*This article was published in the New Straits Times (Life & Times) on 21st August 2010.
Tanjung Tokong Malay Village, which was once a sleepy “kampung” in the 60s and 70s, has grown into a suburb with rows of flats, overshadowing what is left of the kampung houses. Gone are the seafronts directly opposite the village where the natural sand split and mangrove trees grew. The village now faces vast reclaimed land and its sea view is blocked by modern concrete houses and high rise towers.
Despite the modernisation, the residents have maintained the uniqueness of Malaysian culture — the evening food bazaar, or commonly known as “pasar malam”. The Tanjung Tokong night market operates every Saturday evening and is one of the designated Ramadan food bazaars.
During the fasting month, the bazaar is held every evening with stall-owners selling delicacies for the Muslims to break fast. Stalls are lined up along the road which leads to the village. The aroma of cooking wafts through the air as one strolls along the stretch of food stalls. Traditional Malay cuisine are the top draw here, with classics such as ayam percik (grilled chicken), rendang with ketupat or lemang, kuih muih, air bandung, putu mayam, fried noodles and satay.
It is difficult to choose the food given the sheer variety found at the stalls but there are a few stalls to narrow down the choices. One should also look out for the Wawasan Bihun Soup. The beef soup is boiled with many parts of the cow, including the innards. Not many food bazaars have this typical Malay cuisine as it is troublesome to prepare and difficult to lug the huge container of soup to the bazaar. The soup has a distinct aroma of turmeric and herbs. Unlike the soup sold by the Mamaks, Wawasan’s soup is much clearer. It goes well with the turmeric beehoon and the spicy chilli paste.
Turmeric beehoon for the Wawasan Bihun Soup
Beef soup with distinct aroma of turmeric and herbs
The mini murtabak is another popular snack Malaysians can never go without. The murtabak is soft and moist, filled with minced beef. The pickled onion is a customized accompaniment, giving it an extra kick.
If you are a fan of glutinous rice, you may want to visit Mak Cik’s stall. The ketupat with rendang is a must buy. There are not many stalls around town offering this triangular wrapper. Mak Cik says it’s time consuming to wrap the ketupat and the number of wrappers she can produce diminishes as she gets older. The rendang is home cooked with rich spices.
Do not be surprised to see durian in Mak Cik’s stall. She also sells pulut durian (glutinous rice with durian) whenever she can get hold of the spicy fruit. With the coconut cream mixed into the glutinous rice and the durian, the whole mixture is just heavenly, leaving many wanting more. Many were seen queuing up to buy this dessert.
Heavenly dessert of durian, glutinous rice and santan
One of the traditional Malay delicacies is kuih peneram or “telinga keling”. Made from the aromatic gula Melaka and flour, the mixture is shaped into small donut and deep fried till chocolate brown.
The mamak popiah has a strong turmeric aroma on the shredded yambean and with the fried diced taukua, beansprouts, shallots and a paint of sweet chilli sauce on the skin, makes the roll irresistible. The owner proudly claims that the popiah wrapper is homemade.
Popiah at RM0.60 per roll
Another interesting food I found in this food bazaar is the stir-fried penne. The tubular penne was cooked with minced beef, vegetable and eggs. Besides this, the stall owner also sells the Singapore beehoon.
Right at the junction of the road is Hussain’s Satay. The beef and chicken satay goes for RM0.35 each while the more exotic innards (perut) are slightly more expensive. He is helped out by his wife and son, with the wife handling the griller.
The satay perut (beef stomach) goes for RM0.50 each
Usually you end up buying more then you need as everything looks tempting. Tanjung Tokong may have lost some of its village charm but when it comes to the food bazaar, the Malaysian eating spirit truly comes alive.