Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ramadan Bazaar, Geylang Serai

For one month every year, our Muslim brothers and sisters will fast from sunrise till sunset. This is known as the holy month of Ramadan. For muslims, this is a time of spiritual reflection and of devotion. One of the fixtures during the Ramadan, both in Malaysia and Singapore, would be the bazaars that pop up in many places. These are the places where most of our Muslim brothers and sisters will buy food for breaking fast. Of course, these bazaars also draw in non-muslim crowds eager to sample Malay street food. This year, I decide to visit a bazaar in Singapore for the first time in my 3 years here. I picked the largest one in the island, which is the situated in Geylang Serai.

The first thing that caught my eye is how huge the bazaar is. Unlike most of the more popular ones in Malaysia, instead of only selling food, there are a lot of stalls that sells other wares too, from clothing to mobile accessories. There are even the odd fair stalls offering games and prizes.

Food wise, there seems to be a unusually large concentration of Ramly burger stalls here. Every corner you turn to you will be greeted by the familiar whiff of burger patties sizzling on a cast iron plate. For the uninitiated, Ramly is a famous local burger patty producer. More often than not, the patties are wrapped in an expertly made thin omelette.
Potential customers browsing through the wares on offer

Ramlee Burger Artisan

Besides burgers, these stalls usually sell another kind of bread known locally as "Roti John" or John's bread. I do not know how this name came about but apparently this is the what you get when you grill an elongated bun spread with a mixture of beaten egg and mince meat on a cast iron plate. By the way, the best Roti John is still in Tengkera, Melaka (that's for another story). Since it had been quite some time ago since I had a good Roti John, I decided to give this a try. Not really up to expectations as the amount of cheese and barbecue sauce that they put in overpowered the other flavours. A good Roti John would be a balance of flavours of the fried egg, mince meat and other condiments. Who the hack put cheese and barbecue sauce in Roti John anyways. Well, apparently in Singapore. 

Dinner - Roti John
Besides the burger stalls, you will get stalls selling a variety of fried food and noodles.

Shut up and take my money :)
Otak-otak is aplenty here too. Otak-otak is made of blended mixture of fish meat and other spices wrapped in banana leaf. It is then grilled over an open fire grill. The term "otak" means brain in Malay language and I think this food got its name from its brain matter like appearance.
Literally translated, the sign say "Self caught fish", which I really doubt it.

One thing you won't usually get in bazaars in Malaysia are halal Chinese food. Here you will find things like stuffed you tiao, char kaoy teow and even sharks fin soup. Truely a harmonious society, aye? The photo below is of a vendor selling a delicacy that is usually reserved for Chinese New Year, Bakkwa aka barbecued dried meat. For CNY usually it is always pork but here, for obvious reasons, beef and chicken are order of the day.

Halal Bakkwa
So, as a conclusion, I find that the bazaars here might be huge, but lack a certain oomph. Food stalls are repetitive. Instead of traditional Malay fare like Soto, Briyani, Nasi Dagang, Ayam Percik etc, you get things that are of other origins trying to be Halal. Hack, there even more than 5 takoyaki stalls before I decided to stop counting. When it comes to Ramadan bazaar, Malaysia still holds the edge, even though our football sucks.

One of the more exotic and exciting finds - Fried Quills