegetables.

We abide by established practices – store cooked foods above raw, raw meat always bottom most shelf in the chilled, cooked rice left overnight can only be used for fried rice and never served to customers, etc. First in first out principle applies all the time.

For old kitchens like Golden Palace, equipment and work areas could be cleaner, could use more frequent deep cleaning but. Hotels are different, we outsource deep cleaning, that’s how we keep our area sparkling clean.

Question: What’s the “scrambled eggs” or “tamago sushi” of Chinese cuisine? Referring to the dish that is simple to cook yet difficult to master and allows you to immediately judge the skill of the person cooking. Like a daiquiri for a bartender for example.
Answer: Some people argue that it’s egg fried rice, some people say it’s beef hor fun (dry), but the latter is a very specifically Cantonese example. I did a practical trial for my current job at Summer Pavilion and I actually made a fried rice and that beef hor fun. An entry level cook isn’t expected to know how to stir fry but it’s just hiring procedure at a hotel.
Question: You are not OP!!!
Answer: ACHERLY both also can. Cold or hot rice is not the point, in fact at Crystal Jade the wok people much prefer the rice hot straight from the rice cooker, because it’s looser and less clumpy than cold rice. But at Summer Pavilion I learned that we always steam two separate trays of rice with separate moisture levels. The rice served to customers is regular softness, which is a bit too wet for fried rice. We steam a separate tray of rice with a bit less water. This rice is slightly ‘harder’ than ‘service rice’, and we wait for it to cool completely before scooping it into a steel bowl to use throughout war.
Question: That’s a really quick reply heh, thanks for the insight.

Also can you help solve a debate? For large steamed fishes, how often do you serve the fish liver together with the fish? Friend of mine claims he has special service with a chef he knows in the kitchen and they’ll always give it to him. He claims most of the time the kitchen keeps it to eat

Answer: Nah where I work(ed) we don’t eat it. Some customers want the liver served together, so the butcher lets us know when he sends over the fresh kill. If he doesn’t say anything about the liver, we discard it. Maybe I’ve never worked with anyone who fancies the liver!
Question: wow you got into law and opted to drop up into culinary school? which school did you go to and how was the experience?
Answer: I went to At-Sunrice. I’m glad I got that diploma, it made it easier to get that hotel job. But everything that I ever learned how to do in a Chinese kitchen, I learned on the job during my internships, at Crystal Jade, and now here at this hotel job.
Question: [deleted]
Answer: My dad gets some semblance of balance only because he’s in private practice. When I was younger he was at a public hospital and I barely saw him. So nowadays if I inform him early “hey dad I’m off today” we could schedule dinner.

If we’re talking about number of days/hours off, he has more time off. But if we’re talking about eveyday predictability, I have more stability and structure. I know that 6 days a week I block out 8am – 1030pm for work and that’s it. My dad probably has to pull an all-night surgery followed by a presentation any day of the week, but during the weekend he might go to KL to see my grandma, or he goes to godforsaken Maine or Vladivostok for some surgeons’ conference.

Question: so what’s your favorite stout/porter
Answer: La Trappe Dubbel, also Rogue hazelnut brown nectar, and Hitachino Nest’s XH. They’re all in the Belgian dubbel/brown ale/strong ale category, not stout.
Question: Msg is the poor man’s substitute for savoury flavouring. E.g. oyster sauce, chicken stock, etc. back then when food was scarce during the 50s in China. Then msg became popular among peasants and now if you go to those villages in China and order at the restaurant, there will be a cup of MSG beside the usual soy sauce, vinagar, chili oil etc.
Answer: Thanks for this! I’ve always wondered as well.

Study: Asians unable to produce enough insulin

Recently the news reported on a study which suggested that one reason why Asians are more prone to diabetes is due to inadequate insulin production.

Study: Asians unable to produce enough insulin

Local researchers from the National University Hospital (NUH), in collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, have found that the inability to produce enough insulin could be why Asians are more prone to Type 2 diabetes than their Western counterparts.

The breakthrough finding, based on a study of 140 mostly Chinese participants, will pave the way for better diabetes management for people here and in the region. This includes tailoring dietary advice and a better selection of drugs to treat diabetes, doctors believe.

Another interesting finding from a separate study is that Chinese people are more prone to diabetes at lower BMIs than Caucasians.

According to a previous study, 8 per cent of people of Chinese descent with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 23 (just outside the healthy weight range) have diabetes. This is four times more than their European counterparts. A BMI of 23 is within the normal weight range for Caucasians.

As I have mentioned in my previous blog post, Caucasians tend to have lower body fat than Asians despite having the same BMI.

Asians have lower body mass index (BMI) but higher percent body fat than do whites: comparisons of anthropometric measurements.

Although Asians had lower BMI, they were fatter than whites of both sexes. The correlations between fat% and BMI varied by BMI and sex and race. Comparisons in anthropometry show that Asians had more subcutaneous fat than did whites and had different fat distributions from whites. Asians had more upper-body subcutaneous fat than did whites. The magnitude of differences between the two races was greater in females than in males.

My theory is that the impaired insulin production is due to the higher body fat percentage that Asians seem to have. A higher body fat percentage translates to a lower fat free mass. Which in turn reduces insulin production. Hence in comparison to Caucasians with the same BMI but lower body fat percentage, Asians will produce less insulin.

This news outlet reported on the same article, but I disagree with something they added.

Most Asians don’t produce enough insulin, more prone to diabetes

In a separate study, it was also discovered that 8 per cent of Chinese participants with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 23 (this means they’re just outside the healthy range) have diabetes, four times more than those of European descent.

The reason for this? Caucasians generally have more body fat and therefore, a BMI of 23 is considered normal for them.

The part that is in bold is incorrect. The opposite is true, Asians in general have MORE body fat. That is the reason why WHO recommended a LOWER BMI cutoff for Asians.

WHO Expert Consultation: Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies.

Conclusions

On the basis of the available data in Asia, the WHO expert consultation concluded that Asians generally have a higher percentage of body fat than white people of the same age, sex, and BMI. Also, the proportion of Asian people with risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is substantial even below the existing WHO BMI cut-off point of 25 kg/m2. Thus, current WHO cut-off points do not provide an adequate basis for taking action on risks related to overweight and obesity in many populations in Asia.

Fruit Seller AMA – r/Singapore

 
A wet market fruit seller did an AMA on r/Singapore recently. Using PRAW, I have compiled all her second level answers and the corresponding question.
Link: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/i_sell_fruits_at_a_wet_market_ama/

Question: Auntie got poke the fruits until you cannot sell or not
Answer: Yes. A lot of fruits end up bruised. Worst case is customers digging their nails into the fruit. And not just limited to Aunties. I’m most scared of kids who pinch and dig their nails into the fruits, as if they are kneading play doh
Question: Do you earn a lot selling fruits?
Answer: Comfortable enough to survive in Singapore. Profit is lean, and getting leaner.
Question: What do you think about the food wastage situation in Singapore? Do you see customers avoiding bruised fruits so much so that they turn bad and have to be thrown away?
Answer: Food wastage is one big concern, and I foresee it to get worse, as a huge bulk of the younger generation grow up in a comfortable environment, almost privileged. Yes, customers do avoid bruised fruits and 99% of it has to be thrown away. A friend actually suggested for me to looking into organic composting, but that requires space – scarcity in Singapore.
Question: When you are all out of bananas, will you say bojio?
Answer: Bo kim jio
Question: how to tell if apple is crunchy, and not ‘powdery’
Answer: You got to see what type of apple it is. Buy South Africa top red (馬蹄蘋果) or New Zealand rose apples. Crisp and crunchy
Question: What is your typical working day like, from start to finish? Also OP, don’t forget to send verification to the mods so this thread don’t get locked
Answer: On a typical working day, my father wakes at 2am. He starts work at 3 preparing the fruits for sale. Morning crowd from 6am to 12pm. New stock arrive, he tidies up the stall, preparing more fruits for sale. His day ends around 7pm after the evening shopping crowd.

Usually he’s a one-man show with a helper in the morning and I help out occasionally on weekends and prayer days aka last day and 14th of every lunar month. My day starts from 6am to latest 3pm.

Question: Do supermarkets like NTUC and Shengsiong cause you to lose customers?
Answer: Yes, when the deciding factor is pricing.

There are people who come to our stall and compare prices of every single fruit to the prices of NTUC etc. I tell them to gtfo nicely

Question: In China, they purposely employ hunks and make them go topless when selling fruits. Will you do that?
Answer: I scared my regulars too excited until kena stroke
Question: how old are you?
Do you want to continue the business in the future?
Answer: I’m in my late 20s.
This is a good question; I’ve thought about it for the longest time ever and considering the changing consumer behaviour, as of now I have no plans to take over the business.
Question: Can you really tell how good/sweet/juicy the fruits are? How do you learn how to tell?

How to tell a good watermelon? I can never figure this one out. Once selected a watermelon that tasted more like cucumber, literally no joke.

Answer: This takes experience to tell whether a fruit is good. Also depends on luck. Jackfruit and melons are the hardest to tell, till now I cannot tell. There were occasions when my dad went knnccb after cutting the melons/jackfruit – he kena punked big time.
Question: Can we order online from the wet market? Sorry if it’s a dumb question. I’ve been here a month.
Answer: No. Digital commerce only served to shave off our lean profits even further

Please don’t go to wet market and ask this question, the stallholders would scold the living daylights out of you

Question: Just want to drop by to say that I enjoyed your AMA. Some of your reply are jin farni and informative. Additional point because you are a lady.
Answer: Thank you. Oh that gets a point too? Aw
Question: Does most of your business come from regular customers? Are you losing business to the supermarket chains?
Answer: Our fruits stall is located in an old neighbourhood where birds would think thrice about flying over there. Hence, a good majority of our customers are regulars, and they seem to trust only my father. Our loyal clientele is ageing, and new residents in the neighbourhood don’t shop at the wet market as much. We consistently lose business to the supermarket chains, been like this for ages, especially for premium fruits e.g. Grapes and peaches
Question: Thank you for doing this AMA. It’s very informative.
Answer: You’re welcome
Question: What is the biggest difference between buying fruits from a NTUC and a wet market fruit stall like yours?
Answer: NTUC – You only have yourself to blame if the fruits pai jiak

Wet Market – You can shift the blame to us

Question: The way you switch between standard English and Singlish is damn power, you must have done well in school. You also probably speak all the dialects.

How the hell did you manage to learn all that? And what’s your highest academic qualification, and do people think you’re wasting your time at the wet market?

Answer: Thank you for the compliment. I was never academically inclined but reading extensively during my childhood years had me on a better ground.

I am Teochew but I cannot speak Teochew, learned basic Hokkien during my past employment.

I am a degree holder. Well they are more interested in my life than in the wet market. But there were parents who viewed me with disdain, one even whispering to her kids “don’t be like her in the future”.

Question: Can teach me what are the “better” fruits to pick? Or, alternatively, do you push the crappy fruits onto unsuspecting customers?
Answer: No funny dents or mushy feelings when you hold the fruit on your hand.

I don’t, unless they were rude to my father, the other stall helper or me.

Question: True or false do you mark up the prices for a white
Expat vs a local?
Answer: For my family business- no.
For others – I don’t know.
Question: if a customer asks if a fruit is sweet, will you ever say no? my mum likes to ask this question but i tell her no point because they want you to buy so why would they say no even if its not sweet. my theory could be wrong!
Answer: I usually answer ‘ok lah’. This is one ambiguous question that you have got to manage their expectations carefully.
Question: Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen?
Answer: Uh, Apple pen.

