This is where you should be, every Friday of Ramadan. Malaysian Iftar Bazaar.

I’m writing this post on Friday, the 3rd of August. As I type, I can’t help but momentarily stop the frantic keypushing and raise my fingers up to my nose for a sniff. Aaaah…they smell so intoxicatingly  good…they smell of…beef rendang.

The incense burner of beef dishes: Beef Rendang.

My soap-washed, yet rendang-aroma’ed post-Iftar fingers are back on the keyboard. They’re so excited to blurt out what they touched, what they tore, what they traced their curry-loving tips through over dinner, that they’re tripping across the keys like giddy giggling schoolgirls. One more fumbling typo and I’m going to have rap my own knuckles to discipline these frisky fingers of mine.

These fingers have been quivering with anticipation from the moment I read Manjeet Dhillon’s private message to me over facebook last Wednesday. I’ve never met this Malay foodie samaritan, or even virtually connected with her, but such is the power of social media. She reached out over my food tours Facebook page with critical foodie intel:  homemade Malaysian treats at a private Iftar Bazaar that happens every Friday of Ramadan. The bazaar is a “community effort for us Malaysians to feel the spirit of Ramadhan like how we enjoy it back home.” And there’s no better way to bring a community together than by reigniting the cultural flavours of the traditional Ramadan bazaars back in Malaysia, even if on a much smaller scale.

Hefty curried mutton chunks of Kari Kambing

Thank goodness the bazaar was a Malaysian replica on a much smaller scale, because when I got there, they went wild, these frivolous fingers of mine, dipping themselves into my wallet every few seconds to fish out tens and twenties and fling them like worthless paper in exchange for treasure: mee goreng, and then beef rendang, and ayam panggang, yes, all three types!, and mutton curry, and a spoonful of some shredded fish mixture, and oh! a pair of leaf-bound, shrimp stuffed rolls that might have been pulut udang, and both types of nasi, a yellow one and a brown one…

Clockwise, from top-right: Fried noodles a la Mee Goreng; lethal meaty curry that was fed to my spice-loving father, yellow rice with tons of coriander, and roasted chicken chunks of ayam panggang 

 …and GOTTA have some of that milky pandan drink that was bagged up in plastic, just like they do in Malaysia!

Cool green milky drink with the fragrant essence of pandan leaves, bagged up and ready to…drink.

Yep, we totally overdid it, my fingers and I. But you the only way that I could have strolled through eight tables stacked up with fried, curried, steamed and roasted Malay goodies, and walked out empty-handed…was if I had managed to seal my eyes and walk around with plugs in my nose. Which I don’t typically do, even on an uninspiring day.
Homecooked Malaysian food at the Ramadan Bazaar HAS to be the best kept secret in town. Honestly it does. Except for the Malaysians of course, who come in on Ramadan Fridays and walk out with tubs of nasi lemak (‘fatty rice,’ simmered in creamy coconut milk) and rolls of roti jala (thin nets of flour batter), bags of different spicy karis (curries) that Malaysian mommies and grandmommies sell to the public.  And with the pau, stuffed steamed buns that always seem to run out before I can get to them—even when I was in Malaysia earlier this year. I give up Pau, I give up. I don’t want you anymore.

But I do, I do I do. I secretly want you but you’re never there.

Why yes, it’s outrageously pathetic that I’m pleading with you, you bunch of inanimate but so darn yummy stuffed buns.

But even though the Pau were sold out, I overdid it on everything else that was still there. I had to come home and sneakily repack everything I bought into mom’s Tupperware, hoping she’d confuse last night’s leftovers with all the new things I dragged home from the Malay market today.

Nasi Kerabu with its characteristic blue rice, traditionally dyed using a blue flower called bunga telang or butterfly-pea. But miles away from home, the best bet in this city is simply blue food colouring.

Word of advice—never invest in the extra effort to hide. Mommie will ALWAYS catch you.

But it was worth it. I knew from the first summery sip of the icy cool drink flavoured with aromatic, herby pandan leaves. Can I tell you how good it feels, after a day of fasting, when your insides are hollow to the core, and when that sweet, silky drink trickles across your tongue and through your parched throat and drips down onto one little dehydrated spot of your tummy lining, rippling out into a wave of refreshing coolness across your insides? It’s like someone just blasted the air conditioner inside you.

The ultimate tummy aircon: milk flavoured with pandan leaves.

