Every year when the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan rolls around, we make an annual pilgrimage to the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar to get our fill of Hari Raya festive goodies. Oddly enough, I don't feel such an impetus to go to Chinatown over CNY. I think it's because I get easy access to CNY holiday grub, and not so much for seasonal Hari Raya chow.
A tip, to avoid the hordes of celebratory folks loading up on festive goodies and products, is to hit up the bazaar on a Monday evening, during the early weeks of Ramadan. If you're driving, there's an open-air carpark opposite the Haig Road Hawker Centre with a really high turnover. Another thing, dress coolly, because, trust me, you will sweat.
There are about a million food stalls set up at the month-long, seemingly never-ending bazaar, but the foodstuff are quite repetitive, and to be honest, they kind of blend into one another. I tend to stick to the stalls nearest the Haig Road Market, and zoom in on the following must-haves.
I know one can get kebabs anytime of the year at any Turkish restaurant, and not just at the Ramadan bazaars, but somehow, this is about the only time I crave for kebabs. It's the same with bak kwa and rice dumplings. I only crave for them during CNY and the mid-Autumn festival respectively. So anyways, I usually opt for the Chicken Kebab instead of the lamb version, and request that the mayo be held off. I like to be able to taste the delicate spice seasoning of the juicy chicken meat without the overwhelmingly heavy element of mayo. The pita is lightly grilled for a toasty finish, and shredded lettuce cuts through the grease and spice seasoning. I get this at the start of my trek through the bazaar. It's easy to hold and eat without getting your fingers all greasy.
Another seasonal delicacy is the Ayam Percik, a whole chicken wing marinated with tumeric and other Malay aromatics, skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled to a smoky deliciousness. Liberal lashings of a mild sweetish sambal kicks up the spice accents.
For those too lazy to pick through the bones of the chicken wing or to get your fingers dirty, the Chicken Cutlet version is perfect. This was succulent and lipsmackingly awesome. We went back for thirds of these.
Not to be missed is the Dendeng, the Malay version of the Chinese bak kwa, made with beef instead of pork for a Halal-certification. Meatier, thicker, and less sweet than the bak kwa, this will attract long queues with its robust, full-bodied flavour. Look out for the billowing plumes of smoke fumes off the grill. Be sure, though, to get these straight off the grill, and not the ones that have been left standing out. They are best eaten with a shiny sheen of oil and piping hot.
The bazaar is also where I get my Ramly Burger fix. Granted, it's nothing compared to the Malaysian rendition, because the ramly patty is not allowed into Singapore (for reasons unfathomable to me but known to the AVA), but it'll do for now to curb the craving. I usually opt for the chicken, not beef version, and again, request to hold off the mayo. Be prepared to get your hands dirty though, this is a huge greasebomb. And you will have bits and pieces dropping off here and there.
For dessert, be sure to hit up the famous Haig Road Putu Piring stall at the Mr Teh Terik coffeeshop (next to the Haig Road Hawker Centre) for the Malay sweet of Putu Piring. This is the Malay version of tu tu kueh, but with a gula melaka filling and shavings of salted grated coconut. It's light, fluffy and sweetly balanced.
Geylang Serai Hari Raya Bazaar 2013
now on until the wee early morning hours of 8 August 2013