There was a grandma who brought her grandchild on a learning trip at a wet market. She asked me to explain to the kid why was the pineapple different from an apple

Question: Damn you cool.

Just a thought – it seems like the real edge that you guys have over NTUC fruits is that you guys know your shit and pick good stuff instead of zam every fkshit, coz well, not all fruits that look good on the surface are actually tasty

How do y’all (if you do) play this to your advantage? Coz it seems like most of the population is ignorant.

I mean let’s be frank here, in the pragmatic Singapore not a lot of people will be concerned with the heritage value of wet markets when they are deciding where to get their fruits

Answer: We don’t actually play it to our advantage, we’re just doing business ethically
Question: Is there a trick to picking sweet oranges?
Answer: Go for navel oranges
Question: Feels like an ops nightmare imo, esp deciding what fruits to stock and optimum amount. Do you guys agar agar or go down a more tech/analytics path?
Answer: You don’t need tech/analytics for this. I can tell how much to order for the next day by monitoring sales. Today customers buy bananas tomorrow they whack grapes; trends too fast to track by tech. It also depends on the availability of specific fruits as well
Question: Why are soursops so expensive???!!!!
Answer: Because some smart alec said it has cancer treating properties and it went viral on the internet.
Question: [deleted]
Answer: 1. Fruits we cut for sale are aesthetically not appealing eg papayas with grey streaks on the skin. They are perfect for consumption.

2. Some people use such fruits for cooking/baking e.g. Bananas for Kueh. So we sell them at cost price. The remaining, we throw. I know some fruits (not my stall) goes into the fruit juice you drink.

3. We don’t sell durians. But I think the sharper the thorns are the better the durian

4. New Zealand rose apples

5. I don’t eat fruits regularly, and the times when I eat fruit are when
– Father brings home fruits aka those near the end of their shelf life
– I’m at the Stall

Question: Honestly -what is your opinion on the fruit stock at supermarket chains? I have an aunt who buys exclusively from family businesses like yours cos she thinks those at the chains are lousy- store managers don’t care as much as the uncle who’s been hawking his wares for 20+ years and only want the good stuff for his clientele.
Correct me if I’m mistaken but don’t the fruits all come from the same few suppliers given we’re a small island state? It’s not like you can drive out to the plantations, sample and pick your favourites to sell.
Thanks!
Answer: Stocks mostly same but what differs is whether I sell as it is or I curate what I sell
Question: How do you feel about Catalonia leaving Spain ?
Answer: Is it going to impact the imports of Spain fruits into Singapore?
Question: What are the cheapest fruits to get for each month?
Answer: Stick to good old bananas
Question: do you believe in the power of papaya milk?
Answer: I haven’t had the need for that, so I don’t know if I believe
Question: Firstly, I love your FB page, and would love to drop by sometimes.

1. What are your profit margins? A range is adequate.
2. How do you plan to compete against Sheng siong?
3. What % of fruit gets sold, wasted, put to other uses, etc?
4. Where do you source your fruit from, and how do you check their claims?
5. I bought an apple once from somewhere in sg, and it did not spoil for 3 months. Is this even healthy? Where are these being sourced from?

Answer: Thank you for liking my content.

1. If big-scale wet market fruit stalls can earn $10K a month, we are comparatively smaller scale and of course earn much lesser than them
2. It’s a losing battle so we just sell whatever we can
3. ~75 to 85% gets sold. The rest either are unsuitable for sale, or perish over time.
4. Our suppliers are from Singapore and Malaysia. Suppliers check, not us
5. If you would think it optimistically, the apple is genetically modified.

Question: How to get powdery red apples? Those are awesome.
Answer: Not sure if Gaia apples are the ones you’re looking for
Question: Please teach me how to choose the sweetest Chinese pears! I love them but they are so hit and miss for me.
Answer: What type of Chinese pears are you referring to? Chinese White pears (鴨梨)?
Question: do u know what’s the right way to pick the best fruits? like how do u tell which would taste the best n stuff
Answer: No definite way to tell. As long as no funny dents or mushy feeling you’re safe
Question: Which fruits type is you most profitable and is there any fruits for you guys which you buy very cheap and sell it very high?
Answer: We sell a lot of bananas, watermelons, apples and pears. They bring in bulk of the revenue.

For us, we aren’t a wholesaler. We wouldnt be capable to buy cheap and sell them to pocket high profits

Question: Is it true that sales peak during pre CNY and during the first/fifteen lunar month ?
Answer: Yes. For Pre-CNY we work until we don’t even have the time to do spring cleaning at home. Spring cleaning is done on CNY eve.
Question: Ok real question.

What are some tips on choosing fruits that you need to cut into(cannot eat from outside) like Papaya, water melons etc.

Answer: Papaya: you’ll feel that the skin is more sticky, and you feel its weight sink into your palms.

Watermelon: solid sound when you slap it. Colour sorta fades when they are riper when harvested

Question: I choose fruits by picking the ones closest to me, so that I can GTFO asap. So far it’s been working fine, but is there any reasons not to do this?
Answer: The probability of you grabbing one that has worms and not realise until you get home
Question: What is the worst customer you’ve ever met?

Follow up question, how do u deal with those that look down on you for doing these types of jobs?

Answer: 1. This dude who paid with a $1000 note for $10+ worth of fruits. Emptied our cash float for him.

2. 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️ and speak to them in perfect English with some angmoh accent. Just joking. I hope their kids or themselves become some high flyer in the future.

Question: whats the best time to buy fruits at cheapest value.
Answer: Lion time. No, there’s no such time for cheapest value. Unless the fruits are about to be spoilt.
Question: and also why fruit vendor like to sell spoilt avocados 😦 ?
Answer: Eh hello we won’t know either. You think our eyes got x-ray ah
Question: I noticed the fruits these days are not as fresh as they used to be.

Case in point, Envy apples which I had to pay a premium on. Their taste and texture used to be on point but these days they are a gamble. Most of the time they are soggy and tasted like they have been on the shelf for 6 months.

Is Singapore getting fruits that area left unsold from the country of produce?

Answer: I also encounter such issues when curating the stock for sale. According to experts, quality is impacted by weather.
Question: How come we don’t get Ambrosia apples very often, compared to Envy, Gala, Rose, etc?
Answer: I sincerely have no idea about this. That being said, I observe Singaporeans to like apples that are crisp and crunchy and sweet. Not so much of tartness
Question: Just an idea, maybe it would help if you send out regular mailers to us younger folks like hey new stock coming in , come get them fresh. My experience so far has been to get the freshest produce whenever possible, whether it’s ripe or not, so long it’s fresh, you can keep it at home till it’s good for eating.

I had shopped at supermarket chains, local wet markets and even all the way to Pasir Panjang wholesale market. Fruits that are the freshest are almost always the best. What I had noticed, for fruits, the difference in price is quite slight at all these places, it’s cheapest at the wholesaler but the savings for consumer quantities are not enough to warrant the long trip there. Supermarket chains almost always rank the lowest in terms of fresh, because I suspect they push them around different branches to clear them out. The wet market is the in between. Problem is, I don’t go there everyday so I don’t know what’s the new stuff. I can’t really rely on the seller too, because everything is fresh and everything is sweet. Which I totally understand, since he has to try to clear his stuff.

So to surmise my rambling, what’s your newest stock? I want spanish melons, that weird long finger grapes, cara cara, buah luku, the soft green pears but so fresh that it snaps, crunchy rose apples, pakistan mangoes and man i feel so old.

Answer: EDMs to update stock – can be done.

New Zealand rose apples, Australian sunkist oranges, USA grapes. Spanish mini tangerines out of stock. We have the soft green pears. No mangoes. May have pisang merah hidden in the stock of bananas.

Question: The dragonfruits from Ecuador are amazing but expensive af too. Rainer cherries are nice too. Do you foresee the younger generation picking up more exotic fruits?

P.S: Besides Sunny Fruit, which are the other Tambun pomelos good?

Answer: I don’t see the younger regulars to have that much of an appetite for exotic fruits though.

There was this particular pomelo that we had to specially drive to the wholesaler to pick up more stock… I forgot what brand it was already. Some Chinese dude name.

Question: I saw your fb and saw that you have the “fun-sized” grapes in one of the photos.. I visit one of the fruit stores near my house whenever I want to get the good stuff. All their fruits are more expensive but they are fresh and sweet. Every store owner usually advertises their fruits as sweet but this one proved to be true. I hope the younger crowd will also learn to go to your store and figure out those at NTUC are sometimes mass imported (don’t taste as nice)..
Answer: The funniest thing I hear:
EH YOU KNOW THAT DAY I GO NTUC BUY FRUITS WAH VERY FRESH AND GOOD
Question: why i can only find the mild-tasting , long pale yellow mango.
Why nobody stocks the rounder, more intense tasting mango with donald-trump coloured flesh?
Answer: That’s Australian(?) mangoes and they are expensive
Question: I always try to buy fruits from the wet market but i can get them at a cheaper price at ntuc and giant. What sets you apart from these big companies?
Answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68
Question: What could you do to help out your Father’s business? Or people as general could do to help? I love the idea of keeping our neighbourhood wet stalls a thing, but as time goes by the younger the generation would not buy from wet market anymore..so what could you do to change the younger people’s generation perspective? Share with me your opinion
Answer: The business model has to change to a certain extent. But that also means it may lose the humane touch that first makes the business distinctive.
Question: Tell us what are the benefits in buying from a stall like yours vs ntuc?
Answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68
Question: Do you see this as a long term career?

What are some of the challenges you feel are distinct to your job?

Answer: Of course not lol. The main challenge is to swallow the fact that this is a menial job that zaps you of your soul
Question: I see people knocking the watermelon. Why?
Answer: To see if it’s good for eating or not. Comb the replies for expert advice.
Question: That’s what I hoped! Maybe mention your stall, guess you would get a lot of new customers after your ama 🙂
Answer: No; not going to monetise this AMA.
Question: which time of the year is best to buy certain fruits?
Answer: Tiger time
Question: I dunno have it been asked yet. How do fruit stalls hang bananas unguarded overnight without fear of them getting stolen? Security cameras or plan faith in humanity?
Answer: Each stall has shutters la, of course the stall owners will shift the bananas into the stall and lock up
Question: not sure whether this is sensitive, but how much on average does a fruit stall earn a month?
Answer: I’ve answered this question earlier – our earnings are comfortable enough to survive in one of the world’s most expensive cities
Question: I am curious ah – what happens to those fruits that are not sold?
Answer: What is your definition of ‘not sold’?
Question: I love the humour on the FB’s post.

I know your are not suppose to promote your stall, but shouldn’t it be wise to an address to it?

Answer: It’s for me to practise social media content curation. No intention to monetise it
Question: my mom and me enjoyed dragon fruits alot, how do i know which is a good one, and how do i know the meat inside is purple or white
Answer: Must feel that it’s firm and not mushy. Weight falls into your palms. Purple ones are darker in colour. Tips be yellowish.

Best way – just ask. We don’t bite

Question: A thought to monetise papayas better … When I was in Brazil, they served this drink called Papaya cream. It was heavenly. I think it is blending a fresh papaya and vanilla ice cream into a milk shake like drink.

I don’t see folks selling here… Perhaps a chance to take the market here ?

