Bustling and vibrant, Ramadhan bazaars have earned a reputation for serving heart-warming local delights that hits straight to the soul. Within the 30-day window of the holy Ramadan month, the best street food stalls come together for a reunion of local flavours that will make Iftar just right for you.
Whether it’s the tenderness from juicy barbecue wings that you seek or the tingling flavours of saffron from a hearty chicken biryani, your nearest Ramadhan bazaar has everything you need and more.
1. Ayam Percik
Always the first to greet you at the entrance of any Ramadhan bazaar is the wafting scent of grilled ayam percik. Seasoned and marinated for hours before the birds are placed on the grill, it’s fair to say that your Iftar table would be incomplete without it.
We love the lightly charred skin that delivers a tinge of crisp before we sink our teeth further into its juicy and tender meat. Like every true Asian, have it with a side of steamed rice to feel complete.
Apart from being a midnight mamak favourite, murtabak is also a yearly hit in most, if not all, Ramadhan bazaars. It’s fast and filling – all it needs is flavourful curry for a side kick and murtabak will make a fuss-free Iftar option. Widely available in Malaysia and Singapore, this local classic is normally stuffed with well-seasoned beef or chicken mixed with onions before it lands on the griddle till it browns.
Murtabak is such a sought-after delicacy that stall owners would come up with creative variations to set them apart from the rest. In the past, we’ve seen murtabak maggi and murtabak jala on our Instagram feeds. This year, we can’t wait to see what this coming Ramadhan has in store.
3. Roti John
Roti Johns are so messy that we’re almost convinced that there’s no polite way to devour this local sandwich by hand. Still, it is deliciously in-demand and earned a spot as a staple in the annual Ramadhan bazaar. Mostly served in sharing portions, this old-school snack (or dinner to some), is generously drizzled with standard condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise, over a bed of grilled meat or chicken patty and topped with chopped cabbage.
#HHWT Tip: Often served as a whole, nudge the stall owner to slice it up in smaller portions for convenient sharing.
4. Nasi Briyani
Nasi biryani is basically everything that we could ask for in a carb-perfect meal: a generous helping of fragrant Basmati rice and a side of chicken. If you’re in a hurry, speed walk to any biryani stall and order the ready-made packs to go. We recommend savouring every spoonful of this Indian and Malay influenced dish with beef rendang, chicken curry or deep fried drumstick.
5. Local Drinks
Now that you have the best of deep fried and grilled goodness, complete your meal with local thirst quenchers from the drinks stall. Mostly served cold, we suggest taking home the classic bandung or sour asam boi. Of course, there’s a broad selection of refreshing beverages from air mata kucing (longan drink) to fruity cordials to try.
If you’re in the mood for straightforward snacks and desserts, hit the sweet spot with the medley of kuih-muihs from the bazaar. Presented in a range of bite-sized shapes and colours, the variety will certainly spoil you silly. For something sweet, pick up a few pieces of tepung pelita, kuih lapis, ondeh-ondeh and kuih keria.
If savoury is how you like them, curry puffs, donut ikan bilis and popiah goreng are begging you to take them home.
7. Ayam Golek
An alternative to the much-loved ayam percik, the popular ayam golek has more moves than the rest of the birds. Definitely a spectacle to watch, we could gaze all evening and watch each bird slowly grilled with every turn over the smoke-fest charcoal. Served with tiny packets of chilli sauce, just a small dip of it will bring out the true flavours of this finger-licking ayam golek.
If a whole chicken is too much for a solo Iftar, pack a couple of barbecued chicken wings to go and relish the joy of not having to share these juicy wings with anyone.
8. Pulut Panggang
Shifting the spotlight on a local treat as humble as pulut panggang requires little deliberation. They’re no scene stealers but they’re definitely a heart-warming staple that reminds us of our hometown. A tasty mainstay in Ramadhan bazaars, each glutinous rice is stuffed with a mix of grated coconut, prawn flakes and spicy belacan before it is being wrapped and grilled over charcoal.
9. Ikan Bakar
Chicken and beef aren’t the only things they place on the grill. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a stall or three dedicated to the all-time ikan bakar. Charred on the outside and tender on the inside, nothing beats the experience of tasting the crispy skin and juicy meat in every bite. With pomfrets, tenggiri, patin and red snappers as firm favourites, be sure to save ikan bakar for occasional departures from your favourite meats.
10. Putu Bambu
Credit: Li Tsin Soon
If you feel like taking a break from heavy flavours, you will appreciate the simplicity of the yearly favourite, putu bambu. Often steamed in a cylindrical bamboo, the pandan-infused rice flour is laced with palm sugar for a sweet surprise. Topped off with grated coconut flakes, all there’s left to do is to enjoy every bite.
Another must-try variation is the putu piring where the same mixture is steamed inside a metal plate-like casing to achieve a flattened shape.
11. Roasted Lamb
We love how Ramadhan bazaars made premium proteins accessible to the masses. Take the roasted lamb, for example. Yummy as it is cool to watch, the technique is all about taking things slow by grilling the richly seasoned lamb for hours over a bed of flaming charcoal. Your neighbourhood bazaar may serve them with a side of garlic bread and greens while others prefer them stuffed between a warm pita bread.
12. Bubur Lambuk
You can’t go wrong with a bowl of bubur lambuk for buka puasa. A simple and uplifting appetiser, the local Ramadhan bazaar would serve them in neat containers for convenient carrying.
Whether it’s the lingering flavours of cloves, star anise and cardamom or the bite-sized beef slices in every spoonful that got you hooked, bubur lambuk remains a favourite that makes us feel right at home where our heart is.
With a variety of delicacies that conjures memories of home and Raya excitement, there’s truly a lot to love about Ramadhan bazaars. If you’ve not been to one, take a chance and you’ll be surprise to see how the flavours of ayam golek, putu bambu or kuih pelita grow on you.