Echo Eats: How to “Bazaar” on a Budget?

Written by: Jessie Gan and Joyce Chin

 

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On a tight budget but want to live life vicariously the Malaysian way? Fret not, because in conjunction with the month of Ramadan, we’ve devised a game plan for you to enjoy a food galore with friends and family, all within a budget of RM40!

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Fun and games aside, let’s shift our focus to some contextual knowledge because while food unites us all, the understanding of each other’s cultural practices and beliefs should be viewed with paramount importance too.

Beyond abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn till dusk, the significance of Ramadan is synonymous with Muslims worldwide as it serves as a month to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. Regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, this annual observance sees the practice of fasting, prayer, self- reflection and community.

The term ‘bazaar’ originates from the Persian word bāzār, and has since been received into the colloquial speech in many countries worldwide. Described as a permanently enclosed marketplace or street where goods and services are exchanged or sold, they have been around as early as 3000 BC.

It is also used to refer to the “network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen” who work in that area. Closer to home in Indonesia, and to be more geographically accurate in, Bali, the term alludes to ‘pasar’, which means market in literal translation.

Albeit the abstinence from food and drinks which lasts from dawn till dusk for Muslims, all Malaysians eagerly await the arrival of Ramadan’s most distinct facet – the bazaars! I think we can all agree that a visit to the Ramadan bazaars are a feast to the sensory faculty, especially the olfactory sensors, as you will eminently be basking at the sight of a plethora of delectable selections, complemented with the smell of authentic delicacies wafting in the air.  

The possibilities of delicious Bazaar food here in Subang Jaya are limitless, and it would be literally impossible to visit every single bazaar within the constituency. According to reports, the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) has assigned 23 Ramadan bazaar sites with 1,810 stalls in total this year. That being said, it was definitely a tough decision on our part to narrow it down to just one but after deliberate consideration, we decided to visit the USJ 4 bazaar, located along Jalan USJ4/5 and USJ 4/6.

Without further ado, let the feasting commence!

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Each of us embarked on a mission in search of the best possible deals at the bazaar, bearing in mind that we collectively had a budget of RM40. Here are the delightful treats we acquired!

Jessie

  1. Nasi Kerabu – RM10
  2. Cucur sayur (also known as vegetable fritters) –  RM5
  3. Chicken wings – RM2 (RM1/piece)
  4. Tau Fu Fa (soybean pudding) topped with gula melaka – RM2

As I walked amidst the row of stalls, I was immediately drawn towards the fragrance of Nasi Kerabu, a type of nasi ulam, in which the colour of the rice is derived from the petals of Clitoria ternatea (butterfly-pea) flowers, giving it its signature blue hue.

Served with a melange of piquant herbs which encompass daun kaduk (wild pepper leaves), limau purut (kaffir lime leaves), serai (lemongrass), bunga kantan (torch ginger) and daun kunyit (turmeric leaves). The dish is accompanied with a serving of fresh vegetables, condiments and a choice of protein, for which I selected ayam percik.

It’s a taste of the East coast on your plate. Each component of the dish played an intricate role in bringing forth a kaleidoscope of flavours and helped elevate the flavour profile of the dish to a whole new level of complexity. The tanginess of the lime added a zesty surprise while the fried keropok amped up the crunch factor. The ayam percik deserves an equally honourable shout out for the tender and well-marinated experience.

The sambal Budu, a spicy and sweet sauce, complemented the dish in a wonderful way. However, the spice level personally fell short as it was rather mellow for my liking but other than that, the dish was overall very satisfying.

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Image source: Jessie Gan/ Sunway Echo Media
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Image source: Jessie Gan/ Sunway Echo Media

Next up on my list is a trademark of the bazaar – the almighty chicken wings! If there’s one thing we Malaysians share in common, it’s our constant pursuit for a good bargain! Priced at RM1, the wings are a crowd favourite and it’s easy to understand why.

Image source: Jessie Gan/ Sunway Echo Media

The probing question is – was it really worth your spare change? To be blatantly honest, you would probably be better off spending your extra buck on other items. Whilst it wouldn’t be fair for us to pit the humble wing against its Korean competitor due to the stark difference in terms of price, it would serve as a temporary filler to satisfy your cravings. Suffice to say, this would wing it for now. (I tried)

Moving on, I came across a line at a particular stall and was immediately compelled to join in on the ‘fun’. You can always trust your fellow Subangnites’ instincts when it comes to food. Lo and behold, everyone in the line was queing for cucur sayur!

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Image source: Jessie Gan/ Sunway Echo Media

So, was it a hit or miss? Well, this colossal entity was a delight as the batter was light and airy and thus, a joy to bite into! The flavourful sauce, on the other hand, served its purpose and helped redeem the snack’s main drawback – its greasy aftertaste which lingered a little too long in my mouth.

Did it live up to its reputation? Maybe not. However, if you’re not particularly specific about the overall quality of food, this should be a treat.

