Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trials and Tribulations at Bazaar Ramadhan

What do you look for when you buy food for breaking of fast? I don't go to the Bazaar Ramadhan that much, mainly because there's too many people and there are too many traders, at most times I really have no idea what to get. Sometimes I would just some traditional kuih, and at times, some dishes to accompany the rice.

I usually meet a number of people carrying stacks of food at the bazaar, and I assume that there are a lot of people they are buying for. I must say that my menu for breaking of fast is actually simple. Back in Penang before 2005, for a few years, I spent the whole fasting month eating the RM1 murtabak and fried noodle (cooked in a big skillet) for breaking of fast. When the taste and quality of both dishes went down, I had to make my own.

I usually look for something nice and worthwhile for my breaking of fast. What frustrates me most are the traders who skims on ingredients or simply makes their dishes even when they know their product is way, way off.

My wife bought some kuih and dishes from the bazaar at the Darulaman Stadium. I must say that most of them were very nice. Despite the fact that I sell curry puffs, I still love to try curry puffs bought from others, and truth to be said, my wife chose very well. The beef curry puffs contain beef, unlike some traders who ask you whether you want beef or chicken, but end up with potatoes and taste the same.

Still, the pulut udang was disastrous. Pulut udang is glutenous rice cooked with coconut milk, filled with dessicated coconut cooked with spices and prawns, grilled over charcoal. The rice was nice, you can taste the creamy texture of it being cookec with coconut cream, but the filling...boy, they squeezed the cream out of the dessicated coconut and used the husk of the dessicated coconut to make the filling. Although you can taste the spices, you can't even taste the prawn overall, the taste was hollow.

My wife also bought the famous kampung-style beef curry with banana stems. I've written on this before where this delicacy is famous in kampung areas during kenduris. Fresh beef, banana stems, curry powder, no
coconut milk, cooked and simmered until the beef and banana stem is extremely tender and juicy, so what could go wrong? I was extremely disappointed though. The cuts of beef were hardly US Choice, it was more of cartilage and the worst part of chuck. What shocks me most is that there was only a little amount of stem and a big amount of banana trunk which was chopped to small pieces. Banana trunk is much tougher than the stem, even when you cook it for a long time. The long queue and the RM5 price tag don't do justice at all, and that will give that dish a very bad reputation.

I am not saying that all traders create short cuts in their quest to make more profit, a small percentage of them are. With hundreds of traders located in one bazaar, how do people know whether it is good or not? I guess that the old practice of "the stall with the longest line is the always the best" doesn't really apply here. I remember queueing up for Roti John for my son last year at the same bazaar. It was the stall with the longest line, but I noticed that the ingredients (eggs, what seemed to be like beef, spices and onions) were very watery and the black pepper sauce was watery as well. In the end, we ended with a very bland Roti John, soaking with liquid from the ingredients and sauce. Even my son couldn't stomach it well.

I understand that taste differs from one person to another, but I know that even some of the kuihs and dishes sold at the bazaar cannot really be passed as something nice to be eaten. In the past, Bazaar Ramadhan stalls used to be filled with a lot of housewives who use their homely culinary expertise to whip up delicious home-tasting delicacies. Even as it gets more and more commercial today, the food should be wholesome and tasty, worth the money that people want to spend. They had a long day of fasting, let them savour the food that ends their trials and tribulations of the day.

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