The fasting month ushers in a time for reflection, and also offers the opportunity to renew bonds with friends and family. And being Malaysian, that connection is most often done over food!
This is where the tasty offerings of the Ramadhan Bazaar come in. A festive staple, the Ramadhan Bazaar is a much anticipated and lively affair, whether one is Muslim or not.
By 5pm, Malaysians of all stripes and backgrounds start to file in, growing more intense as the time approaches for breaking fast.
Kampung Baru hosts one of the most popular, though one of the smallest, bazaars in Greater Kuala Lumpur. The local mosque offers free bubur lambuk, a savoury porridge that is only available during Ramadhan, and the whole market comprises about 150 stalls offering all manner of local and “fusion” cuisine such as the lately ubiquitous pisang goreng cheese which has become a staple dessert over the last few years. If you’re lucky, you can get yours with chocolate or even salted caramel sauce for an even more decadent treat!
At the popular Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) bazaar, a neighbourly atmosphere remains despite the overwhelming crowds. Everyone greets each other merrily, and visitors exchange tips and jokes while lining up for the scrumptious food on offer.
Azze Ezzati, Porge Gam and Sharon Shamla are colleagues who have walked over from their nearby office. They look forward to the Ramadhan Bazaar every year.
“Our favourites are nasi kerabu and kuih pelita. But we also like to go over and over, to sample the different choices available and report back to the office on what is good,” they gushed.
Shahron Fitri, a stallholder who has worked for three years at the TTDI bazaar lives nearby and he loves the multiracial crowds and the chance to catch up with familiar faces as he sells his kerabu.
“It’s a great reason for everyone to gather and strengthen the neighbourhood community through a love of food,” Shahron said.
Shahron offers a different fare every year as a way to test the market. Last year it was Vietnamese spring rolls.
“Whatever is particularly popular, I put it on the regular menu of my catering business,” he explained.
Ijal Mahadi, who runs a successful satay business has made sure to participate in Ramadhan bazaars for the last 10 years. This was the first time he was at Kampung Baru, but he has tried out bazaars all across Greater KL.
“People enjoy the festive atmosphere and having lots of choices including delicacies that are not available the rest of the year. It is also very convenient for those who are working while also fasting. This way they don’t need to cook,” he said.
The Ramadhan Bazaar presents a lucrative annual opportunity for F&B entrepreneurs, and a spur to the local economy.
“Sales are very good, and I try to have multiple stalls in different bazaars. I can hire staff to man the stalls and thus offer work to others too,” he added.
Although most top ten lists would feature such stalwarts as the behemoth at Shah Alam Stadium or the upmarket bazaar at Bangsar, a hidden gem can be found nestled in between the Pantai Dalam PPR flats. Though not particularly large, it offers a very comprehensive experience.
A maze of snaking alleys with a dizzying variety of options, the site is a regular pasar malam (night market) the rest of the year. This allows visitors to not only sample the unique roti john cheese meleleh (omelette sandwich with meat and overflowing cheese) offered during Ramadhan, but they can also buy clothes, household utensils, and even fresh fish, vegetables and meats!
The Ramadhan Bazaar has become a Malaysian institution and it is no surprise that some take it very seriously. Every year, Shah Raym and his wife will test out as many bazaars as they can.
“We love the different choices and atmospheres. We like to search for the best one each year!” Shah enthused.