Good food, great atmosphere … the Ramadan market in Tanjung Tokong Village, Penang, has all this and more.

IT HAS been quite a while since I last visited the Ramadan market in Tanjung Tokong Village, Penang, so I thought I’d saunter there for a quick look, and check out the buka puasa delights on offer.

However, as I turned the corner to the usual street, I was in for a surprise – there was nothing there! Nothing, that is, except for a couple of stalls and Amin’s roadside table which was groaning under the weight of large pots and pans filled with plentiful amounts of delicious-looking, colourful food.

AAEC263A327649D1BE54F0219951913BAmin’s delectable Beef Rib Curry is a must-try.

 

“What happened to the usual Ramadan market?” I asked him.

“They moved further in towards the mosque,” he replied, gesturing vaguely in that direction with one hand; the other was busy ladling out one of the many large pots of curries and sambals that he had been preparing all day to go with his nasi briyani. Amin usually runs the Kem 48 outlet in Jalan Chow Thye in town.

From as early as 5pm, he was already surrounded by hungry customers pointing out the choice morsels – actually, there was a particularly delectable-looking piece of beef rib in curry, large enough to feed a family of 10 to15 – that they were looking forward to tucking into that evening.

Being the intrepid food writer that I am – allowing nothing to get between me and good food – I set off determinedly in search of the Ramadan market, and trekked towards Jalan Tanjung Tokong Lama. It was a case of following my nose as the aroma of delicious food led me on.

Before long, voila! On a piece of vacant land in front of Masjid Tuan Guru, a familiar sight greeted me. Stall upon stall – over 100 of them – laden with delicious-looking food was being set up.

An earlier downpour had brought down the temperature somewhat, although it did not dampen the spirit of the enthusiastic crowd which had gathered in search of good food. Luck was with me; I came across the deputy chairman of the mosque, Shabudin Bapu. He was kind enough to brief me on the month-long event and showed me around.

3ADC7CDB38AA41C8BFCC1FF76D983E51Salim has been selling murtabak for over 40 years.

 

“The (Ramadan) market is organised by Tanjung Tokong NGOs. It used to be held on the lane which leads off the main road,” Shabudin explained. “It was too packed and crowded. This land, which belongs to UDA (the Urban Development Authority), is much more spacious. UDA has kindly allowed us to use it.”

There is no charge for setting up stall here; even the tents are provided. There’s food galore here: ice drinks, a rich variety of local kuih, satay, grilled and fried meats and fish, mee or kuey teow goreng or sup, and lontong. Many stalls sell different types of rice – Nasi Bukhari, Nasi Dalca, plain or seasoned – with different types of lauk (dishes).

Most are regular stallholders who operate in the vicinity all year round. During the holy month, they congregate in the plot of vacant land outside the mosque.

Mohd Radi runs a drinks stall selling packets of jongkong, a traditional sweet food which looks like chunks of cendol, with which to break fast. “I only make and sell this during puasa month,” he said.

At another stall, Muni sells apong bakar, made by her mother using her grandmother’s traditional recipe. “This is usually steamed but we prepare it on a banana leaf over a low fire.” She also sells kuih cara and home-made nasi ulam using over 30 ingredients, including herbs, spices, dried prawns and fish.

Anggah’s Ayam Bermadu looks appetising, and at the other corner, Ruslan Mat Isa is busy fanning the smouldering coals which sit under the Ayam Panggang he is grilling. Ismail Chik, famous for his “Laksa Flat Tanjung Tokong”, is preparing packets of the noodles and spicy soup for take-away.

A little further down, Salim’s beef or chicken murtabak is equally popular with the crowd.

“I’ve been doing this for over 40 years,” said Salim. “My father started the stall in 1958.” Like Ismail Chik, he usually sells at the Tanjung Tokong Flats.

Ahmad Abdul Ghani’s stall has more unusual offerings. He used to work in Sarawak, so he brought along some of the brightly-coloured kuih lapis which Sarawak is famous for. “This Sisek Ikan is made from cheese and fruit,” he said, showing me a cake with designs on it which look like a fish with scales.

In the true spirit of muhibbah, the different races congregate at the colourful Ramadan market to enjoy one of the things which binds us together – good food.

“We get hundreds of people here every day. Even tourists from the hotels in Batu Ferringhi drop by to try our food,” said Shabudin.

During the month of Ramadan, the stalls at Tanjung Tokong Village, Penang, open from 3pm to sunset every day.

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