Ramadan, the month-long fasting period in the Muslim calendar that precedes the festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, started on Wednesday July 10.
The weather that afternoon was hot and dry and as usual during Ramadan, the stall holders who rent Ipoh City Council’s Ramadan bazaars dotted around the city, begin to populate these stalls around 3pm and activity begins. As in previous years Ipoh Echo sent a team to check out the various bazaars.
Ramadan Bazaars Gaining Popularity With All Ethnic Groups
Without a doubt the food was superlative at most of the locations visited but it was not just Muslims shopping for themselves and their families who were milling around. As more and more people came, getting closer to the time for breaking fast, there was more than a small number of non- Muslims seen at the bazaars picking out food either for tea or for their night’s dinner.
The Ramadan bazaar at Medan Gopeng has 137 stalls that offer a wide range of buka puasa (breaking of fast) delicacies. Ipoh Echo decided to meet the people behind the food and spoke to some of them.
Ainy Nurul Hidayu together with her daughter Roslida Abdul Rahman has a stall that sells the full range of dishes for a meal. While mum Ainy prepares the main dishes like grilled fish, Roslida focuses on the desserts like doughnuts and pelita jagung (corn pudding). They have been selling their Ramadan goodies here for over 13 years. The rest of the other months of the year they have a premises close to Carsem known as Sri Permata Corner.
A few stalls down is Rina Catering. Its owner Ms Erina Wati has been trading at this bazaar for a “long time, since I was young”. Erina, now almost 40, took over the business from her mother and has an outlet at the nearby Megoplex shopping mall. She sells the main food dishes but here she prepacks Nasi Briyani which moves off the counter fast.
Ahmad Firdaus, in his late 30s, runs his stall called Murtabak Yop, which as its name implies, sells only murtabak. He has been selling murtabak for 26 years at the night markets around Ipoh. At the night markets he sells on average 400 murtabak per day. However, at this bazaar he averages 800 murtabak per day. His normal workforce is four but during the Ramadan month he has eight workers while his brother Ahmad Zaidi, 42, a teacher, comes by to help out.
Firdaus’s preparation of his murtabak is like an operations floor with one team preparing the ingredients, another wrapping up the dough and another cooking over the hot plate all working hurriedly in anticipation of the after-work crowd.
Mydin Hassan, 64, of Mydin Cendol is another food trader who has been trading here for 15 of his 18 years in this line. Unlike the food operators, Mydin sells takeaway cendol and says that his earnings are less than on normal days where he sells in the area around nearby Ipoh Jaya.
For all of the above operators here with the exception of Mydin, they acknowledge that their daily Ramadan earnings here are, on average, better by 25 per cent.
Over at Tanjung Perdana, Tanjung Rambutan, there are 85 stalls at that Ramadan bazaar selling a similar variety of fare. Siblings Zaleha and Zawawi Zambri have been operating their outlet Iniza Ayam Percik since this location started four years ago. The siblings have been in this business for 16 years, having inherited the business from their father who now buys the chickens while the siblings do all the rest. Their ayam percik is cut into various parts such as thigh, breast, wings, etc. and sold at different prices.
Bercham Ramadan Bazaar 1 Malaysia
The Ramadan bazaar at Bercham (Mobil) has only 15 stalls but does a brisk business. A large number of their customers are non-Muslim. Ms Yee who works and lives nearby this location was buying murtabak and has been doing so for two years, “it has variety and is nice”.
In fact trader Azman Shah, who claims to sell the best ‘mini murtabak in Bercham’, dubbed this location as ‘Bazaar 1 Malaysia’ because of its multi-racial customers. Azman who admitted that he works as a clerical staff with CIMB Bank Ipoh Garden, has been selling at this location for seven years.
Sharing a Culture
Ramadan bazaars no longer belong exclusively to Muslims breaking fast. The variety and delectable food have won over the palates of the other ethnic groups and even tourists are flocking to the bazaars, tempted by the smells and sizzle of the large choice on display.
Nearby residents like the family of S. Muniandy look forward to the annual event as they stroll to Medan Gopeng at 4pm in the afternoon to buy kuih for their tea. Similarly for third-year students of Institut Pendidikan Guru, Hulu Kinta, Tanjung Rambutan, the variety of food is a welcome break from their daily fare and they had been patronising the Tg. Rambutan bazaar each year.
As I doubled back to Medan Gopeng before the breaking of fast at 7.33pm that first evening I stopped at Jamek Mosque, Kg Melayu, approximately 400 metres before the bazaar. Earlier a friend informed me he normally broke his fast at the mosque and invited me to join him.
However, he was not there but retiree Encik Mukhtar Ahmad, 67, was present. Mukhtar, who is a member of the mosque committee said that for him breaking fast at the mosque had a special meaning for him which he enjoyed.
After the meal, I headed over to Medan Gopeng to see Roslida loading empty trays into her van, Erina playing with her grandkids amongst empty food trays and the murtabak workers having a meal next to their cleaned hot plates.
A Muslim Ramadan no doubt, but a sharing of a culture in which all Ipohites can participate.
Stadium Perak Ramadan Bazaar
The Stadium Perak Ramadan Bazaar is one of the more popular seasonal food bazaars in operation during the fasting month of Ramadan.
It is located at the stadium’s spacious car park where over 400 part-time and professional traders sell foodstuffs to eager buyers. What is most suitable about this bazaar is its locality and accessibility. The din created by an over-zealous crowd coupled with the after-office traffic adds on to the attraction. It is as if the whole Ipoh is being aroused by the aroma of barbecued chicken and beef, which seems to hang in the air.
Mohd Zahari, 35, a bona fide Ipohite and a fitness instructor by profession, has been operating a stall at the bazaar since 2010. Asked what made him do the unthinkable. “It’s not much about the money but the fun of doing business once a year,” he answered. Mohd Zahari sells fried kway teow and fried mee. He lays the piping hot noodles on huge trays and sells them in packets. Priced at RM2 a packet, the noodles are a bargain. Zahari has his regulars who begin to patronise his stall soon after opening time at 4pm.
Majuri Hafiz, 28, is another of the faceless traders who have been plying their trade at the stadium bazaar. He has been selling Ayam Golek Madu (Roast Honey Chicken) since 2008. “The demand for my roasted chicken is high. I get to sell over 200 chickens a day. It’s tough but the money is good,” he said. Majuri marinates the birds overnight using a number of herbs, spices and condiments. “It’s a recipe passed on by my late grandmother,” he said. His whole chicken sells for RM12 a piece.
Another stall which is a hit with patrons is Robaza BBQ. Owner Zakaria Musa, 51, sells skewered chicken, lamb and beef barbecued over fire. The aroma is an attraction in itself. It is easy to locate Zakaria’s stall as it is at the entrance to the car park. The sight of a milling crowd that grows by the hour is a good indication of the stall’s popularity. Lamb sells at RM4.80 a stick, beef at RM4 while chicken at RM3.
The three are just a cross-section of the many that do business at the stadium car park during the fasting month of Ramadan.