Walking along Jalan Air Itam at this time of the year, i.e. few days before Chinese New Year takes a lot of guts. You need to watch out for human traffic, huge buses, motorbikes and at the same time, you cannot take your eyes away from those interesting stuffs they are selling.
The fruits stall is doing brisk business because Chinese of the Taoist faith needs all kind of lucky fruits for their altars. In Penang, many tend to be more superstitious and they do a lot of elaborate stuffs and offer many things for good luck.
Tiny red pumpkin are auspicious because it sounds like gold melon (kim kua). Pomelo is popular with Cantonese. Some families bath with pomelo leaves before Chinese New Year to drive away the bad luck.
Pineapples are important because it means ‘luck is here’ or ong lai. The green funny looking melon is call the hor-lor and in Chinese mythology, they use it to store things like Alladin’s genie lamp. Sometimes, it is even used to catch the devil. Hehehe.
There are so many things sold at the wet market. It is good to buy things from these veteran stall holders because they usually know their stuffs well. They can teach how how to prepare a certain dish, how to enhance your food tastes with the things they sell and normally, they are rather honest because they are selling things there for years and will not risk their stall reputation. The above is a stall selling dried seafoods such as dried squids, dried shrimps, dried fish maw, dried oysters and etc.
Before you brave the crowd, sit down for some nice breakfast first. The above were our breakfast. It consists of chee cheong fun, char koay kark and koay teow thng. Once your stomach is filled, hit the road and mingle with the locals. Most of these stall owners are very friendly and they will ask you to take pictures of their stalls. They know that it may go up on the internet because some of them knows the power of the blog. I told them, “Wa eh blok, New York Times pun oo weh.” Hahaha.