Whatever happened to betel chewing? NHB supporting research into various food histories

National Heritage Board supporting research into various food histories - past and present

Men digging for shellfish, including cockles, at Sungei Punggol during the 1950s. Shellfish was a key ingredient for laksa and the slaked lime paste used in betel quids.
Men digging for shellfish, including cockles, at Sungei Punggol during the 1950s. Shellfish was a key ingredient for laksa and the slaked lime paste used in betel quids. PHOTO: CLIFFORD STEWART SAUNDERS

The foot of Mount Palmer and the beaches of Sungei Punggol and Amber Road were sites in early Singapore where people were recorded making shallow holes in sand to dig up tiny, edible shellfish.

The cockle industry was relatively big here, noted commodities historian Geoffrey Pakiam, as the shellfish was not only integral to laksa but also an important ingredient for the slaked lime paste used in betel quids.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2019, with the headline 'Whatever happened to betel chewing?'. Subscribe