Iftar was a spread of little snacky treats I’d picked up from the bazaar: veggie popiah, chicken karipaps (curry puffs) and cucur badak.  The popiah were in tatters by the time they reached home, but the original intention was neat papery parcels stuffed with sweet pickled carrots, potentially some shredded cabbage, peanuts and a tamarind paste that pounded with a loud, pungent smell, the kind you’d get from a base of shrimp balacanor an overgenerous splash of fish sauce.

Papery parcels of veggie popiah.

The spherical cucur badak was fried music in my mouth. Little balls with an ingenious sweet potato pastry, stuffed with shredded toasted coconut, sugar, and some blend of spices—was it cumin? was it star anise? was it cinnamon? I really do need a peak into one of those Malay momma kitchens.

Deep-fried potato pastry globes of shredded toasted coconut.

 In the little interval between iftar and dinner, I snuck in a bite of this glazed piece of perfectly roasted chicken thigh.  Sticky, salty, sweet molasses marinade…this was made to ring the bell on every one of the hungry taste buds of a fasting…and not-fasting person.

Fat chicken thigh moisturized with sticky molasses.

 By dinner time, I knew I was going to attack that beef rendang like a savage. I remember distinctly holding the bowl of hot rendang near my face, inhaling its heady, spicy, deep aroma. I kept passing it back and forth under my nostrils, like a connoisseur with a glass of full-bodied wine. Except that my wine is curry, and beef rendang, one of the most complex, multi-layered curries across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, has the ability to intoxicate me if the chef has really nurtured the flavours of the coconut and the ginger and the lemongrass and the tamarind and the souk of spices that go into a traditional rendang. And indeed, the homegrown rendang chef at the bazaar had sold me the Bordeaux of beef rendangs.

Coconutty gravy clumps of some killer beef rendang. If I could make rendang like this one, I’d have IPO’ed and made my millions over the recipe by now.

Sitting down to dinner today was like diving into a waterfall of South-East Asian flavours. I had two foil tubs filled with spiced rice and my choice of curries and roast chicken all mushed up together, because that’s the style in which you compose your own nasi berlauk. The flavours were deeply earthy, slight sweet, slightly spicy, slightly lemony, and a 100% prone to overeating. Lemongrass, coconut, galangal, tamarind, that addictive combination of spices—shooting in the dark here, but there must have been clove, star anise, cinnamon and cardamom—and of course, the evasive magic dust of home-cooking, all of those were omnipresent across the dishes.

If it isn’t obvious, I was INCREDIBLY stuffed by the end of the meal.  The prawns wrapped in a banana leaf and the shredded fish pack were left untouched, little gifts to myself reserved for the next day.

Pulut udang: Grilled banana leaf rolls shrouding prawns rolled in gluttinous sticky rice.

Manjeet and the lovely organizer A., thanks for making it possible for me to immerse myself in some authentic Malay culinary tradition. I feel privileged to have had my gluttonous fill of some of the best eats the Malaysian homes in Dubai have to offer, and enough leftovers to keep me going another day or so…but I have a strong suspicion that come this following Thursday, that Rendang will be calling out to me again.

If you’re free this Friday the 10th, between 4pm and 7pm, I think it’d be sadistic to feed yourself anywhere else. It’s the last bazaar of the season, and sadly, a few of the vendors said they wouldn’t be there. But here’s to hoping that the rendang mommie is! Here’s the location:
Malaysian Consul General’s Office, Bur Dubai – Map

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

34 thoughts on “This is where you should be, every Friday of Ramadan. Malaysian Iftar Bazaar.

  1. Didi says:

    WWWAAAAAA! Could you buy me some beef rendang PLEASE…… :) Would you know if they have otak otak?

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @didipaterno:disqus – Hun, I updated the post, seems it IS actually open to public! So head over for that rendang, I hope the same lady is there on Friday. No otak otak sighted, but I could have missed it in my buying frenzy!

    2. inafryingpan says:

      @DaddyBird:disqus – I’m guessing you’re in right? ;) see you there, I might land up to snoop around for more goodies!

    3. DaddyBird says:

      Yeah, can’t be 100% that we’ll drive all the way over from Fujairah for it, but it is SO tempting! Very likely will!

