I can’t believe I have been going to Pontian for over 2 years and only just thought about blogging it. It is hardly a best-kept-secret or hidden gem!
Ironically, even though we are an island surrounded by the sea, we do not have a fishing community or fishermen so the markets here do not actually have the freshest fish. Even the fishery port here does not always have fresh fish because most of the local fish are fished or farmed from far-flung waters like Indonesia and then chilled and imported here which takes about 1-2 days. Malaysia, our closest neighbour, does not export most of their catch. So, the “freshest”, still-swimming seafood you can find here are mostly in restaurants and shellfish in supermarkets.
As far as I know, a lot of Singaporeans with very picky palates and in-the-know have been going to Pontian to get their hands on the freshest fish.
I have been returning to Pontian every 3-4 months or so. It used to be more often but I hardly travel into Malaysia nowadays due to a busier work/life schedule and travelling to Pontian is always a full-day affair. However, should you want to check this place out for yourselves, here are my tips and suggestions!
Pontian Wholesale Fish Market
Address : PASAR AWAM, 82000 PONTIAN, JOHOR Pontian , Malaysia
- Icebox(es) and, for good measure, ice packs
- Rubber boots or rain shoe covers – you might be tempted to wear slippers but it is a crowded and chaotic place with lots of people wearing boots, heavy baskets of fish and metal trolleys so I’d strongly advise against slippers. Plus, the floor is wet and slippery.
- Bottles of water for washing hands, feet and shoes! Taps are for a privilege few, namely the fishermen themselves.
Arrive at 11am
Unlike the fishery port in Singapore which operates during the wee hours of the morning, the Pontian Fish Market opens from 10am onwards and fishing boats usually only arrive around 11am or later. If you are early, check out the vegetables, fruits, fish and other seafood at the indoor market as that closes earlier (at noon). The vegetables are always worth buying and you might even score some delicious durians!
We also usually have some famous original Pontian Wanton Mee for breakfast.
Address: 766, Taman Anggerik, Jalan Parit Mesjid, Pontian, Johor
Take your time and go over to each stall to check out their prices and freshness. Do not be surprised to find some fishes still gasping their last breaths! They are that fresh! As the boats are of their own, the types of fish available depends on the season. Threadfins, snappers, seabass, groupers and pomfret are the more common catches and the prices are usually very affordable. My favourite is actually the mackerel as they are extremely fresh and tasty. I usually buy from either the first stall and the very last stall and I prefer the medium-sized fish. I notice many Singaporeans buy up the huge fishes but I think they are rather tough and chewy. And the large fishes are much more expensive and not quite worth it.
So once you find a fish that you like, just signal the fishmonger to come over and tell him if you’d prefer it to be scaled and sliced. The queue on the weekends are pretty long so be prepared to wait up to 30 minutes.
Save some of your shopping (fish head, crab, prawns, vegetables) because you can bring them to the restaurant just next door and have it cooked up for lunch. The restaurant doesn’t look very appealing or clean but their cooking is super delicious and cheap! My absolute favourite is their Teochew Steamed fish.
Here’s the catch: The wait is long, like reaaaally long. On some days we waited up to 2 hours. Some frequent visitors would send a member of their party to “chope” a seat first before the rest of the party arrives with the food so we learnt this trick from them. Unfortunately, it means someone unlucky has to sit in the hot, steamy restaurant for over an hour doing nothing but playing mind-numbing iPhone games and ordering numerous cold drinks which become warm in a matter of minutes in the heat and humidity of Malaysian weather.
After lunch I’d bet you’d be craving for somewhere that is cool and smells better but it is still worth a trip here and enjoy fresh and good fish and seafood!
At this time we will usually go shopping at Bukit Indah or KSL and end the day with dinner before returning to Singapore. If you packed the seafood well and your icebox is of a good kind, it would easily last until night. If not, you’ll just have to return to Singapore ASAP and hope that there’s no causeway jam!