The clearing night sky signalled the coast was clear. As my mother-in-law and sister-in-law prepared to join me in our weekly trail, a voice called out from our home, asking for some hot soybean curdling.
I drove the trusty car towards our destination, rows of shops in Sri Rampai. Traffic was heavy, and there were no parking space available. With the road blocked, I took the only possible way, via the back alley of the shops. Brightly lit, it was still not a good choice to park the car as it was hidden from the crowd. But a space we did find, and into it I drove the trusty car.
And here we were. The night market of Sri Rampai. Rows of stalls selling multitudes of wares can be seen. Whiffs of appetizing smell slowly engulfed us while we walked past a food truck that labelled itself as selling fried carrot cake. Carrot cake is a misnomer, the main ingredient was made from white radish, radish being directly translated as white carrot (Bái luóbo or 白萝卜). So too was cake, as it is not a cake, but paste made from white radish.
You can find nearly everything at a Malaysian night market. Food, fruits, drinks, imitation watches and clothes, fish, beef, depending largely on who came first to set up their stalls.
Night markets are ubiquitous part of Malaysian life. You can find them in nearly every town in Malaysia. A city as large as KL boasts many more. Nearly every street or district would have at least one night market.
|Food trucks adding colour to the scene|
|Some of the Taiwan style food found.|
|Some are established businesses, like this food truck selling thong sui, is part of s franchise that originated from Penang.|
|An interesting concept from this old stall operator, using chicken eggs as "buns". One of the best food here. Take note, this is non-halal.|
|Imitation jewelry are sold too.|
|Need a new pair of shoes?|
Night markets, or pasar malam as it is known in Malay, offer an interesting look into the interaction within a local society. Here, you get to see that at microeconomic level, businesses are bursting with life. The interesting interaction between the stall-keepers and the local residents. And you get to see too the brutality of business world. If you're late, you're inefficient and your space at the night market would quickly be taken over by another enterprising person. Your wares do not meet local buyers' expectation, you lose business as the crowd move on to the next stall that offers similar products.
|A young worker ending his day with packed food from this stall.|
|You need perfume?|
|A trader interacting with his customers. Fried food are a standard fare at most night markets.|
This particular night market is one of the most colourful night markets. It boasts both halal and non-halal sections. Mindful of the needs to coexist, the halal and non-halal food do not open next to each other. Instead, other stalls become buffer. With the existence of both food, allow this night market to offer variety of food, from satay, to Taiwanese style food, to even Japanese style takoyaki. Sometimes, you can even find more exotic food from Vietnam, as Vietnamese food are getting more famous in Malaysia.
|Bundled clothes are a norm. Good for the budget.|
|A trader singing using a microphone, to serenade his potential customers and to show that his wares are working fine.|
The traders too work together. Paying their due of RM5, the fund goes into the local neighbourhood watch and to hire a rubbish truck to collect the rubbish and leftovers.
Some sell fresh produce, fish and even crabs. Walking past some fruit stalls, the strong smell of smelly toufu (臭豆腐)slowly permeated in the late evening sky. Yet none complained as it only added more colour and life to the night market.
|More food. Reminds me of home.|
|Hot dogs and Chinese sausages. Technology has helped to make food preparation cleaner too.|
|Choice of meat.|
Not all of those who peddle their trade here sells goods or food. A middle-aged man walked by carrying several books in plastic covers, the Chinese version of a church literature which I had seen before. Other times, you have tahfiz school students walking around too.
|A church worker turned away the moment the photo was taken, not because she was aware, but she saw a potential harvest for the Lord.|
Malaysians of various races, rubbed their shoulders with each other. They are one people, not one more important than the other. And at that moment, if only I could capture their lives, none, I repeat, none could see how different each other were from one another. No politics, no hatred, only making a living and living together.
As we left the ground, I could only hope this would last forever. And yet, at the end of all of these, I still could not find the soybean curdling, as all had been sold off.