Answer: I’d have to rent a hawker stall for this
Question: Do you see yourself doing this job 10 years later?
Answer: I don’t know if the business, or to say, wet markets will exist 10 years later
Question: [deleted]
Answer: No
Question: Do you, as a result of your profession, eat more fruits?
Answer: Eat until scared
Question: Recommendations (most bang-for-buck in terms of nutrition) for somebody who frequently constipates a lot?
Answer: Bananas.
Question: Glad to see young ppl still doing this kind of thing. Let’s partner and start a hipster farmers market for the millennial
Answer: You do know that we will most likely end up starving right
Question: Is the wet market under HDB? How much rental does your family pay every month?

Speaking of ownership, that reminds me of the news that Sheng Siong buying some wet markets years ago… assuming it wants to purchase the wet market, would you want your family to continue the business?

Answer: Wet markets are under NEA. A stall’s rental is approximately $300-400 every month.

Nope.

Question: cheap fruit protip: Go to Singapore General Hospital on Tuesdays and Thursday’s . Whole day they selling fruit at temporary stalls throughout the hospital. Academia building and Eye Center building.
Wait till nearly 4.30 or 5 and the fruit sellers getting ready to pack up and go.
Go in and lowball them. Profit.
Answer: You know what happens when you lowball the fruit uncles and aunties? If me I’ll prolly throw your fruits into the plastic bag. You end up with cheap and bruised fruits. Customers who lowball are fucking cheapskate and unethical. No doubt we will want to clear stock as much as possible but that’s no reason for you to lowball. Please don’t lowball. We are just trying to make a honest living.
Question: What’s your store’s average monthly revenue?

What are your margins like?

Answer: Comb the replies.
Question: How do you guys handle unsold fruits?
Answer: Continue selling unless they cui
Question: Yep the cui ones. Thanks.
Answer: Am thinking
Question: Where sia ur fruits stall
Answer: You need not specially visit my fruit stall, just head down to the wet market nearest to you
Question: Not sure if you will see this comment but are there any memorable encounters with customers that you can remember?
Answer: I think I mentioned 3 incidents in previous replies but ima add more

1. One who whispered to her child “don’t be like her in the future” while gesturing to me
2. Grandma who brought her grandkid to wet market, asking me to explain the difference between pineapple and apple
3. The rich dude who paid with a $1000 note and emptied our cash float
4. This cheerful jovial grandma who was a regular at our stall. She passed away quite suddenly; she bought fruits from us and few days later we heard about her passing.
5. There are buses ferrying office workers to This market for lunch. This office worker would walk up and down scrutinising the fruits and NOT BUY ANYTHING. Knn
6. This uncle who got upset because I die die didn’t give him $1 discount for 3 packets of Jackfruit.
7. This auntie who always fxxking take extra plastic bags for her purchases. 1 watermelon wedge 3 plastic bags. Knn knn
8. The customers who ask for multiple bunches of bananas to be brought down the hangers for their selection. Knn they think they at thai disco hang flower. Some bunches can weigh up to 4kg. I once hurt my wrist because of this.
9. This idiot who insisted on making payment by Visa.
10. There was this customer who misplaced her new broom while shopping. She suspected that we stole it. Siao eh
11. On some days the Stall closes early because we have errands to run, or my father returns home to rest. There was this time where this self-entitled prick questioned why we didn’t wait for him/her before closing for the day. Siao eh x2
12. This joker who paid 50 cents for $5 pack of fruits. I almost flip table.
13. The jokers who say, “give discount la, earn so much for what? Earn lesser la”

Question: Have you considered in specialising in say, durian, rather than a wide range of fruits? It reduces the range of your suppliers and you have a fairly stable clientele, with not as intense competition from NTUC…
Answer: I have had enough dealing with pineapple thorns. Not feasible given the limited storage space we have
Question: Do you ever make interesting fruit combination sets for sale like one banana, two rambutans and a complimentary bird’s nest ?
Answer: No, we are far too busy to come up with these wayang
Question: Can someone explain hookups in general? Youve only met the person for like an hour then you have sex liao wtf?? There’s so much risks isnt there?
Answer: It’s difficult for me to answer your question when I’m no psychology/sociology expert. I am a marketer and a fruits seller… Anyone can help this soul here?
Question: Im a fan of le ‘powdery’ apples, always seem to be random and inconsistent between brands. Im gona assume its just some weird mutation with the apple. Any telltale signs of an apple that is ‘powdery’?
Answer: Buy China Fuji la
Question: I have a question that comes in quite late, hope you can answer it…

does your business buy from NTUC or SS fruits to resell when they are running promotions?

everytime see them put up signs like, limited to 6 per customers, citing they do not want people to abuse the promotions..

Answer: A big NO. We not that cheapskate.
Question: I think I’m pretty decent at choosing watermelons, so I’ll weigh in!

For juiciness, slap the watermelon. You don’t want those with a hollower sound. You can also physically weigh the watermelons.

For sweetness, look for watermelons with big white patches. The soils are acidic (I think). Watermelons which are harvested after they’ve been there for a long time (i.e riper) will be discoloured.

Answer: Thank you for this, because I’m totally hopeless in choosing watermelons.
Question: 紅毛榴槤 is naturally a more well endowed fruit, it costs more because of its succulent white flesh that is prized by locals
Answer: The price has gone up by $4 over the past 2 years. Go figure.
Question: Also interested in this question! Regardless of price, would you say you offer a better quality product than the supermarket? (Which shouldn’t be difficult since most their products taste like water)
Answer: Yes
Question: I used to poke the cut watermelons in wet market when i was young until the stall owner chided me. Since then i realised i was ruining their business and stopped. I understand what you mean when you say this
Answer: Thank you for stopping your antics so we the wet market stall owners can buy extra chicken rice
Question: IM SORRYYYY OK

My nails always grow fast, not even 3 week then mother will nag to cut. So sometimes i hold fruit i accidentally pinch them… had to explain to my mother why one time nearly drop fruit then end up got ‘claw mark’

Answer: Hold with your fingers and not your nails
Question: What do you do when you see them poking fruits? Do you tell them to stop on the first poke?
Answer: Death glare. If they don’t stop, I tell them off.
Question: Anything else other than selling fruits in the market? I.e. other revenue streams?
Answer: Have some thoughts. Am calculating investments now
Question: I buy bruised fruits, milk that expiring soon etc because i feel sayang imagine they are being thrown away soon. I not dare to tell people because I scared they say I stupid.
Answer: We need more people like you.
Question: Discount bin concept, does it work?
Answer: Works to a certain extent
Question: Would juice stalls buy these bruised fruits since no customer will see them anyways? Taste same, used quickly, no? Maybe could make some discount deal with some.
Answer: Fruit juice stalls have their respective suppliers.
Question: If we specifically ask to purchase the bruised fruits/vegetables, will have discount a not?
Answer: Yes
Question: When people ask what is the thing that you like to eat the most, do you say jiak jua?
Answer: Nope, I say I jiak tau foo.

That being said the market we are at houses one kickass Yong tau foo

Question: cool thanks man
Answer: Can always check with the friendly stallholders
Question: I’m always a big fan of apples, my favorite ones are the New Zealand Jazz Apple. What’s yours?
Answer: New Zealand Rose apples
Question: Oh man, what time does your dad go to sleep? That’s a 16 hour work day.
Answer: 9pm.
Question: You have a regular job during the week?
Answer: Yes, Marketer by profession.
Question: Wow! More than 12 hours of work!
Answer: Yes, and most of your time is spent in preparation. Of course we take breaks in between; but only enough for a breather given the workload
Question: [deleted]
Answer: Eh hello you think the pineapple papaya jackfruit watermelon auto cut one is it. Apples and pears in packets are packed by hand leh.

It takes freaking 30-45 minutes to deshell a Jackfruit.

Question: Good for you. I used to work retail at a flower shop and the aunties that would do that e.g. compare prices to cold storage l/ntuc/ NURSERY made my blood boil
Answer: I feel for you so much
Question: Are there supermarkets near the wet market?
Answer: There is a NTUC opposite the wet market.
Question: You really did that to (potential) customers, telling them to gtfo?
Answer: Potential customer: wah so expensive NTUC cheaper and bigger size somemore

Me: you see opposite the shopping centre? Ok you cross the road, go up the stairs, walk straight straight, walk all the way in, ok you see NTUC right? Go there buy lor

Question: Have you ever tried explaining to them the intricacies of economies of scale and how big businesses are killing the mom-and-pop stores? And how a personalised gtfo, as opposed to a blank stare from the cashier, is invaluable in this increasingly faceless digital world we live in?
Answer: I think a few do understand because they head to NTUC, only to return and buy fruits from me. Lan lan suck thumb.
Question: Post bod pic,!
Answer: Kena stroke from shock
Question: What do you mean by changing consumer behaviour? Is it the fruits people are buying or where they are shopping?
Answer: Where they are shopping
Question: Pls do! You will never work for the man again.
Answer: Honestly???
Question: How can you tell if the watermelon has that powdery texture on the inside?
Answer: Abang, our eyes not x-ray la
Question: Punked like how? Inside rotten, or thick shell with very little meat?
Answer: Jackfruit: eh uncle I smell quite nice, can cut
* My father cuts it open *
Jackfruit: I’m not ripe and tasty yet hehehe
Question: (Not living in singapore) this is surprising, I’d have guessed that some delivery options would work so well in Singapore?
Answer: It would aka ubereats but we’re a small business. Delivery is premium operating cost.
Question: Honest I would pay extra for delivery from a small business that actually picks the fruits and is careful. Ordering fruits from redmart is complete chance either you get completely unripe stuff or you get crushed bananas at the bottom, pineapple on top. 😦
Answer: The latter will happen if the small business outsources its delivery to couriers. But the small business has inadequate resources for delivery.
Question: But Such stuff exists in China
Answer: You go China buy fruits lor
Question: Ok this is my nonsense observation as a consumer. If there are new residents with money near your market you need to be known for selling expensive fruits. It’s going to be tough for a while but rich people like expensive fruits. They will buy it. If your area is mainly aging, what sells are prayer type fruits. (but my market sellers are trying to reach the buyers of expensive fruit and veg)
Answer: We sell prayer type fruits with the occasional premiums
Question: It’s odd and they dunno what they are missing. I grew up in a old estate and still go back there. The fruits from the wet market are way better than the stuff at NTUC.
Answer: It’s always convenience + price war
Question: Grapes are considered premium fruits? TIL.
Answer: 1kg $10. Premium?
Question: [deleted]
Answer: From a marketing perspective I’d be inclined to agree with you, but my father would slap the living daylights out of you because you’re creating more and unnecessary work for him. He works on average 12 hour workdays.

Wet Market license does not allow us to sell fruit juice, only hawker stalls can

Question: > But there were parents who viewed me with disdain, one even whispering to her kids “don’t be like her in the future”.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but shiiiit. As if love and fulfillment have no meaning.

And uh

> her

HOW YOU DOIN’?

Answer: I’m doing good, thank you
Question: past employment speak hokkien. SAF? /s
Answer: No, I happened to work in an environment where Hokkien was the dialect mostly used to converse with colleagues and customers
Question: which market u at? pm me and i will come down and buy some banana
Answer: This is not meant to monetise my family business… I would be happier if you could buy your bananas at the wet market nearest to you.
Question: Thanks buddy, you cool.

Any thoughts about the long-term survivability of being a fruit-stall owner?

