Malaysia's Night Bazaars: Pasar Malam
By Jaclyn Pang
Image 1: Jonker Street Night Market, Malacca, Malaysia / Image 2: (clockwise from top right) Char Kuey Teow, Satay, Nasi Lemak, Assam Laksa, Rojak / Image 3" (clockwise from top right), Apam Balik, Cendol/Ice Kacang, Kuih
Night Bazaars, or Pasar Malam in Malay, take place once a week – occupying prominent spots in just about every neighborhood. These events offer an array of hawker fare typically for dinner, as well as clothing, bags, toys, accessories, and household items to browse through in each stall. Throughout Malaysia, people hangout at Night Markets after school or work, to relax, to feed off the crowd’s energy. It is a place that couples would go on dates, and for tourists to experience the local nightlife:
Night Market means I could stay up late! —Lucas, 10 years old
I like to taste a bit of everything from the Night Market! —Jaclyn, ASTC volunteer
While there is so much more to a Night Market than street food, we couldn’t resist sharing a couple of our favorites:
Char Kuey Teow
A great Char Kuey Teow beckons you from blocks away. A quintessential street food of Southeast Asia, the mouth-watering charred aroma from stir-frying the noodles over very high heat in a Chinese wok, is called wok hei in Cantonese, which means ‘breath of wok.’ In title of the dish, originating in China, char means stir fry and kuey teow refers to flat rice noodles. The noodles are stir-fried with shrimp, cockles, Chinese lap-cheong (sausages), eggs, bean sprout, chives in a mix of soy-sauce.
Make a stop for these famous BBQ meat skewers, cooked over smoldering embers which are continuously fanned to infuse the meat with a gorgeous smokiness. They’re accompanied by freshly cut cucumber, red onion and pineapple, adding a refreshing zing to the rich, meaty morsels. Secret Sauce: The peanut sauce is half the magic of the dish. It’s made from blending eschalots, garlic, galangal, chilis, lemongrass, peanuts, seasoned with lime juice, sugar, salt, and stir-fried.
This coconut rice is the national dish of Malaysia. The rice is really what the dish is all about and is made from cooking jasmine rice with diluted coconut milk seasoned with salt, served with a combination of sweet sambal, curry, fried anchovies, peanuts, egg, and freshly cut cucumber. Pssst...we think Nasi Lemak is best served on a banana leaf and eaten Malay-style, by hand. Secret Sauce: Sambal Oelek
Synonymous to Penang Island in Malaysia, this is a pungent, sour, and fiery hot noodle dish with fresh vegetables bathed in a fish broth. This fusion food successfully marries Southeast Asian herbs and spices with Chinese ingredients. Historically, the Straits, or Peranakan Chinese, trace their roots to the 15th century when Chinese migrant traders settled in Southeast Asia and married local women – the men called Baba and women Nyonya. The Nyonya cuisine reflects the cultural mix of Malay and Chinese community with local ingredients such as belacan (fermented prawn paste), chilies, lemongrass, galangal and turmeric, and Chinese fondness of pork and broth. Secret Sauce: Oasis Penang Assam Laksa Instant Paste
Don’t forget the rojak, meaning jumbled mix – a fruit and vegetable salad. The sauce is made of fermented shrimp paste, sugar, lime, and chili, an appetizing mix of sweet, sour and spicy, topped with crushed peanuts. Secret Sauce: Shrimp & Boy Brand Shrimp Paste
Another street food delight, the smell of these pancakes fill the street each time you attend a night market. They are made fresh, filled with crushed peanuts, sugar & sweet corn kernels. Once cooked, the pancake is folded into half – balik means folded over.
An assortment of colourful Kuih
These aesthetically pleasing bite-sized snacks are the pride and joy of Southeast Asian’s culinary landscape. Kuih is a broad term that includes what we call cakes, puddings, dumplings or pastries. Plus, did you know that they are mostly gluten-free? Because they’re made from rice or glutinous rice flour and steamed. Quick tip: Kuih cannot be refrigerated and must be eaten on the day it is made.
Cendol or Ice Kacang
There is nothing more refreshing on a sweltering day than a shaved ice dessert like Cendol or Ice Kacang. In Cendol, you can have a combination of red azuki beans, green rice flour jelly (also called cendol), coconut milk and decadent gula Melaka (palm sugar) while in Ice Kacang you can have rose syrup, condensed milk, sweet corn, and roasted peanut (kacang means peanut).
Find These Treats In Houston:
You can get a taste of these hawker fares from Malaysian and Singaporean restaurants and home caterers in Houston:
Jonker Street Night Market, Malacca, Malaysia (photo: gurms)
Image 2 (clockwise from top right)
Char Kuey Teow (photo: suanie)
Satay (photo: Alpha)
Nasi Lemak (photo: Sham Hardy)
Assam Laksa (photo: Azizul Ameir)
Rojak (photo: stu_spivack)
Image 3 (clockwise from top right)
Apam Balik (photo: Yun Huang Yong)
Cendol/Ice Kacang (photo: @phcuriosity)
Kuih: (photo: Alpha)