Pasar Malam literally translates to night market and in Malaysia, there’s at least one in every town and city. It’s a place where many Malaysians go for affordable food, dry goods, fresh vegetables, clothes, phone accesories and other necessities.
One of the more interesting parts of a Pasar Malam is of course the type of street foods available. These are some of the must try dishes you’ll find there:
1. Apam Balik
Apam Balik is a type of pancake that can be soft and thick or crunchy and thin. Traditionally, the pancake batter is made with flour, baking soda, sugar, eggs and yeast. Once its cooked on a flat pan, toppings such as crushed peanuts, sugar and creamed corn are added on top before the pancake is folded in two. If it’s particularly large, vendors will usually cut it into smaller bite sized pieces.
There are modern versions of the apam balik whereby the batter is flavored with Pandan leaves, cocoa and even activated charcoal. Toppings like chocolate sauce, mint sauce, peanut butter and Nutella are also now available in some stalls.
2. Asam Laksa
Asam Laksa is a sour and spicy noodle dish that has put Malaysia on the map. Each region in Malaysia has its own unique version. The best place to have a warm and comforting bowl of asam laksa is definitely the local pasar malam where vendors will usually set out tables and chairs.
The dish is slightly spicy and the soup is made with mashed fish, usually sardines or mackerel. Tamarind is added to give the soup a sour and sharp tinge and then thick rice noodles are soaked in this soup. Enjoy your asam laksa with some cold and sweet drink to make the experience even better.
3. Keropok Lekor
Keropok Lekor is a type of fish sausage or fish cake that can served chewy and thick and thin and crispy. You will usually find both these versions being sold side by side at any Pasar Malam. Usually, these fish snacks are served with a sweet chili sauce that is poured on top. The fish flavor isn’t very strong and pronounced, and even those who don’t like fish give these snacks a thumbs up. It’s not unusual to see people munching on keropok lekor while walking around the pasar malam.
4. Muah Chee
In this local version of mochi or rice cakes, little lumps of cooked rice balls are tossed in a mixture of sugar and peanuts. Even more sugar and peanuts are topped on one serving of muah chee. What you get is a chewy dessert that’s very nutty and not too sweet. It’s not at all dry and is in fact sufficiently moist.
5. Colorful Dim Sum
The steam coming from these dim sum stalls are unmistakable. You’ll notice them by the large amount of bamboo trays they have lined up, all placed over steaming woks. The bright colors of the dim sum are eye catching and you can pick and choose which one you want.
Each of these tiny dumplings are filled with minced pork that’s flavored with different condiments. Common flavors include salted egg, mushrooms, cabbage and so much more. Usually vendors will sell you a set of 5 to 10 for a fixed price.
6. Fried Radish Cake
This dish is known by several names locally. Some call it fried Loh Bak Gou while others know it as Chai Tow Kueh. Basically, the process of making this dish starts mashing radishes and adding it to rice flour. Thw hole thing is steamed into a solide cake before it’s cut into small cubes. These cubes are then fried with gralic, soy sauce, eggs and other condiments.
In the KLang Valley and beyond, fried radish cake has a pale appearance whereas southerners prefer to season it with thick and dark soy sauce.
7. Stinky Tofu
Although this snack originated in Taiwan, it’s still a favorite among many Malaysians who even line up patiently each week for their smelly tofu fix. The smell of this tofu has been described with words like ‘sewer’ and ‘rubbish dump’. It does take some getting used to.
However once you get passed the smell which comes from a special fermentation process, the tofu itself doesn’t have much taste. It’s usually deep fried to give it a crispy texture and served with chili sauce and pickled cabbage.
Satay is another finger food that you can eat while walking in a Pasar Malam. Usually, only chicken and beef satay are served, usually with some cucumbers and onions as well as a spicy peanut sauce. The meat is usually marinated in a mix of spices and sugar before being grilled to perfection. The chicken skewers are particularly tender and are skewered together with their fats to give a depth of texture and taste.
9. Malaysian Kuih Muih
Kuih muih is a local umbrella term that covers a plethora of small snacks that can be either sweet or savory. A Malaysian pasar malam usually has one of these stalls that sell banana fritters, cassava fritters and sweet ones like kuih lapis , kuih bakar, ondeh-ondeh,pulut inti and tepung pelita.
10. Oyster Omelettes
Also known as Or Chien, this dish will draw you in with its lovely, pungent garlicky flavor as it’s being cooked fresh right in front of your eyes. The main ingredients are eggs that are fried with a light rice flour batter. After that, fresh oysters are added to the mixture before the whole thing in cooked together.
Or Chien is usually served with a slightly sour lime chili sauce that balances out any greasy taste. Apart from oysters, some stalls also offer a similar version but cooked with cockles or clams, and even scallops.
These Pasar Malam specialties are just the tip of the iceberg. If you ever get a chance to visit a night market in Malaysia, you’ll find many stalls selling Japanese, Taiwanese and even western inspired food. It’s a melting pot of delicacies and foodies will no doubt feel right at home here.
If you’re a street food enthusiast, why not check out our list of the best places in the world to enjoy street food?