You’ve mentioned earlier that the younger generation favours places like Sheng Siong/Fairprice, and that your clientele isn’t getting any larger. Any ideas as to where to go next?

* Running a more client-supplier sort of service without a physical storefront?
* Selling more upmarket/premium fruits?
* Moving elsewhere?

Answer: I have discussed with my father about this and figured out that such expansions or diversification be too exhaustive on our resources. The wet market is something that is left behind; I find it sad that such heritage – a big part of the Singaporean life we grew up is not treasured and conserved. What makes the wet market so special is the humane touch – customers cheerfully greeting me ‘ah mooi today come help ah’ and my father upon seeing the regulars, scurrying off to the back to bring out the fruits he has set aside for them.

We do bring in upmarket and premium fruits but we end up not making money due to high costs. These fruits perish even faster in Singapore’s climate. Every spoilt fruit is a loss.

We have been in this neighbourhood since its beginning. Wouldn’t want to be displaced from our roots.

Question: Not parent but white. Never ripped off in sg yet, which is a joy compared to indo and thai. In fact the opposite – had to correct restaurant person’s math a few times and end up paying them more. Given one discount ever, which was 5c

Been refused service though.

Answer: Just don’t be rude and explain to the fruits uncles/aunties slowly and in simple English if you want specific fruits.
Question: True, but you did mention your profits are getting leaner right? Must’ve been a concern, no? Did your parents ever talk you out of continuing the business, or were they more insistent you carry on the tradition?
Answer: Profits leaner due to rising costs, inevitable, I would say. Well my father talked me out of continuing the business, and I do not have much motivation to continue the business. Last resort.. Working averagely 12 hour workdays is a killer.
Question: I checked my belly button, bo orange leh.
Answer: Ask fruit uncle/auntie for sunkist orange
Question: nz rose apples are lovely.
Answer: I’ll try to sneak one home every time we sell them
Question: So you do curate your stock?
Answer: Yes. For example, for apples and pears that we sell in packets of 6, those that aren’t aesthetically appealing are set aside, most ending up in trash.
Question: You still make a fair bit, I suppose. I’d support a local business over the corporate Cold Storages of the world. All the best.

An off topic question, if you do not mind: I’ve recently had a craving for chestnuts. Do you know any place I can get them raw?

Answer: As I said, what we earn is comfortable enough to survive in Singapore. Kannina don’t sabo leh later everyone go open fruit stall I die

Water chestnuts or those roasted chest nuts? Try the bigger wet markets

Question: Yes the round ones!
Answer: To be very blunt and honest, don’t buy those which the skin is greenish yellow. Buy those that are pastel light yellow
Question: Thank you. And Just one more question, which banana brand is the best? I prefer del monte, but is there anything better?
Answer: I sell bananas but I can’t eat bananas – one would have me end up camping in the toilet. My regulars love pisang berangan or pisang rastali. If you like Del Monte, rastali may suit you
Question: That must really suck. Usually at my market pre CNY brings the craziest crowd and those fruits sellers also sell until very very late
Answer: We don’t just work very late during Chinese New Year. We are at the store 24 hours; my father pulls the shutters down and catches a wink at the back.
Question: What about if the watermelon is cut and wrapped nicely.

Redder = sweeter or pale pink = sweeter?

Im not testing you dont get me wrong. I’m just prepping myself so i can look smart infront of my wife.

Answer: Redder = sweeter. Bright red and not dark red as per blood clot
Question: interesting. i never thought of it that way. Cold Storage is really turning me off by offering inferior fruits to its unsuspecting customers. i really hope to get a reliable source of fresh good quality food. At least i pay a premium and get good value.
Answer: How much of a premium are you willing to pay?
Question: I don’t like tart apples, either. Ambrosia has just a hint of tartness, and I find that refreshing.
Thanks for the AMA, and good luck with the business.
Answer: Thank you for participating 🙂
Question: Where’s the market? if it’s nearby me, i can go try out.
Answer: You can visit the wet market nearest to you
Question: I seem to think not many young people appreciate a good fruit nowadays. Perhaps they’re more satisfied with just the plain ol vanilla type of fruits. Always can use a good pomelo so if you do have that particular stock, would be more than glad to try.

Wonder if schools will consider taking bruised fruits because I definitely feel you when you mentioned wastage. I think Singapore is a pretty wasteful country not just in terms of fruits but a lot of stuff like the basic food and the works that just can’t get sold by end of the day.

Answer: I personally think organic composting is the way to go. New lease of life
Question: Is it… the bananas I see hanging around were in plain sight!
Answer: I don’t know about that, but don’t take those bananas…
Question: Like leftover for the day or after few days
Answer: We continue selling if still in good condition.
Question: Ever considered donating them to the zoo or the less fortunates? Thanks for the reply.
Answer: You mean the cui ones right? Yes am thinking
Question: Ya, I buy bruised fruits too, it’s a waste to throw them away, but milk? I dun dare, lol.
Answer: Milk be more risky. For milk near expiry dates I use them to make cream sauce for pasta.
Question: If you can get your hands on Eve Apples they’re so good; big, sweet and crunchy with just the right amount of tartness!
Answer: Will look out for them
Question: If they understand such things they wouldn’t be making noise over minor differences in price.
Answer: Overwhelming majority don’t
Question: [deleted]
Answer: I have no idea how cheap promotion prices at supermarkets can be.
Question: No worries. It is literally the only thing I can choose well. I can’t even make good life choices.

._.

Answer: You free to come help out at my stall?
Question: Yeah. Most times it looks paler though

Not sure about the other 2 :p

Answer: Once again, our eyes not x-ray
Question: Your comment makes me wish there’s an AMA from a joss paper shop owner/son…
Answer: That would be interesting
Question: It’s not only that, imo. I feel that wet market has the kampong spirit if that makes sense? I like the interaction with the sellers and once you know them, they would recommend you the good stuff etc etc. You don’t get this in supermarkets.
Answer: Yes but it seems that wet markets are losing
Question: I prefer to go for local bananas. The small one (pisang mas) is sweet, with thin skin. Pisang merah (red bananas) also nice, but hard to come across. They used to fruit at my parent’s house, or neighbours would give us extras.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/africa/local-bananas-a-cheat-sheet-on-the-common-banana-types-sold-here

Answer: We have pisang Merah in stock occasionally
Question: I learnt to use my palms….

After about ~10 years of semi ruined fruit.

Again I’m sorry to all the fruit sellers

Answer: It’s ok I love you
Question: You’ve probably answered already. Ever thought of doing a bit of B2B deliveries? There’s a pretty big market out there for fruits being delivered to the office, at least within the vicinity of your shop.
Answer: Resources resources resources
Question: When you are feeling constipated, do you tell other people that you jiak pa bo sai pang?
Answer: No I’ll just eat a banana and camp in the toilet for the next few days
Question: smith street?
Answer: No. Stall is located in an old neighbourhood where birds would think thrice about flying over there.
Question: Who’s tofu you want to eat?
Answer: Tom Hiddleston’s tau foo would be nice…
Question: how to tell if stallholders are friendly and not ‘angry’?
Answer: They are friendly always.
Question: Jesus. Your father is a much more disciplined, hardworking man than I could ever be. Respect
Answer: He’s a man of steel
Question: You ever think about how you could use modern marketing techniques to help the fruit business?
Answer: I have thought of it.
Question: lol relax leh its a AMA then u so fierce..
Answer: I’m so sorry will you like to have a green Apple? 50 cents no discount and pay by cash thanks
Question: [deleted]
Answer: Just being the snarky auntie at the Stall, don’t mind me.
Question: WOW big ups and respect to this. Tbh I never knew. I appreciate this so much!!! I’m a fan of fruit stores, I hate buying from super markets haha!
Answer: Be nice to all fruit uncles and aunties out there. Damn tough work.
Question: What are your long term plans for the stall?
Especially in the face of digital commerce and larger supermarkets.
Answer: No long term plans as of now; we just continue to run the business
Question: I like your attitude
Answer: Thank you.
I’m not well liked irl though
Question: lol…Somehow, I can just imagine you saying that with a grin.
Answer: 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️
Question: Yes!
Answer: It’s even harder than cracking my brains to deal with office politics.
Question: [deleted]
Answer: ‘sealing’ doesn’t really help… Contamination worries. We still sell the fruits and be frank to customers that it isn’t up to standard.
Question: …which you can charge to customers? I’m very sure that customers would understand if they have to pay a delivery fee if they choose to order online and have it delivered. If it’s not cost effective to deliver to only one person, maybe have deliveries set to every x-day of the week so you can do a one-shot delivery to everyone. Just food for thought I guess. I’d like to know why this is something that many stall holders don’t adopt, apart from being difficult to set up in the first place
Answer: Simple: additional workload + troublesome
Question: I’m thinking premium like durians.
Answer: We have had enough dealing with pineapple thorns. Not going to handle durians
Question: sry i got excited when i read “her”
Answer: Don’t get too excited. I’m sized UK10, the auntie at the wet market leh
Question: Oi write an article for Straits Times already la, surely will get published one. Résumé power + publicity for your dad.
Answer: My English is not that great yet, and my father is quite shy.
Question: That’s good talk – thanks for taking my questions seriously.

I came in some sense from the perspective of someone who lived in Tokyo for a bit; fruit parlors were a thing there since people have the mindset that fruits = dessert. That said their quality is really something also lah, but still. I was thinking if you’d actually expand/diversify into the F&B/cafe sort of retail thing too, but you’re right – it’s a resource drain.

I wholly agree – it’s a damn shame that things like wet markets are dying out, but it’s a little hypocritical of me since I barely go to wet markets and do my groceries only when I have time at night, and that means Fairprice loh bo pian one.

I hope you stay in business for awhile longer! I want to write about you (and the wet market business) someday.

Answer: My father will run the business for as long as he can. He’s a very active Lao Ah Beng.
Question: What if you sell your fruits like ang mo fruit markets? Place the fruits in angled boxes, to pretend have the illusion that they are full. Place clear signage with the fruit name, fruit source, local, organic, short description. Can get some wood pallets to make the racks, bam. Instant atas. Maybe reduce working hours

https://youtu.be/v_fX_HHAO1U

Answer: Bro we are in a old neighbourhood where sales peak during Pre CNY and 14th/end of every lunar month. My regulars are uncles and aunties. Being atas only scares them away.
Question: Ever thought of donating to places that could utilize these fruits? I mean they’re still edible. Maybe homes or reselling to the zoo at lower prices.
Answer: I can consider that
Question: So the lighter the better?
Answer: Yellow, not lighter
Question: Thanks bro…
Answer: I don’t have a wee wee but it’s ok I’m a bro to everyone
Question: ok i’ll earn some husband points with that info.

Thanks !

Answer: If you see the watermelon wedge darker at the rind, better choose another wedge
Question: I remembered I did pay $4 per Envy apple. I’m really price inelastic when it comes to fruits because if I don’t get them, my substitute would be ice cream which costs more and less healthy.

But I stop at those $65-$200 rock melons unless the Queen of England is visiting.

Answer: I see a market niche with people the likes of you but to be honest my resources are at stake
Question: If they xiao pi qi, flirt with them

Call them shuai ge or mei nu

Answer: We have a pro here
Question: only if you give me a uniform that says “watermelon specialist”
Answer: Can la I give you wear apron with ‘watermelon specialist’ printed on it
Question: Usually when people order fruits from online for delivery, they order from redmart tho. (my office did at least). Difficult for a small wet market stall to compete with redmart that is always available.

