The fasting month of Ramadan starts mid-May this year, and you may be surprised to know that this is a really good time for foodies to discover real Malay food! This is the time when street markets come alive around 4:00 pm and food vendors start preparing ready-made meals for the Muslim faithful to take home to eat as soon as the sun sets.
If you do not know where to find your nearest Ramadan Bazaar, just ask a local or ask Google! Failing that, drive to Taman Perling or Bandar Baru Uda and find the bazaars there. Just look out for the rows of peaked canopies covering the food stalls, the smoke billowing from the satay stalls, and the mass of illegally parked cars and once you know what to look out for, you will start to see more of them as you drive around the region.
At the Ramadan Bazaars, you shop with your eyes and your nose so it does not matter if you cannot read the signs. Besides, the shopkeepers will want to sell you their wares, so I have found them to be super helpful. But one note of caution, this is not the place for hungry vegetarians! While a vegetarian might be able to buy a plain or cheese-filled murtabak (a pan-fried pancake), most of the savoury food stuffs are meat or fish-based.
The variety of food stuffs depend on the size of the bazaar, so the bigger the better! Most will have satay stalls, so look for the ones that serve up a spicy peanut sauce along with pressed rice and cucumber. The larger bazaars will have whole goats on a spit, and bubbling cauldrons of goat stew. There are also stalls with bright coloured drinks and desserts, and you will usually end up buying more than you need.
So, if you want to experience more of what the Iskandar region has to offer, why not set yourself the challenge of visiting a few Ramadan Bazaars this year, and then a few more next year, and eventually you will know the place like a local, and can then introduce newcomers to the pleasures of Malay street food. Besides, it’s a fun way to explore the world around you and eat well at the same time.