For a whole month, those observing fasting during
Ramadan abstain from food or drink during the day till dusk. To punctuate their
breaking fast, Ramadan bazaars in various areas in Penang pop-up from
around 4.30pm till around 7.30pm and they offer a large array of desserts,
savoury food and non-alcoholic drinks for take away. They are basically a
one-stop place for anyone interested to sample Penang’s halal street food. The
larger bazaars with the most varieties are the ones at Seberang Perai on
The array of dishes available at these bazaars for take-away may make your head spin. While it’s always fun to try a little bit of everything, moderation is key during Ramadhan. To keep greed at bay, here are a few recommendations of authentic local dishes to make food shopping at these bazaars a pleasurable (and quick) chore.
Malay Rice and Lauk
There is no better time to try Malay lauk (dishes) in Penang than during Ramadan. Here’s where you can pick at least five sort of curries at different levels of spiciness and vegetable dishes to go with a serving of white rice. Rule of thumb is, the more vividly red the colour of the curry, the spicier it is. Although, you shouldn’t be fooled by the lovely yellow hue of masak lemak cili padi because its unexpected bite from the small chilies meshed up in the gravy is known to make grown men cry.
What’s popular: Chicken curry, masak asam pedas fish and at times, they also
offer tomato-flavoured rice with chicken masak merah that is not too spicy.
It’s easy to spot a stall selling Malay desserts. It’s usually the one with the most colourful food. Usually consisting of coconut, coconut milk, sticky rice, sugar, palm sugar, flour and pandan flavours, Malay desserts are a must during breaking fast.
What’s popular: Kuih ketayap is a green flour-based skin wrapping shaved coconut cooked with palm sugar, seri muka comes in various colours but the most common is green and yellow top half of sweet rice flour with sticky rice at the bottom and onde-onde are small green balls of rice flour rolled in shaved coconut oozing with palm sugar inside.
The main aroma wafting from these Ramadan bazaars normally stem from the grilled fish, chicken or satay cooked over burning coal or fire. The result is a slightly smoky flavour to the meats. They will make your mouth water.
What’s popular: Ikan bakar or grilled fish is normally the local mackerel or
kembung and they come with assam dipping sauce, marinated chicken tandoori is
also popular with a wedge of lime and beef or chicken satay skewers are
accompanied by peanut sauce.
This yellow fragile, net-like, flour-based roti cooked over a thinly oiled flat pan is best dipped in Indian-style curry. Not all of the Ramadan bazaars offer this but you can certainly find it at the one at Little India in George Town.
Lemang and Rendang
The ultimate Hari Raya food, this roll of sticky rice is absolutely delicious with a pinch of rendang or thick, paste like curry of either chicken or beef. The best time to sniff this out at Ramadan Bazaars is towards the end of the fasting month. You may try your luck during the third or fourth week of Ramadan, they should be easier to find.
Freshly pressed sugar cane is a must to go with whatever food you buy from the bazaar. You’ll be able to hear the sugar cane stall from a mile away because the noisy buzz of the pressing machine truly adds to the festive ambience of the bazaars. Cendol is also on offer at these bazaars but bear in mind its shaved ice may melt by the time you get home.
All images credit to Su Aziz.