Also different clientele lah. Wet market fruit stalls mostly serve aunties (and uncles) who go to the wet market to buy other groceries too. People who order fruit online and get them delivered usually different bunch.

So like no point leh.

Answer: Word.
Question: Just a really wild idea. Maybe provide some colourful signs providing the pros of each different fruit. And also maybe turn it onto a hybrid fruit juice store? Might need a license for that though. All i am saying is, instead of whitling away, try to diversify or do something radical.
Answer: Bro most of my customers will not appreciate that.. It’ll scare them away.
Question: I know what I’m missing out on, unfortunately ntuc is walking distance for me and wet market need to take bus 😦 I wish I could go get fresh veggies also
Answer: Bullseye on this
Question: Hire someone to be the delivery person. Gotta invest something to see whether it works. But I suppose it’s easier said than done.
Answer: You paying for it? Sure.
Question: Use such kinds of milk for fermenting purposes. I bought some kefir grains on carousell and use near-expiry milk to make kefir regularly. Side benefits are such that I don’t rly buy sour cream or yoghurt much anymore.

So long as the beneficial bacteria crowd out the entire medium (milk) and the pH levels are altered through fermentation to become inhospitable to bad bacteria, it should be safe for consumption. I’m not dead yet at the very least.

Answer: Ah thanks for the heads up
Question: I love this op
Answer: ❤️❤️❤️
Question: What about their thoughts on laying eggs there?
That’s the important one.
Answer: The birds have to think hard and deep for this; it’d be a good training ground for the younglings to gain some life skills
Question: ok only if you give 2 free grapes.
Answer: 2 grapes ah not 2 packets of grapes
Question: Is the address on Facebook accurate?? Prolly not right… Hahaha
Answer: Lol I’ve never meant for the Facebook page to generate any revenue. Fake address
Question: What about delivery? Or bringing your products closer?

Lots of companies have fruits day.

Answer: Resources resources resources
Question: You’re not alone:/
Answer: It’s ok I have my teddy bear to join us
Question: > The wet market is something that is left behind; I find it sad that such heritage – a big part of the Singaporean life we grew up is not treasured and conserved. What makes the wet market so special is the humane touch – customers cheerfully greeting me ‘ah mooi today come help ah’ and my father upon seeing the regulars, scurrying off to the back to bring out the fruits he has set aside for them.

I think you might be underselling yourself. This bit is what I wanna see spread to the wider public, including the bit about the parents who tell their children not to be like you when they grow up.

You’ll need an editor, sure. But you’re not a shitty writer, mainly because you have something you feel deeply about 🙂

No pressure though, writing is a shit gig :p

Answer: >No pressure though, writing is a shit gig :p

As a corporate communications executive I wholly agree on this

Question: I want to buy fruits from him but I doubt he’ll doxx himself.
Answer: Her. Not about doxxing myself, but this AMA isn’t intended for monetisation. Buy from the wet markets close to you
Question: Mhm, I agree. I’d read an entire article like that. Those who dont usually step into a wet market wouldn’t be aware of this ‘wet-market experience’. I think an article on the life of a wet market stall helper would be an interesting read.
Answer: I’ll consider about this
Question: Yishun?
Answer: Nope. Nowhere near

Question: Auntie got poke the fruits until you cannot sell or not
Answer: Yes. A lot of fruits end up bruised. Worst case is customers digging their nails into the fruit. And not just limited to Aunties. I’m most scared of kids who pinch and dig their nails into the fruits, as if they are kneading play doh

Question: Do you earn a lot selling fruits?
Answer: Comfortable enough to survive in Singapore. Profit is lean, and getting leaner.

Question: What do you think about the food wastage situation in Singapore? Do you see customers avoiding bruised fruits so much so that they turn bad and have to be thrown away?
Answer: Food wastage is one big concern, and I foresee it to get worse, as a huge bulk of the younger generation grow up in a comfortable environment, almost privileged. Yes, customers do avoid bruised fruits and 99% of it has to be thrown away. A friend actually suggested for me to looking into organic composting, but that requires space – scarcity in Singapore.

Question: When you are all out of bananas, will you say bojio?
Answer: Bo kim jio

Question: how to tell if apple is crunchy, and not ‘powdery’
Answer: You got to see what type of apple it is. Buy South Africa top red (馬蹄蘋果) or New Zealand rose apples. Crisp and crunchy

Question: What is your typical working day like, from start to finish? Also OP, don’t forget to send verification to the mods so this thread don’t get locked
Answer: On a typical working day, my father wakes at 2am. He starts work at 3 preparing the fruits for sale. Morning crowd from 6am to 12pm. New stock arrive, he tidies up the stall, preparing more fruits for sale. His day ends around 7pm after the evening shopping crowd.

Usually he’s a one-man show with a helper in the morning and I help out occasionally on weekends and prayer days aka last day and 14th of every lunar month. My day starts from 6am to latest 3pm.

Question: Do supermarkets like NTUC and Shengsiong cause you to lose customers?
Answer: Yes, when the deciding factor is pricing.

There are people who come to our stall and compare prices of every single fruit to the prices of NTUC etc. I tell them to gtfo nicely

Question: In China, they purposely employ hunks and make them go topless when selling fruits. Will you do that?
Answer: I scared my regulars too excited until kena stroke

Question: how old are you?
Do you want to continue the business in the future?

Answer: I’m in my late 20s.
This is a good question; I’ve thought about it for the longest time ever and considering the changing consumer behaviour, as of now I have no plans to take over the business.

Question: Can you really tell how good/sweet/juicy the fruits are? How do you learn how to tell?

How to tell a good watermelon? I can never figure this one out. Once selected a watermelon that tasted more like cucumber, literally no joke.
Answer: This takes experience to tell whether a fruit is good. Also depends on luck. Jackfruit and melons are the hardest to tell, till now I cannot tell. There were occasions when my dad went knnccb after cutting the melons/jackfruit – he kena punked big time.

Question: Can we order online from the wet market? Sorry if it’s a dumb question. I’ve been here a month.
Answer: No. Digital commerce only served to shave off our lean profits even further

Please don’t go to wet market and ask this question, the stallholders would scold the living daylights out of you

Question: Just want to drop by to say that I enjoyed your AMA. Some of your reply are jin farni and informative. Additional point because you are a lady.
Answer: Thank you. Oh that gets a point too? Aw

Question: Does most of your business come from regular customers? Are you losing business to the supermarket chains?
Answer: Our fruits stall is located in an old neighbourhood where birds would think thrice about flying over there. Hence, a good majority of our customers are regulars, and they seem to trust only my father. Our loyal clientele is ageing, and new residents in the neighbourhood don’t shop at the wet market as much. We consistently lose business to the supermarket chains, been like this for ages, especially for premium fruits e.g. Grapes and peaches

Question: Thank you for doing this AMA. It’s very informative.
Answer: You’re welcome

Question: What is the biggest difference between buying fruits from a NTUC and a wet market fruit stall like yours?
Answer: NTUC – You only have yourself to blame if the fruits pai jiak

Wet Market – You can shift the blame to us

Question: The way you switch between standard English and Singlish is damn power, you must have done well in school. You also probably speak all the dialects.

How the hell did you manage to learn all that? And what’s your highest academic qualification, and do people think you’re wasting your time at the wet market?
Answer: Thank you for the compliment. I was never academically inclined but reading extensively during my childhood years had me on a better ground.

I am Teochew but I cannot speak Teochew, learned basic Hokkien during my past employment.

I am a degree holder. Well they are more interested in my life than in the wet market. But there were parents who viewed me with disdain, one even whispering to her kids “don’t be like her in the future”.

Question: Can teach me what are the “better” fruits to pick? Or, alternatively, do you push the crappy fruits onto unsuspecting customers?
Answer: No funny dents or mushy feelings when you hold the fruit on your hand.

I don’t, unless they were rude to my father, the other stall helper or me.

Question: True or false do you mark up the prices for a white
Expat vs a local?
Answer: For my family business- no.
For others – I don’t know.

Question: if a customer asks if a fruit is sweet, will you ever say no? my mum likes to ask this question but i tell her no point because they want you to buy so why would they say no even if its not sweet. my theory could be wrong!
Answer: I usually answer ‘ok lah’. This is one ambiguous question that you have got to manage their expectations carefully.

Question: Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen?
Answer: Uh, Apple pen.

There was a grandma who brought her grandchild on a learning trip at a wet market. She asked me to explain to the kid why was the pineapple different from an apple

Question: Damn you cool.

Just a thought – it seems like the real edge that you guys have over NTUC fruits is that you guys know your shit and pick good stuff instead of zam every fkshit, coz well, not all fruits that look good on the surface are actually tasty

How do y’all (if you do) play this to your advantage? Coz it seems like most of the population is ignorant.

I mean let’s be frank here, in the pragmatic Singapore not a lot of people will be concerned with the heritage value of wet markets when they are deciding where to get their fruits
Answer: We don’t actually play it to our advantage, we’re just doing business ethically

Question: Is there a trick to picking sweet oranges?
Answer: Go for navel oranges

Question: Feels like an ops nightmare imo, esp deciding what fruits to stock and optimum amount. Do you guys agar agar or go down a more tech/analytics path?
Answer: You don’t need tech/analytics for this. I can tell how much to order for the next day by monitoring sales. Today customers buy bananas tomorrow they whack grapes; trends too fast to track by tech. It also depends on the availability of specific fruits as well

Question: Why are soursops so expensive???!!!!
Answer: Because some smart alec said it has cancer treating properties and it went viral on the internet.

Question: [deleted]
Answer: 1. Fruits we cut for sale are aesthetically not appealing eg papayas with grey streaks on the skin. They are perfect for consumption.

2. Some people use such fruits for cooking/baking e.g. Bananas for Kueh. So we sell them at cost price. The remaining, we throw. I know some fruits (not my stall) goes into the fruit juice you drink.

3. We don’t sell durians. But I think the sharper the thorns are the better the durian

4. New Zealand rose apples

5. I don’t eat fruits regularly, and the times when I eat fruit are when
– Father brings home fruits aka those near the end of their shelf life
– I’m at the Stall

Question: Honestly -what is your opinion on the fruit stock at supermarket chains? I have an aunt who buys exclusively from family businesses like yours cos she thinks those at the chains are lousy- store managers don’t care as much as the uncle who’s been hawking his wares for 20+ years and only want the good stuff for his clientele.
Correct me if I’m mistaken but don’t the fruits all come from the same few suppliers given we’re a small island state? It’s not like you can drive out to the plantations, sample and pick your favourites to sell.
Thanks!
Answer: Stocks mostly same but what differs is whether I sell as it is or I curate what I sell

Question: How do you feel about Catalonia leaving Spain ?
Answer: Is it going to impact the imports of Spain fruits into Singapore?

Question: What are the cheapest fruits to get for each month?
Answer: Stick to good old bananas

Question: do you believe in the power of papaya milk?
Answer: I haven’t had the need for that, so I don’t know if I believe

Question: Firstly, I love your FB page, and would love to drop by sometimes.

1. What are your profit margins? A range is adequate.
2. How do you plan to compete against Sheng siong?
3. What % of fruit gets sold, wasted, put to other uses, etc?
4. Where do you source your fruit from, and how do you check their claims?
5. I bought an apple once from somewhere in sg, and it did not spoil for 3 months. Is this even healthy? Where are these being sourced from?
Answer: Thank you for liking my content.

