As I am such a food enthusiast, I am especially fond of Malaysia during the fasting month of Ramadhan. For a whole glorious month prior to Hari Raya Aidilfitri, you will find (at almost every corner of every state in Malaysia) what we call the Ramadhan Bazaar. Starting at about 4pm to another 7 pm or slightly later, the neighborhood will be bustling with the sounds of vendors dishing out their delicacies to people from all walks of life.
During the month of Ramadhan, the Muslims will fast during the day, breaking fast only at about 7 plus in the evening. In preparation to breaking fast, Ramadhan Bazaar is a place where the mouth watering local delicacies are sold. At open grounds, little stalls will mushroom all over the country. Some are so makeshift that the stall consists of just a table and an umbrella to shield the vendors from the hot evening sun.
What are common are Malay rice dishes such as nasi lemak consisting of sambal (a spicy condiment), fried anchovies, cucumber slices, and egg, or just meat dishes (mostly spicy) such as curry chicken, beef rendang, vegetables and more. There is also the infamous Roti John, which is a baguette loaf stuffed with minced mutton, onions, egg, tomato and chili sauce, mayonnaise, and cabbage. Of course, not to be forgotten are murtabak made fresh on the spot for you! Murtabak is an Indian Muslim dish made of thin dough filled with minced meat (usual meat choices are mutton or chicken), egg, onion, and garlic. The murtabak is then fried on a griddle until a nice golden brown. It is usually accompanied by curry sauce.
Then you get stalls after stalls of Malay desserts, comprising a huge variety of kuih-muih (bite-size dessert). I usually find the dessert to be a little on the sweet side, but hey, if my sugar level hit a few notches higher after this, it will be worth it.
What is truly amazing about the Ramadhan Bazaar is that you will see Malaysians of all walks of life gathering together to buy food. While half of the country's population is not fasting, it is not stopping us from joining in the fun and binging on a huge variety of food available only once a year for one month. Do not get me wrong. You can get food like that at any time of the day, 24 hours a day at certain locations even! What makes the Ramadhan Bazaar special is the outdoors location, delicious smells wafting towards you from each makeshift stall, and you can get all the food at a single location. Best of all, the foods are sold really cheaply at the bazaar. It is cheaper by about 30 to 50 percent compared to usual times. I believed a lot of the sellers are having great fun during the Ramadhan month as I know of a few who only set up stalls during this time of the year - all in the name of fun. Each bazaar holds it specialties. Perhaps Neighborhood A has better nasi lemak, Neighborhood B has better desserts, while Neighborhood C has a huge variety. What is also great during the Ramadhan month is the sudden appearance of makeshift stalls by the roadside for just one month. You can stop your car by the side of the road just to grab a pack of nasi lemak. After this month, the stalls will no longer be there, and you will have to wait for another year for this event again.
Of course, the restaurants and hotels do not want to lose out during the month of Ramadhan as well. Most restaurants or hotels in the city will have Ramadhan buffet. The prices are usually reasonable and the variety of food is huge! If you wish to dine in comfort, then head on to one of these places. But if you want something totally different, albeit sweating it out a bit, then head on to the Ramadhan bazaars. It is just like a night market, but it is centered on food! If you are visiting Malaysia during the month of Ramadhan, do not miss out on the bazaars. It is truly an interesting experience.