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Ramadan Bazaar in Penang

 

Once a year, stretches of stalls pop-up in various areas in Penang selling delectable Malay fare for breaking fast during Muslim’s fasting month, Ramadan. By Su Aziz.

Ramadan Bazaar 1

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 Penang’s mainland.

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.

Malay Kuih

Malay Kuih
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.

Grilled Protein
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.

Ramadan Bazaar 2

Roti Jala
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.

Hari Raya Cookies
At a glance, they don’t differ much from cookies you serve during any Malaysian festival or celebration. However, the Hari Raya cookies are just that much more special because they are normally a little sweeter, more buttery and colourful. They may well reflect the very characters of the people that celebrate the festival.

Ramadan Bazaar 3

Liquids
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.

For a list of Ramdan Bazaars, click here.

All images credit to Su Aziz.