1. If big-scale wet market fruit stalls can earn $10K a month, we are comparatively smaller scale and of course earn much lesser than them
2. It’s a losing battle so we just sell whatever we can
3. ~75 to 85% gets sold. The rest either are unsuitable for sale, or perish over time.
4. Our suppliers are from Singapore and Malaysia. Suppliers check, not us
5. If you would think it optimistically, the apple is genetically modified.

Question: How to get powdery red apples? Those are awesome.
Answer: Not sure if Gaia apples are the ones you’re looking for

Question: Please teach me how to choose the sweetest Chinese pears! I love them but they are so hit and miss for me.
Answer: What type of Chinese pears are you referring to? Chinese White pears (鴨梨)?

Question: do u know what’s the right way to pick the best fruits? like how do u tell which would taste the best n stuff
Answer: No definite way to tell. As long as no funny dents or mushy feeling you’re safe

Question: Which fruits type is you most profitable and is there any fruits for you guys which you buy very cheap and sell it very high?
Answer: We sell a lot of bananas, watermelons, apples and pears. They bring in bulk of the revenue.

For us, we aren’t a wholesaler. We wouldnt be capable to buy cheap and sell them to pocket high profits

Question: Is it true that sales peak during pre CNY and during the first/fifteen lunar month ?
Answer: Yes. For Pre-CNY we work until we don’t even have the time to do spring cleaning at home. Spring cleaning is done on CNY eve.

Question: Ok real question.

 

What are some tips on choosing fruits that you need to cut into(cannot eat from outside) like Papaya, water melons etc.
Answer: Papaya: you’ll feel that the skin is more sticky, and you feel its weight sink into your palms.

Watermelon: solid sound when you slap it. Colour sorta fades when they are riper when harvested

Question: I choose fruits by picking the ones closest to me, so that I can GTFO asap. So far it’s been working fine, but is there any reasons not to do this?
Answer: The probability of you grabbing one that has worms and not realise until you get home

Question: What is the worst customer you’ve ever met?

 

Follow up question, how do u deal with those that look down on you for doing these types of jobs?
Answer: 1. This dude who paid with a $1000 note for $10+ worth of fruits. Emptied our cash float for him.

2. 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️ and speak to them in perfect English with some angmoh accent. Just joking. I hope their kids or themselves become some high flyer in the future.

Question: whats the best time to buy fruits at cheapest value.
Answer: Lion time. No, there’s no such time for cheapest value. Unless the fruits are about to be spoilt.

Question: and also why fruit vendor like to sell spoilt avocados 😦 ?
Answer: Eh hello we won’t know either. You think our eyes got x-ray ah

Question: I noticed the fruits these days are not as fresh as they used to be.

Case in point, Envy apples which I had to pay a premium on. Their taste and texture used to be on point but these days they are a gamble. Most of the time they are soggy and tasted like they have been on the shelf for 6 months.

Is Singapore getting fruits that area left unsold from the country of produce?
Answer: I also encounter such issues when curating the stock for sale. According to experts, quality is impacted by weather.

Question: How come we don’t get Ambrosia apples very often, compared to Envy, Gala, Rose, etc?
Answer: I sincerely have no idea about this. That being said, I observe Singaporeans to like apples that are crisp and crunchy and sweet. Not so much of tartness

Question: Just an idea, maybe it would help if you send out regular mailers to us younger folks like hey new stock coming in , come get them fresh. My experience so far has been to get the freshest produce whenever possible, whether it’s ripe or not, so long it’s fresh, you can keep it at home till it’s good for eating.

I had shopped at supermarket chains, local wet markets and even all the way to Pasir Panjang wholesale market. Fruits that are the freshest are almost always the best. What I had noticed, for fruits, the difference in price is quite slight at all these places, it’s cheapest at the wholesaler but the savings for consumer quantities are not enough to warrant the long trip there. Supermarket chains almost always rank the lowest in terms of fresh, because I suspect they push them around different branches to clear them out. The wet market is the in between. Problem is, I don’t go there everyday so I don’t know what’s the new stuff. I can’t really rely on the seller too, because everything is fresh and everything is sweet. Which I totally understand, since he has to try to clear his stuff.

So to surmise my rambling, what’s your newest stock? I want spanish melons, that weird long finger grapes, cara cara, buah luku, the soft green pears but so fresh that it snaps, crunchy rose apples, pakistan mangoes and man i feel so old.
Answer: EDMs to update stock – can be done.

New Zealand rose apples, Australian sunkist oranges, USA grapes. Spanish mini tangerines out of stock. We have the soft green pears. No mangoes. May have pisang merah hidden in the stock of bananas.

Question: The dragonfruits from Ecuador are amazing but expensive af too. Rainer cherries are nice too. Do you foresee the younger generation picking up more exotic fruits?

P.S: Besides Sunny Fruit, which are the other Tambun pomelos good?
Answer: I don’t see the younger regulars to have that much of an appetite for exotic fruits though.

There was this particular pomelo that we had to specially drive to the wholesaler to pick up more stock… I forgot what brand it was already. Some Chinese dude name.

Question: I saw your fb and saw that you have the “fun-sized” grapes in one of the photos.. I visit one of the fruit stores near my house whenever I want to get the good stuff. All their fruits are more expensive but they are fresh and sweet. Every store owner usually advertises their fruits as sweet but this one proved to be true. I hope the younger crowd will also learn to go to your store and figure out those at NTUC are sometimes mass imported (don’t taste as nice)..
Answer: The funniest thing I hear:
EH YOU KNOW THAT DAY I GO NTUC BUY FRUITS WAH VERY FRESH AND GOOD

Question: why i can only find the mild-tasting , long pale yellow mango.
Why nobody stocks the rounder, more intense tasting mango with donald-trump coloured flesh?
Answer: That’s Australian(?) mangoes and they are expensive

Question: I always try to buy fruits from the wet market but i can get them at a cheaper price at ntuc and giant. What sets you apart from these big companies?
Answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68

Question: What could you do to help out your Father’s business? Or people as general could do to help? I love the idea of keeping our neighbourhood wet stalls a thing, but as time goes by the younger the generation would not buy from wet market anymore..so what could you do to change the younger people’s generation perspective? Share with me your opinion
Answer: The business model has to change to a certain extent. But that also means it may lose the humane touch that first makes the business distinctive.

Question: Tell us what are the benefits in buying from a stall like yours vs ntuc?
Answer: https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68https://www.reddit.com/r/singapore/comments/7563zj/comment/do41g1j?st=J8JU9YAO&sh=8e538b68

Question: Do you see this as a long term career?

What are some of the challenges you feel are distinct to your job?

 

Answer: Of course not lol. The main challenge is to swallow the fact that this is a menial job that zaps you of your soul

Question: I see people knocking the watermelon. Why?
Answer: To see if it’s good for eating or not. Comb the replies for expert advice.

Question: That’s what I hoped! Maybe mention your stall, guess you would get a lot of new customers after your ama 🙂
Answer: No; not going to monetise this AMA.

Question: which time of the year is best to buy certain fruits?
Answer: Tiger time

Question: I dunno have it been asked yet. How do fruit stalls hang bananas unguarded overnight without fear of them getting stolen? Security cameras or plan faith in humanity?
Answer: Each stall has shutters la, of course the stall owners will shift the bananas into the stall and lock up

Question: not sure whether this is sensitive, but how much on average does a fruit stall earn a month?
Answer: I’ve answered this question earlier – our earnings are comfortable enough to survive in one of the world’s most expensive cities

Question: I am curious ah – what happens to those fruits that are not sold?
Answer: What is your definition of ‘not sold’?

Question: I love the humour on the FB’s post.

I know your are not suppose to promote your stall, but shouldn’t it be wise to an address to it?
Answer: It’s for me to practise social media content curation. No intention to monetise it

Question: my mom and me enjoyed dragon fruits alot, how do i know which is a good one, and how do i know the meat inside is purple or white
Answer: Must feel that it’s firm and not mushy. Weight falls into your palms. Purple ones are darker in colour. Tips be yellowish.

Best way – just ask. We don’t bite

Question: A thought to monetise papayas better … When I was in Brazil, they served this drink called Papaya cream. It was heavenly. I think it is blending a fresh papaya and vanilla ice cream into a milk shake like drink.

I don’t see folks selling here… Perhaps a chance to take the market here ?
Answer: I’d have to rent a hawker stall for this

Question: Do you see yourself doing this job 10 years later?
Answer: I don’t know if the business, or to say, wet markets will exist 10 years later

Question: [deleted]
Answer: No

Question: Do you, as a result of your profession, eat more fruits?
Answer: Eat until scared

Question: Recommendations (most bang-for-buck in terms of nutrition) for somebody who frequently constipates a lot?
Answer: Bananas.

Question: Glad to see young ppl still doing this kind of thing. Let’s partner and start a hipster farmers market for the millennial
Answer: You do know that we will most likely end up starving right

Question: Is the wet market under HDB? How much rental does your family pay every month?

Speaking of ownership, that reminds me of the news that Sheng Siong buying some wet markets years ago… assuming it wants to purchase the wet market, would you want your family to continue the business?
Answer: Wet markets are under NEA. A stall’s rental is approximately $300-400 every month.

Nope.

Question: cheap fruit protip: Go to Singapore General Hospital on Tuesdays and Thursday’s . Whole day they selling fruit at temporary stalls throughout the hospital. Academia building and Eye Center building.
Wait till nearly 4.30 or 5 and the fruit sellers getting ready to pack up and go.
Go in and lowball them. Profit.
Answer: You know what happens when you lowball the fruit uncles and aunties? If me I’ll prolly throw your fruits into the plastic bag. You end up with cheap and bruised fruits. Customers who lowball are fucking cheapskate and unethical. No doubt we will want to clear stock as much as possible but that’s no reason for you to lowball. Please don’t lowball. We are just trying to make a honest living.

Question: What’s your store’s average monthly revenue?

What are your margins like?
Answer: Comb the replies.

Question: How do you guys handle unsold fruits?
Answer: Continue selling unless they cui

Question: Yep the cui ones. Thanks.
Answer: Am thinking

Question: Where sia ur fruits stall
Answer: You need not specially visit my fruit stall, just head down to the wet market nearest to you

Question: Not sure if you will see this comment but are there any memorable encounters with customers that you can remember?
Answer: I think I mentioned 3 incidents in previous replies but ima add more

1. One who whispered to her child “don’t be like her in the future” while gesturing to me
2. Grandma who brought her grandkid to wet market, asking me to explain the difference between pineapple and apple
3. The rich dude who paid with a $1000 note and emptied our cash float
4. This cheerful jovial grandma who was a regular at our stall. She passed away quite suddenly; she bought fruits from us and few days later we heard about her passing.
5. There are buses ferrying office workers to This market for lunch. This office worker would walk up and down scrutinising the fruits and NOT BUY ANYTHING. Knn
6. This uncle who got upset because I die die didn’t give him $1 discount for 3 packets of Jackfruit.
7. This auntie who always fxxking take extra plastic bags for her purchases. 1 watermelon wedge 3 plastic bags. Knn knn
8. The customers who ask for multiple bunches of bananas to be brought down the hangers for their selection. Knn they think they at thai disco hang flower. Some bunches can weigh up to 4kg. I once hurt my wrist because of this.
9. This idiot who insisted on making payment by Visa.
10. There was this customer who misplaced her new broom while shopping. She suspected that we stole it. Siao eh
11. On some days the Stall closes early because we have errands to run, or my father returns home to rest. There was this time where this self-entitled prick questioned why we didn’t wait for him/her before closing for the day. Siao eh x2
12. This joker who paid 50 cents for $5 pack of fruits. I almost flip table.
13. The jokers who say, “give discount la, earn so much for what? Earn lesser la”

Question: Have you considered in specialising in say, durian, rather than a wide range of fruits? It reduces the range of your suppliers and you have a fairly stable clientele, with not as intense competition from NTUC…
Answer: I have had enough dealing with pineapple thorns. Not feasible given the limited storage space we have

Question: Do you ever make interesting fruit combination sets for sale like one banana, two rambutans and a complimentary bird’s nest ?
Answer: No, we are far too busy to come up with these wayang

Question: Can someone explain hookups in general? Youve only met the person for like an hour then you have sex liao wtf?? There’s so much risks isnt there?
Answer: It’s difficult for me to answer your question when I’m no psychology/sociology expert. I am a marketer and a fruits seller… Anyone can help this soul here?

