COVID-19 Update: Revised hours of 6am – 2pm. Closed on Mondays as usual and Thursdays for sanitation.
This may be hard to believe, but in this expat group that I am a part of, the other members constantly heaped praises on something as boring as the TTDI Wet Market.
Someone would buy chicken from the chain supermarket, only to find it smelly and rotten when they brought it home. They would cry out that there must have been a better way and invariably, there would be several chants of “TTDI wet market!” in response.
Nobody giving these suggestions ever mentioned any other details, like what it looked like inside or what cool stuff one could buy there. There was so little information out there yet it was name-dropped so often that it had become an almost mythical place. A haven of fresh fruit, veggies and meat that had been shrouded in mist to me. I, too, have many times needed to make my dinner suddenly vegetarian because of stinky chicken I bought that afternoon. I was determined to see if the TTDI wet market was the game-changer that others said it would be.
What’s For Sale
This red shingled building looks like a giant roof atop a very squat home. The main entrance is on Jalan Wan Kadir 2. The layout is a wide, main corridor with tables of wares set up in the middle. The stalls in the middle are a mishmash of things, from small nasi kandars to tables selling small housewares and confectionery. A couple of wings will branch off on either side. There’s also a walking path around the perimeter, so you don’t need to backtrack if you venture down one of the side corridors. If there is a holiday coming up, you will see many of the shops selling the appropriate goods. We came here around Chinese New Year, so almost every vendor that could get away with it was selling Chinese cookies and biscuits.
The shops along the sides consist of fruit and vegetable vendors, and many stalls selling fresh chicken or fish that all look the same. Some of the vegetables are quite cheap, but honestly, if you have to drive a far distance or take a Grabcar to get here, you’re not saving any money once you factor in the fare, gas or tolls. There was more variety of fruit than we’re used to, but normal things like pears were actually more expensive than what we normally get at our local outdoor market.
Buying meat is done as if you were at a butcher. These cuts of meat are unpackaged, so you can get exactly how much you need. The butchering process is done in full view of the customer, so you can customise the cuts. Prawns, scallops, giblets and other small items will be in plastic trays that the vendor will weigh for you. There is supposedly beef and pork vendors to be found, but I’ve never come across them. Maybe they’re in the basement level?
The vendors at the TTDI wet market are sort of a repeating sequence: chicken stall, fish stall, nasi kandar, fruit and veg stall, repeat. However, there are a few shops that occasionally break up the monotony. Vendors selling regular dried goods, like Maggi noodles and boxed spices, a florist right on the corner leading down a side hallway, a baking supply shop and one store selling live birds meant for auspicious release.
Most useful is the shop Lizar Chilli Curry Spices at lot TS 23. The spice lady, Roseline, sells everything an avid home cook needs to make Malaysian dishes. She has pre-chopped garlic, onions and tubs of wet pastes that you can buy by the pound. For utter beginners, she also sells prepackaged spice packs that identify which dish it is used for and with instructions in English on how to use and the serving yield. The last time we were here, she gave us a free sample of a small tub of chopped garlic. We were reluctant to take it because nothing is ever really free, but she insisted in that auntie way that is impossible to turn down. We took our sample and walked away from her shop… no hard sells or rude glares for not buying anything. In fact, she thanked us with a smile as we said goodbye. We thought we had won, reaping our spoils in this tub of garlic, but we were wrong. In the end, the chopped garlic proved to be an invaluable time-saver and Mark and I both agreed that we need to go and buy more because neither of us can go back to tediously chopping garlic again. A simple gesture on her part, but one that proves Roseline is a master saleswoman.
The second floor is depressingly deserted, with many of the stalls having their shutters down. There’s just a couple of nasi kandars and a noodle shop that is reliably open. This noodle stall sells everything you need for your next bowl of homemade laksa: all varieties of noodles, dried and fresh, and its accompaniments like fried tofu and such.
Ideally, you should hold it until you get somewhere less dingy, but if you need it, bathrooms do exist here at the wet market. They will be located on the outer edge – go down one of the side corridors and look for the signage up above that will point you to one. There will be three or so stalls, with squatters and toilets in them, but no toilet paper. Soap at the sink is a game of chance. Sometimes you might get actual liquid soap in the dispenser, other times you’ll get a sliver of dried out bar soap, and then there’s the possibility of no soap at all. The no soap is distressing, considering many of the vendors at the TTDI wet market are handling food. We encountered all three situations in the different bathrooms scattered around the wet market.
When to Visit
The best time to visit is weekend mornings, starting at 7am. Around this time is when the market will be buzzing with activity: vendors putting out their fresh wares and early birds getting the best catch. However, we’ve always come around 11am and still saw many stalls, especially on the first floor, still open. The market dies down after lunch, with many closing up shop as early as 12pm. Those that don’t sell highly perishable food like fish might stay open until as late as 3:30pm. Do not come on Mondays. This is the day when many vendors take the day off, so the wet market will be dead.
I remember being severely underwhelmed the first time I visited here after hearing all the hype. No doubt, this is definitely where the locals go. Though this is cleaner than other wet markets in KL, it still struck me as a shabby place. I won’t deny the freshness aspect, especially for the meat. It was a hot day and the meat had been sitting on ice for several hours, but the poultry or the fish didn’t smell funky when I was walking by. The prices for chicken parts were also lower than what I could get at my chain grocers. If you have a car and live relatively close by, this is the place to get your meat.
I won’t be a regular shopper at the TTDI wet market. The prices did not seem worth it to make a trip out here. I can’t see how anyone who has to drive for more than ten minutes to get here can save any money if they have to pay for tolls, gas and parking (although, parking is supposedly free on Sundays). As someone who would need to take a Grab, I would be spending more money to shop here… not to mention the awkwardness of holding a bag of raw chicken while sitting in some dude’s car. No, I’ll just have to resign myself to dubious poultry from the supermarket and be that person who sniffs their chicken in the middle of the Jaya Grocer before buying.
Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) Wet Market
185, Jalan Wan Kadir, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Ideal Shopping Hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 7am – 12pm