Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Romance of the Night Markets

Walking down Petaling Street

Oh the smells of steaming noodles, the smoke of spicy barbecue and wafts of freshly baked bread! The crowds of people, some hurrying past clutching pungent bags of durian and seafood! The laughter of children! The cats running through the stalls! The sounds of haggling, vendors offering samples, and someone singing acappella in the background! There’s nothing quite like the night market atmosphere!

Satay vendor

One of places I loved going to were the night markets in KL. Called Pasar Malam in Malay (Pasar=Market, Malam=Night), Night markets are a large part of Southeast Asian culture. Locals would meet at these markets to eat, hang out, gossip and shop from the late afternoon to night. I found this puzzling at first, but it made sense once I actually experienced the outside temperature in KL during the day. It was too hot and humid for anyone to want to do much outside until sunset when the temperature finally cooled off. 

Pao  (baozi 包子in Mandarin or siopao in Filipino).

The "Mr. Black," taro with milk filling, is the best kind!

Similar to bazaars, the vendors at these night markets offer a variety of goods and services such as shoe shining and electronic repairs.I especially loved coming here to sample street foods and stock up on supplies for the week. For what would cost me about about twenty five dollars’at a grocery store, I could get the same amount of food (and more fresh) for less than eight dollars at the night market (including fruits, veggies, breads and other snacks I would need to get me through the week ahead)!

Veggie Vendor

A note about haggling – it doesn’t hurt to try! The more you practice, the better you will become. Also, most vendors are super willing to work with you despite possible language barriers, and they love if you can speak a bit of their language.

Being of mixed heritage myself, though, I feel that I had a different experience from my other classmates as I could pass as looking either Malay, Chinese or Indian depending on the vendor. Some locals expected me to speak their language off the bat, and were shocked when I had to revert to speaking English,...My American accent was a dead giveaway…I made it a point to try to learn as much Malay as I could. I learned to at least count up to seven by the end of the trip! One other thing that helped me was having some working knowledge of Mandarin, which helped with Chinese vendors when I couldn’t understand their accent when speaking English. Most of the Chinese I talked to, however, spoke Cantonese, and I feel that a Cantonese speaker would have no problems at all here.

People line up to drink  pure sugar cane juice??

In addition, I learned that it's best to try to establish a relationship with one vendor. Not only would that vendor appreciate your service, but they are also more likely to remember you and throw in a few free treats every now and then. I would often come to the same pao  (see pic above) vendor to fill my pao craving. One time when I was out of change, my favorite pao vendor told me to pay him back next week, which was super sweet.


There are many different night markets located throughout KL, some only appearing on certain days of the week. There’s a nice one that would open at 5pm on Sundays by Taman Paramount (LRT station), There's a big one also every Sunday at 5pm in Bangsar that catering to expats (expect to see tons of Europeans). 

A "wet" market

Central Market (good for souvenirs and has a decent cheap food court) and Petaling Street next to it (good for knock off handbags and accessories) are open every day all day until 10pm-ish. There are also “wet markets,” which are markets that sell the same produce as night markets, but have wet floors from the vendors. 

Probably the best (worst) thing I could have eaten, besides sugar cane juice. This baby from the Sunday Bangsar night market consisted of layers of fried banana, chocolate, cheese and sweet syrup. Yes, it was amazing and (probably) worth the guilt after.

1 comment:

  1. This one was also by me!
    Stephanie Simpson