Question: Im a fan of le ‘powdery’ apples, always seem to be random and inconsistent between brands. Im gona assume its just some weird mutation with the apple. Any telltale signs of an apple that is ‘powdery’?
Answer: Buy China Fuji la

Question: I have a question that comes in quite late, hope you can answer it…

does your business buy from NTUC or SS fruits to resell when they are running promotions?

everytime see them put up signs like, limited to 6 per customers, citing they do not want people to abuse the promotions..
Answer: A big NO. We not that cheapskate.

Question: I think I’m pretty decent at choosing watermelons, so I’ll weigh in!

For juiciness, slap the watermelon. You don’t want those with a hollower sound. You can also physically weigh the watermelons.

For sweetness, look for watermelons with big white patches. The soils are acidic (I think). Watermelons which are harvested after they’ve been there for a long time (i.e riper) will be discoloured.
Answer: Thank you for this, because I’m totally hopeless in choosing watermelons.

Question: 紅毛榴槤 is naturally a more well endowed fruit, it costs more because of its succulent white flesh that is prized by locals
Answer: The price has gone up by $4 over the past 2 years. Go figure.

Question: Also interested in this question! Regardless of price, would you say you offer a better quality product than the supermarket? (Which shouldn’t be difficult since most their products taste like water)
Answer: Yes

Question: I used to poke the cut watermelons in wet market when i was young until the stall owner chided me. Since then i realised i was ruining their business and stopped. I understand what you mean when you say this
Answer: Thank you for stopping your antics so we the wet market stall owners can buy extra chicken rice

Question: IM SORRYYYY OK

My nails always grow fast, not even 3 week then mother will nag to cut. So sometimes i hold fruit i accidentally pinch them… had to explain to my mother why one time nearly drop fruit then end up got ‘claw mark’
Answer: Hold with your fingers and not your nails

Question: What do you do when you see them poking fruits? Do you tell them to stop on the first poke?
Answer: Death glare. If they don’t stop, I tell them off.

Question: Anything else other than selling fruits in the market? I.e. other revenue streams?
Answer: Have some thoughts. Am calculating investments now

Question: I buy bruised fruits, milk that expiring soon etc because i feel sayang imagine they are being thrown away soon. I not dare to tell people because I scared they say I stupid.
Answer: We need more people like you.

Question: Discount bin concept, does it work?
Answer: Works to a certain extent

Question: Would juice stalls buy these bruised fruits since no customer will see them anyways? Taste same, used quickly, no? Maybe could make some discount deal with some.
Answer: Fruit juice stalls have their respective suppliers.

Question: If we specifically ask to purchase the bruised fruits/vegetables, will have discount a not?
Answer: Yes

Question: When people ask what is the thing that you like to eat the most, do you say jiak jua?
Answer: Nope, I say I jiak tau foo.

That being said the market we are at houses one kickass Yong tau foo

Question: cool thanks man
Answer: Can always check with the friendly stallholders

Question: I’m always a big fan of apples, my favorite ones are the New Zealand Jazz Apple. What’s yours?
Answer: New Zealand Rose apples

Question: Oh man, what time does your dad go to sleep? That’s a 16 hour work day.
Answer: 9pm.

Question: You have a regular job during the week?
Answer: Yes, Marketer by profession.

Question: Wow! More than 12 hours of work!
Answer: Yes, and most of your time is spent in preparation. Of course we take breaks in between; but only enough for a breather given the workload

Question: [deleted]
Answer: Eh hello you think the pineapple papaya jackfruit watermelon auto cut one is it. Apples and pears in packets are packed by hand leh.

It takes freaking 30-45 minutes to deshell a Jackfruit.

Question: Good for you. I used to work retail at a flower shop and the aunties that would do that e.g. compare prices to cold storage l/ntuc/ NURSERY made my blood boil
Answer: I feel for you so much

Question: Are there supermarkets near the wet market?
Answer: There is a NTUC opposite the wet market.

Question: You really did that to (potential) customers, telling them to gtfo?
Answer: Potential customer: wah so expensive NTUC cheaper and bigger size somemore

Me: you see opposite the shopping centre? Ok you cross the road, go up the stairs, walk straight straight, walk all the way in, ok you see NTUC right? Go there buy lor

Question: Have you ever tried explaining to them the intricacies of economies of scale and how big businesses are killing the mom-and-pop stores? And how a personalised gtfo, as opposed to a blank stare from the cashier, is invaluable in this increasingly faceless digital world we live in?
Answer: I think a few do understand because they head to NTUC, only to return and buy fruits from me. Lan lan suck thumb.

Question: Post bod pic,!
Answer: Kena stroke from shock

Question: What do you mean by changing consumer behaviour? Is it the fruits people are buying or where they are shopping?
Answer: Where they are shopping

Question: Pls do! You will never work for the man again.
Answer: Honestly???

Question: How can you tell if the watermelon has that powdery texture on the inside?
Answer: Abang, our eyes not x-ray la

Question: Punked like how? Inside rotten, or thick shell with very little meat?
Answer: Jackfruit: eh uncle I smell quite nice, can cut
* My father cuts it open *
Jackfruit: I’m not ripe and tasty yet hehehe

Question: (Not living in singapore) this is surprising, I’d have guessed that some delivery options would work so well in Singapore?
Answer: It would aka ubereats but we’re a small business. Delivery is premium operating cost.

Question: Honest I would pay extra for delivery from a small business that actually picks the fruits and is careful. Ordering fruits from redmart is complete chance either you get completely unripe stuff or you get crushed bananas at the bottom, pineapple on top. 😦
Answer: The latter will happen if the small business outsources its delivery to couriers. But the small business has inadequate resources for delivery.

Question: But Such stuff exists in China
Answer: You go China buy fruits lor

Question: Ok this is my nonsense observation as a consumer. If there are new residents with money near your market you need to be known for selling expensive fruits. It’s going to be tough for a while but rich people like expensive fruits. They will buy it. If your area is mainly aging, what sells are prayer type fruits. (but my market sellers are trying to reach the buyers of expensive fruit and veg)
Answer: We sell prayer type fruits with the occasional premiums

Question: It’s odd and they dunno what they are missing. I grew up in a old estate and still go back there. The fruits from the wet market are way better than the stuff at NTUC.
Answer: It’s always convenience + price war

Question: Grapes are considered premium fruits? TIL.
Answer: 1kg $10. Premium?

Question: [deleted]
Answer: From a marketing perspective I’d be inclined to agree with you, but my father would slap the living daylights out of you because you’re creating more and unnecessary work for him. He works on average 12 hour workdays.

Wet Market license does not allow us to sell fruit juice, only hawker stalls can

Question: > But there were parents who viewed me with disdain, one even whispering to her kids “don’t be like her in the future”.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but shiiiit. As if love and fulfillment have no meaning.

And uh

> her

HOW YOU DOIN’?
Answer: I’m doing good, thank you

Question: past employment speak hokkien. SAF? /s
Answer: No, I happened to work in an environment where Hokkien was the dialect mostly used to converse with colleagues and customers

Question: which market u at? pm me and i will come down and buy some banana
Answer: This is not meant to monetise my family business… I would be happier if you could buy your bananas at the wet market nearest to you.

Question: Thanks buddy, you cool.

Any thoughts about the long-term survivability of being a fruit-stall owner?

You’ve mentioned earlier that the younger generation favours places like Sheng Siong/Fairprice, and that your clientele isn’t getting any larger. Any ideas as to where to go next?

* Running a more client-supplier sort of service without a physical storefront?
* Selling more upmarket/premium fruits?
* Moving elsewhere?
Answer: I have discussed with my father about this and figured out that such expansions or diversification be too exhaustive on our resources. The wet market is something that is left behind; I find it sad that such heritage – a big part of the Singaporean life we grew up is not treasured and conserved. What makes the wet market so special is the humane touch – customers cheerfully greeting me ‘ah mooi today come help ah’ and my father upon seeing the regulars, scurrying off to the back to bring out the fruits he has set aside for them.

 

We do bring in upmarket and premium fruits but we end up not making money due to high costs. These fruits perish even faster in Singapore’s climate. Every spoilt fruit is a loss.

We have been in this neighbourhood since its beginning. Wouldn’t want to be displaced from our roots.

Question: Not parent but white. Never ripped off in sg yet, which is a joy compared to indo and thai. In fact the opposite – had to correct restaurant person’s math a few times and end up paying them more. Given one discount ever, which was 5c

Been refused service though.
Answer: Just don’t be rude and explain to the fruits uncles/aunties slowly and in simple English if you want specific fruits.

Question: True, but you did mention your profits are getting leaner right? Must’ve been a concern, no? Did your parents ever talk you out of continuing the business, or were they more insistent you carry on the tradition?
Answer: Profits leaner due to rising costs, inevitable, I would say. Well my father talked me out of continuing the business, and I do not have much motivation to continue the business. Last resort.. Working averagely 12 hour workdays is a killer.

Question: I checked my belly button, bo orange leh.
Answer: Ask fruit uncle/auntie for sunkist orange

Question: nz rose apples are lovely.
Answer: I’ll try to sneak one home every time we sell them

Question: So you do curate your stock?
Answer: Yes. For example, for apples and pears that we sell in packets of 6, those that aren’t aesthetically appealing are set aside, most ending up in trash.

Question: You still make a fair bit, I suppose. I’d support a local business over the corporate Cold Storages of the world. All the best.

An off topic question, if you do not mind: I’ve recently had a craving for chestnuts. Do you know any place I can get them raw?
Answer: As I said, what we earn is comfortable enough to survive in Singapore. Kannina don’t sabo leh later everyone go open fruit stall I die

Water chestnuts or those roasted chest nuts? Try the bigger wet markets

Question: Yes the round ones!
Answer: To be very blunt and honest, don’t buy those which the skin is greenish yellow. Buy those that are pastel light yellow

Question: Thank you. And Just one more question, which banana brand is the best? I prefer del monte, but is there anything better?
Answer: I sell bananas but I can’t eat bananas – one would have me end up camping in the toilet. My regulars love pisang berangan or pisang rastali. If you like Del Monte, rastali may suit you

Question: That must really suck. Usually at my market pre CNY brings the craziest crowd and those fruits sellers also sell until very very late
Answer: We don’t just work very late during Chinese New Year. We are at the store 24 hours; my father pulls the shutters down and catches a wink at the back.

Question: What about if the watermelon is cut and wrapped nicely.

 

Redder = sweeter or pale pink = sweeter?

