Malaysia’s street food is good at any time. A simple walk along any road can present you with the choice of an array of dishes that all represent a specific part of the country’s culinary heritage. What’s more the vendor you buy from is no doubt a culinary expert who has been making that single dish for most of his orher life and now has it down to an art form.
This is the normal scenario in Malaysia. Come to Malaysia during the Muslim holy festival of Ramadan and it is a different ball game altogether – and a better one at that. Because while you may think that during Ramadan food is hard to come by, the truth is actually the opposite; after a day of fasting the first thing on the minds of the locals is how much food they can stuff down their throats before dawn breaks and the fast kicks off again. As you might imagine, after a day without food, they
The street food scene caters to those needs, which is great news not only for the devoted Muslim but to every traveller who is lucky enough to be in town – whichever town that might be – at the right time. While the usual amount of street food might be impressive in itself, at Ramadan whole new bazaars set up, lining the street and offering every type of food imaginable, from light snacks to more fulfilling meals. When it is nearly time to break the fast, people begin to crowd around the stalls, snapping up anything – and everything – that catches their eye and takes their fancy, to take back home for a communal meal. Heading away with bag after bag filled to the brim with delicious, authentically Malaysian goodies is one ritual in which you too should be an active participant.
In the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Ramadan bazaars like these to look out for include the one in Bukit Bintang, on the junction of Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Sultan Ismail. Here you will find a whole array of colourful snacks – there are far too many to mention, but on the inside those curious looking banana leaves are stuffed with a fragrant and flaky fish cooked slowly in plenty of coconut milk. Keep an eye out, too, for the incredibly sweet doughnuts made with sweet potatoes but which taste just like they are real bread ones – irresistible! Finally, do not miss – repeat, do not miss – the murtabak stuffed roti pancakes Malaysia is famous for, but which really come into their own at this time of year.
For delicious nasi lemak, the famous national dish that includes chicken rendang curry, fluffy white rice, a hard boiled egg, cucumber, peanuts and, if you have found a good spot also some pappadam pieces, head to the west coast and hit up the market at Pandan Indah in Selangor. Jalan Makloom road in Georgetown, on the island of Penang, is a good bet for biryani served up with rice.
Of course, Malaysian satay and other dishes also feature heavily during Ramadan. Truth be told, the beauty at this time of year is not in any one particular dish – it lies in the sheer amount and variety of food available on every corner. It really is no exaggeration to say every type of Malaysian food imaginable is waiting for you to guzzle on and there is such a fun and exciting atmosphere in the crowds that surround the stalls around the time of sunset, desperate to get their hands on the foods they have been craving for all day. Stalls tend to begin setting up at around 3pm in preparation for sundown round 7.30pm.
Kebabs, deep fried crabs, nasi goreng (fried rice), crème caramel – in places you will even find Thai style somtum spicy green papaya salad – what more reason do you need to make Ramadan the time you visit Malaysia and discover its too little mentioned obsession with amazing food?
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