Pasar Ramadan (Ramadan Bazaar)

9 Sep

Since Hari Raya (The Malaysian way of saying Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan) is tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to do a post on the pasar Ramadan, or Ramadan bazaar.

It’s been very interesting living in a Muslim-but-secular country during Ramadan. Malaysia, especially KL, has a significant non-Muslim population, so things don’t come to a standstill during the day, like, say, Saudi Arabia or Morocco. On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore that Hari Raya is coming up, what with all the sales and the buka puasa (break fast) buffets. (Even McDonalds has a buka puasa meal, although I don’t know if I’d want my one meal of the day to be McDonald’s.)

You’d think that a month where you’re required to abstain from eating or drinking (even your own saliva, if you’re hard-core) for 12 hours every day would be greeted with more sobriety. (The emotional kind, obviously; we’re talking about a Muslim holiday here.) But it’s actually been quite festive. Sure, you can’t eat or drink during the day, but nighttime is when you gather with friends and families and eat lots of special dishes that are only served this time of year. It’s like every day is Yom Kippur, and every night is Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. Especially the Christmas part. All the marketing that we Westerners associate with Christmas — including cheesy songs — is put into effect for Hari Raya, at least in Malaysia.

The prohibition against cooking during the fasting period does present a conundrum. Obviously, by the time 7 pm rolls around, you’re going to be too hungry to cook. Enter the pasar Ramadan, where there is a whole market of people selling tasty curries, fried chicken, rice, etc.

Trays of food at the pasar Ramadan

There’s nothing that says you have to be Muslim to go to a pasar Ramadan; money doesn’t have a religion, as they say. I went to a pasar Ramadan just past our subdivision, in what turned out to be a very Malay enclave. I think I was the only non-Malay person there, which was the first time that’s happened since I’ve moved to KL. (There’s usually at least a few Indians or Chinese, if nobody else.) It was like stumbling onto a small town in the middle of the city, although it made me acutely aware of how badly I need to learn some bahasa melayu. At least fingers are universal.

The rice cake vendor. The cakes are filled with palm sugar, wrapped in cloth, and steamed.

Satay chicken grilling over hot coals

Baby chickens under the satay stand, unaware of their fates

No pasar Ramadan is complete without a selection of kuih. (I blogged about this in my first post.)

Assortment of kueh. The pink one tastes like pink.

Happy Hari Raya!


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