 

Im not testing you dont get me wrong. I’m just prepping myself so i can look smart infront of my wife.
Answer: Redder = sweeter. Bright red and not dark red as per blood clot

Question: interesting. i never thought of it that way. Cold Storage is really turning me off by offering inferior fruits to its unsuspecting customers. i really hope to get a reliable source of fresh good quality food. At least i pay a premium and get good value.
Answer: How much of a premium are you willing to pay?

Question: I don’t like tart apples, either. Ambrosia has just a hint of tartness, and I find that refreshing.
Thanks for the AMA, and good luck with the business.
Answer: Thank you for participating 🙂

Question: Where’s the market? if it’s nearby me, i can go try out.
Answer: You can visit the wet market nearest to you

Question: I seem to think not many young people appreciate a good fruit nowadays. Perhaps they’re more satisfied with just the plain ol vanilla type of fruits. Always can use a good pomelo so if you do have that particular stock, would be more than glad to try.

Wonder if schools will consider taking bruised fruits because I definitely feel you when you mentioned wastage. I think Singapore is a pretty wasteful country not just in terms of fruits but a lot of stuff like the basic food and the works that just can’t get sold by end of the day.
Answer: I personally think organic composting is the way to go. New lease of life

Question: Is it… the bananas I see hanging around were in plain sight!
Answer: I don’t know about that, but don’t take those bananas…

Question: Like leftover for the day or after few days
Answer: We continue selling if still in good condition.

Question: Ever considered donating them to the zoo or the less fortunates? Thanks for the reply.
Answer: You mean the cui ones right? Yes am thinking

Question: Ya, I buy bruised fruits too, it’s a waste to throw them away, but milk? I dun dare, lol.
Answer: Milk be more risky. For milk near expiry dates I use them to make cream sauce for pasta.

Question: If you can get your hands on Eve Apples they’re so good; big, sweet and crunchy with just the right amount of tartness!
Answer: Will look out for them

Question: If they understand such things they wouldn’t be making noise over minor differences in price.
Answer: Overwhelming majority don’t

Question: [deleted]
Answer: I have no idea how cheap promotion prices at supermarkets can be.

Question: No worries. It is literally the only thing I can choose well. I can’t even make good life choices.

._.
Answer: You free to come help out at my stall?

Question: Yeah. Most times it looks paler though

Not sure about the other 2 :p
Answer: Once again, our eyes not x-ray

Question: Your comment makes me wish there’s an AMA from a joss paper shop owner/son…
Answer: That would be interesting

Question: It’s not only that, imo. I feel that wet market has the kampong spirit if that makes sense? I like the interaction with the sellers and once you know them, they would recommend you the good stuff etc etc. You don’t get this in supermarkets.
Answer: Yes but it seems that wet markets are losing

Question: I prefer to go for local bananas. The small one (pisang mas) is sweet, with thin skin. Pisang merah (red bananas) also nice, but hard to come across. They used to fruit at my parent’s house, or neighbours would give us extras.

http://www.straitstimes.com/world/africa/local-bananas-a-cheat-sheet-on-the-common-banana-types-sold-here
Answer: We have pisang Merah in stock occasionally

Question: I learnt to use my palms….

After about ~10 years of semi ruined fruit.

Again I’m sorry to all the fruit sellers
Answer: It’s ok I love you

Question: You’ve probably answered already. Ever thought of doing a bit of B2B deliveries? There’s a pretty big market out there for fruits being delivered to the office, at least within the vicinity of your shop.
Answer: Resources resources resources

Question: When you are feeling constipated, do you tell other people that you jiak pa bo sai pang?
Answer: No I’ll just eat a banana and camp in the toilet for the next few days

Question: smith street?
Answer: No. Stall is located in an old neighbourhood where birds would think thrice about flying over there.

Question: Who’s tofu you want to eat?
Answer: Tom Hiddleston’s tau foo would be nice…

Question: how to tell if stallholders are friendly and not ‘angry’?
Answer: They are friendly always.

Question: Jesus. Your father is a much more disciplined, hardworking man than I could ever be. Respect
Answer: He’s a man of steel

Question: You ever think about how you could use modern marketing techniques to help the fruit business?
Answer: I have thought of it.

Question: lol relax leh its a AMA then u so fierce..
Answer: I’m so sorry will you like to have a green Apple? 50 cents no discount and pay by cash thanks

Question: [deleted]
Answer: Just being the snarky auntie at the Stall, don’t mind me.

Question: WOW big ups and respect to this. Tbh I never knew. I appreciate this so much!!! I’m a fan of fruit stores, I hate buying from super markets haha!
Answer: Be nice to all fruit uncles and aunties out there. Damn tough work.

Question: What are your long term plans for the stall?
Especially in the face of digital commerce and larger supermarkets.
Answer: No long term plans as of now; we just continue to run the business

Question: I like your attitude
Answer: Thank you.
I’m not well liked irl though

Question: lol…Somehow, I can just imagine you saying that with a grin.
Answer: 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️

Question: Yes!
Answer: It’s even harder than cracking my brains to deal with office politics.

Question: [deleted]
Answer: ‘sealing’ doesn’t really help… Contamination worries. We still sell the fruits and be frank to customers that it isn’t up to standard.

Question: …which you can charge to customers? I’m very sure that customers would understand if they have to pay a delivery fee if they choose to order online and have it delivered. If it’s not cost effective to deliver to only one person, maybe have deliveries set to every x-day of the week so you can do a one-shot delivery to everyone. Just food for thought I guess. I’d like to know why this is something that many stall holders don’t adopt, apart from being difficult to set up in the first place
Answer: Simple: additional workload + troublesome

Question: I’m thinking premium like durians.
Answer: We have had enough dealing with pineapple thorns. Not going to handle durians

Question: sry i got excited when i read “her”
Answer: Don’t get too excited. I’m sized UK10, the auntie at the wet market leh

Question: Oi write an article for Straits Times already la, surely will get published one. Résumé power + publicity for your dad.
Answer: My English is not that great yet, and my father is quite shy.

Question: That’s good talk – thanks for taking my questions seriously.

I came in some sense from the perspective of someone who lived in Tokyo for a bit; fruit parlors were a thing there since people have the mindset that fruits = dessert. That said their quality is really something also lah, but still. I was thinking if you’d actually expand/diversify into the F&B/cafe sort of retail thing too, but you’re right – it’s a resource drain.

I wholly agree – it’s a damn shame that things like wet markets are dying out, but it’s a little hypocritical of me since I barely go to wet markets and do my groceries only when I have time at night, and that means Fairprice loh bo pian one.

I hope you stay in business for awhile longer! I want to write about you (and the wet market business) someday.
Answer: My father will run the business for as long as he can. He’s a very active Lao Ah Beng.

Question: What if you sell your fruits like ang mo fruit markets? Place the fruits in angled boxes, to pretend have the illusion that they are full. Place clear signage with the fruit name, fruit source, local, organic, short description. Can get some wood pallets to make the racks, bam. Instant atas. Maybe reduce working hours

Answer: Bro we are in a old neighbourhood where sales peak during Pre CNY and 14th/end of every lunar month. My regulars are uncles and aunties. Being atas only scares them away.

Question: Ever thought of donating to places that could utilize these fruits? I mean they’re still edible. Maybe homes or reselling to the zoo at lower prices.
Answer: I can consider that

Question: So the lighter the better?
Answer: Yellow, not lighter

Question: Thanks bro…
Answer: I don’t have a wee wee but it’s ok I’m a bro to everyone

Question: ok i’ll earn some husband points with that info.

 

Thanks !

Answer: If you see the watermelon wedge darker at the rind, better choose another wedge

Question: I remembered I did pay $4 per Envy apple. I’m really price inelastic when it comes to fruits because if I don’t get them, my substitute would be ice cream which costs more and less healthy.

But I stop at those $65-$200 rock melons unless the Queen of England is visiting.
Answer: I see a market niche with people the likes of you but to be honest my resources are at stake

Question: If they xiao pi qi, flirt with them

Call them shuai ge or mei nu
Answer: We have a pro here

Question: only if you give me a uniform that says “watermelon specialist”
Answer: Can la I give you wear apron with ‘watermelon specialist’ printed on it

Question: Usually when people order fruits from online for delivery, they order from redmart tho. (my office did at least). Difficult for a small wet market stall to compete with redmart that is always available.

Also different clientele lah. Wet market fruit stalls mostly serve aunties (and uncles) who go to the wet market to buy other groceries too. People who order fruit online and get them delivered usually different bunch.

So like no point leh.
Answer: Word.

Question: Just a really wild idea. Maybe provide some colourful signs providing the pros of each different fruit. And also maybe turn it onto a hybrid fruit juice store? Might need a license for that though. All i am saying is, instead of whitling away, try to diversify or do something radical.
Answer: Bro most of my customers will not appreciate that.. It’ll scare them away.

Question: I know what I’m missing out on, unfortunately ntuc is walking distance for me and wet market need to take bus 😦 I wish I could go get fresh veggies also
Answer: Bullseye on this

Question: Hire someone to be the delivery person. Gotta invest something to see whether it works. But I suppose it’s easier said than done.
Answer: You paying for it? Sure.

Question: Use such kinds of milk for fermenting purposes. I bought some kefir grains on carousell and use near-expiry milk to make kefir regularly. Side benefits are such that I don’t rly buy sour cream or yoghurt much anymore.

So long as the beneficial bacteria crowd out the entire medium (milk) and the pH levels are altered through fermentation to become inhospitable to bad bacteria, it should be safe for consumption. I’m not dead yet at the very least.
Answer: Ah thanks for the heads up

Question: I love this op
Answer: ❤️❤️❤️

Question: What about their thoughts on laying eggs there?
That’s the important one.
Answer: The birds have to think hard and deep for this; it’d be a good training ground for the younglings to gain some life skills

Question: ok only if you give 2 free grapes.
Answer: 2 grapes ah not 2 packets of grapes

Question: Is the address on Facebook accurate?? Prolly not right… Hahaha
Answer: Lol I’ve never meant for the Facebook page to generate any revenue. Fake address

Question: What about delivery? Or bringing your products closer?

Lots of companies have fruits day.
Answer: Resources resources resources

Question: You’re not alone:/
Answer: It’s ok I have my teddy bear to join us

Question: > The wet market is something that is left behind; I find it sad that such heritage – a big part of the Singaporean life we grew up is not treasured and conserved. What makes the wet market so special is the humane touch – customers cheerfully greeting me ‘ah mooi today come help ah’ and my father upon seeing the regulars, scurrying off to the back to bring out the fruits he has set aside for them.

I think you might be underselling yourself. This bit is what I wanna see spread to the wider public, including the bit about the parents who tell their children not to be like you when they grow up.

You’ll need an editor, sure. But you’re not a shitty writer, mainly because you have something you feel deeply about 🙂

No pressure though, writing is a shit gig :p
Answer: >No pressure though, writing is a shit gig :p

As a corporate communications executive I wholly agree on this

Question: I want to buy fruits from him but I doubt he’ll doxx himself.
Answer: Her. Not about doxxing myself, but this AMA isn’t intended for monetisation. Buy from the wet markets close to you

Question: Mhm, I agree. I’d read an entire article like that. Those who dont usually step into a wet market wouldn’t be aware of this ‘wet-market experience’. I think an article on the life of a wet market stall helper would be an interesting read.
Answer: I’ll consider about this

Question: Yishun?

Answer: Nope. Nowhere near