Roast Meat Seller, Tiong Bahru


Although it doesn’t show here, she was a very engaging lady. We had a lovely time exchanging casual and light-hearted banter in a mix of broken Mandarin and Singlish while waiting for her to chop and pack half a roasted duck which I had ordered.

Me: How much?

Lady: One eight.

Me (smiling): Only $1.80! Wah, best. Christmas come early liao.

Lady (chuckling): OK, lah, ok lah, boss not here. Take lah (obviously kidding).

Me: Eh, cannot lah. Paiseh, paiseh (as I handed over a $20 note).

More laughter. I receive my change.

She turns to her other companion, an elderly Chinese gentleman, and says “Heng, ah. Lucky I never cheat him. Néng jiǎng pǔtōnghuà.”

Of course, my Mandarin is pathetic. Enough for casual exchanges of niceties and for asking for reduced sugar in my kopi-o gao.

I make a comment about how I wouldn’t dare mess with her even if she cheated me, seeing the strength and skill in which she handled the cleaver. I told the elderly gentleman to be careful not to annoy her as well.

More laughter. Such a lovely way to buy something.

It felt so Christmas. It felt so quintessentially Singapore.

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