  2. Renu navin paliwal says:

    drooling..after all those pics and detailed description of every dish,i felt i could smell those spices!!! 
    awesome post arva

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @google-671af2baed6abba9b948cb24db8c6b6a:disqus – …and it’s a wonderful smell at that! thanks Renu :)

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @FoodStoriesBlog:disqus – It was so soothing. I need little ceiling sprinklers spurting out the pandan drink into my apartment over the summer…

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @13241eff07d52a6fac372019030b434d:disqus – be green no more! I corrected the post, the bazaar is open to public!! :)

  3. Saleem says:

    Yes enjoyed the food you brought home – Beef Randang was delicious and could have more may be after Ramdan. Keep the good food coming 

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @9a1d510f1be63443c618f7d241d72ab2:disqus – Thanks dad! We will find to find another Malay joint after Ramadan cause the bazaar will be shut. But I’m already on the hunt… ;)

  4. FooDiva says:

    OMG I have just died and gone to heaven. What a brilliant find Frying Pan thank you :) Am most definitely hot footing it there on Friday. x

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @c6932a5d8328c7ca7e64eb9acb98d7c4:disqus – Go go go! I pray that you get that rendang…try to be there early, by 3 or 4pm!

  5. Shydesai12 says:

    Arwa… what an amazing discovery….The Rendang sure looks a killer…almost makes me want to reach for a spoonfull from yr post;)

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @18d7aac8de19afeffdb21eea8b0d7cae:disqus – why grab a spoonful of tasteless monitor, when you can go get the real deal at the bazaar? ;) This Friday is the last one…though I have heard that the rendang lady won’t be there :(

  6. Ishitaunblogged says:

    Phew! This is a bit too much for my greedy soul. The Pandan drinks are making my souls more thirsty… do you think that after Ramadan too they organise these Friday bazars? Even if they are at a smaller scale? Please say YES!!!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @5e8c32b20f4724711dd3c80c2633f364:disqus – bad news hun, this happens only during Ramadan. A perk of staying here during the summer, so come back!! :)

  7. Sophiehammacher says:

    oooo coming back to Dubai on 16th! Where else can I eat Malaysian? Miss it so very much!x

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @1679b3e852dd55bf4efd3083111ee512:disqus – ah you will miss the fun :( but…other places for malaysian include:
      1) Noodle Bowl (Satwa) – it’s got a few malay dishes on the menu
      2) Java Padang [] , Singapore Deli [] , Betawi, and Sari Nusa [] – all these places are actually Indonesian, but you may find a few dishes here that overlap…

      Hope this helps! 

  8. anita menon says:

    wow… this is fascinating. Wonder if there is something like this in Bahrain. The food looks finger lickin’ good. you shouldnt really blame yourself for going all ballastic like that on the food there on display. I think you did justice to it provided you really had all that food. Hope the few more days of fasting go smoothly for you and your family

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @openid-77086:disqus – thanks for the words of consolation :) I knew my fellow foodies would stand by me in my moment of colossal greed! Thanks for the Ramadan wishes darling.

  9. Keren Bobker says:

    Just returned form there and already eaten all the poppiah and karipaps. Tastes of my childhood. The rendang smells amazing and you weren’t kidding about the ayam panggang being spicy. I love it, but not sure how my husband will cope. Only about three stalls at 4.15pm today and no one seling pau or the pandan drink.
    Thanks for posting about this though. Made me very happy indeed. :-)

    1. Didi says:

      I was there too! Went home a happy camper with beef rendang, sambal sotong (for me boss), fried parcels of Malaysian joy and the pandan drink :) I may have bumped into you as I was one of the earliest birdies

    2. inafryingpan says:

      @didipaterno:disqus – yay! you got the rendang! just read your blog post about it :)

    3. inafryingpan says:

      @facebook-707375597:disqus – woo hooooo! I’m so glad you had a chance to go experience it! Sucks that there weren’t more than 3 stalls, it was buzzing when we went last. But it sounds like you managed to bag up some of the most-loved Malaysian dishes. Hope your hubs has survived the spice onslaught!

  10. naillah says:

    Guys! Is there a bazaar again like this for this coming ramdhan? Can I have the exact location? Please update me.. I have been dying to eat that rendang..

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      TYC – Yes it is still on! Here’s what it says on the Malaysian consulate website:

      Assalamualaikum and Greetings to all Malaysians in UAE

      Dear Sir / Madam, You are invited to participate in Ramadan Bazaar at the premises of the Consulate General of Malaysia yard, Dubai (No. 83, Street No. 10D, Al Mankhool, Bur Dubai on every Friday of Ramadan on 4, 11 and July 18, 2014 beginning 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm.

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