Pro-tip: Trust your gut! Reduce your dependence on food guides or the crowd and it might just lead you to the next best binge.

No feast is ever complete without dessert. In the midst of scavenging for my last course, I did what I felt was some necessary self-reflection.

Malaysians are truly a unique bunch of people. Only in Malaysia will you find people calling strangers aunty, uncle, kak and abang; the food stall owners and chefs are all our “bosses”. The integration of a melting pot of cultures in our multi-racial society is seen most evidently through the wide range of food offered at the bazaar, which gives Malaysian cuisine its quintessential flair.

Just as I was walking, I stumbled upon the tau fu fa, which exemplifies my earlier train of thought. A dessert with Chinese origins, it is the underrated sister of the tofu family, usually served either with a clear sweet syrup alone,or in a sugar syrup infused with pandan. Alternatively, it can also be served with palm-syrup (Gula Melaka).

Unfortunately, my tau fu fa suffered collateral damage en route the journey.

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Nevertheless, that minor hiccup didn’t debilitate from the pudding’s smooth texture paired with smoky toffee-edged gula melaka, which ended the scrumptious meal on a sweet note.

Lesson learned: looks can be deceiving but you should never judge a tau fu fa by its (cracked) cover.

Here’s an overview of my food haul: although my haul came up at a price of RM19, you can never put a price on this gastronomical experience! You know what they say, a happy girl equals a happy life. 

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Image source: Jessie Gan/ Sunway Echo Media

Joyce:

  1. Azmi Murtabak (rm4)
  2. Jacket Potatoes (RM 4)
  3. Strawberry Lemonade (RM 3)
  4. Kuih-muih (RM 4 for 3 packs)

Image source: Joyce Chin/ Sunway Echo Media

In my resolution to find the best food at USJ 4’s Ramadan Bazaar, I came across Azmi Murtabak right at the entrance. I was instantly overwhelmed with the wafting fragrance of savoury murtabak, which left me salivating at first whiff.

Murtabak (also known as mutabbak, matabbak, or mutabbaq) is one of the most popular foodstuffs sold at Ramadan Bazaars and is certainly a crowd favourite. in fact, I had to queue up for almost 15 minutes to get my share of this delicacy! Of course, it was worth it in the end.

The name mutabbaq in Arabic means “folded”, and the variety of murtabak varies across different cultures. The Malaysian version that I devoured consisted of minced meat scrambled with fried shallots, eggs and veggies, all enveloped in a roti-like wrap. It was served with a side of tangy pickled onions which complemented the Murtabak perfectly. Surprisingly, one whole Murtabak was only RM 4, given the amount of protein and carbs you get – call it a steal!

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The next item on my list are stuffed potatoes (as if I haven’t consumed enough carbs already).

The thought of a warm, chunky potato stuffed with gooey cheese was too much for my foodie heart to handle, and I just had to give in to my temptations and savour them myself! Furthermore, this stall has been all over social media, so I was eager to see what the hype was all about.

Spoiler alert: the potato did not disappoint. The smoky flavour of the cubed chicken paired with the fluffiness of the grilled potato in addition to the ravine of cheese goo was a sinful delight!

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Image source: Joyce Chin/ Sunway Echo Media
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Image source: Joyce Chin/ Sunway Echo Media

One of the most underrated parts about a bazaar:  the refreshing drinks. At this point my cravings for something cold and sweet had taken over, and I decided to go for a simple strawberry lemonade to quench my thirst.

As with all strongly flavoured edibles, there are critics and fans. A friend who tagged along voiced that this drink resembled cough syrup, but I thought otherwise.

The drink was layered with a sugar syrup and fresh strawberry purée on the bottom, topped with some crushed ice and lemonade on the top. It was a blessed respite from all the warm and savoury food. I was hooked on the first sip! 

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Image source: Joyce Chin/ Sunway Echo Media

To wrap up my bazaar experience, I decided to grab some of the delectable kuih that USJ 4 had an abundance of. Kuih is one of Southeast Asia’s most prized possessions and their recipes remain a well-guarded secret even to this day. Your grandmother will probably not divulge too much about her top secret archaic receipt, but that just adds to the magic.

There is honestly no other dessert that is as unique as the kuih. With hundreds of combinations of flavours, vibrant colours and textures, you’re pretty much spoiled for choice. The best part is that you don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet to get a taste of these mouthwatering treats! A pack of onde onde,  kuih talam, and kuih lapis all cost less than RM 5.

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Image source: Joyce Chin/ Sunway Echo Media

We had tons of fun exploring the wonders of “bazaar-ing” under a budget, and all the delicacies we got cost less than RM 35 combined! Goal: achieved. We can say that Ramadan Bazaars are officially Echo Eats approved, so why not bring some friends and family out this weekend to enjoy this once-a-year event?

Did you enjoy this edition of Echo Eats? Feel free to drop us a comment below and recommend what we should do next! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more food articles in the future.

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