Food & Drink

Pasar Malam [Malaysian Night Market Wanderings]

  • April 12, 2017

Every night all over Southeast Asia night markets, or pasar malams as they are known in Malaysia and Indonesia, pop up in different cities and towns. On any given night in Malaysia, you can find these night markets throughout Johor Bahru and its suburbs. The town where I lived, Puteri Wangsa, happens to host one of the larger pasar malams on Friday nights. Here you can find everything – street food, fresh produce, clothing, household products, and even expired/discounted OPI nail polish (that one made me do a double take). The buzzing vibe of this pasar malam was a feast for the senses, and offered the perfect spot to chow down on local food.

One of the first items I wanted to try was this green mystery juice. I had no idea what it was at the time, but after a quick Google search, learned it was sugar cane juice. I went back and forth on whether or not I liked it, but ultimately decided that one try was probably enough.

I also wanted to give one of these brightly colored juices a go:

I was intrigued by the pale orange one on the end (which turned out to be corn juice) but ultimately went for one that tasted like watermelon. It was a very refreshing choice for a humid night in Malaysia (aka every night in Malaysia).

And to go with all of these tasty beverages (no alcohol, you’ll notice, as Malaysia is a Muslim country – though the area where I lived was a fairly even split of Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities), some equally as delicious food! One of my favorite things from this particular night market was their chicken satay.

I really dug both the price (about $1 for 3 skewers) and the casual no-shoes vibe of this guy’s stand.

And to go with your chicken, some carbs:

While that fried rice looks innocuous – bland, even – it was easily one of the spiciest dishes I’ve eaten in my life. Not even like hurts-so-good spicy, but inedibly spicy. The noodles were slightly better, but still too much for me. Buyer beware!

As I mentioned, the community where I lived had a large Chinese population so there was quite a bit of Chinese food to choose from as well. These are zongzi, a Chinese dish in which sticky rice (also known as glutinous rice, but that name is significantly less appetizing) and various meats/spices are wrapped in up in a neat little banana leaf (or bamboo leaf, or lotus leaf) package. There are tons of variations to this dish, depending on where you are in China (or Malaysia), but this one was filled with rice and BBQ pork. I really liked it, though it took me a few bites to decide.

If you’re ever in Southeast Asia, you have check out the night market scene. They vary from country to country, but I promise you’ll find some amazing food!

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