Sampling Malaysian street food in the night market in Langkawi was much more than a mere eating experience. I could see a mélange of Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Thai and of course, Malaysian food cultures in these stalls. I was one step closer to understanding the amazing food culture in this awesome tourist destination. Watching the locals making delectable foods out of simple ingredients, some of the foods which I had never heard of or seen before, was really a pleasure and a learning experience. I am happy that we took one evening out from our Langkawi trip for the visit to a local night market and it was really worth paying a visit! We actually ended up tasting a lot of dishes and desserts because the prices were very reasonable and the sight of the freshly made food in front of your eyes only makes you craving for more, isn’t it?
Night markets (Pasar Malam in Malay) or open-air street food are not only the places where you can enjoy cheap eats, but these are the places which will give your tastebuds the exact and unadulterated taste of the local cuisine. Night markets in Langkawi are set up in different locations across the island and these locations keep on changing throughout the week. With just RM 15, you and your partner can have a filling meal for sure. You will get a huge variety of hot and cold foods to try, even you can shop for fresh local fruits or vegetables if you like. Malaysian vendors are friendly and approachable. But as with any street food stall, you have to be a bit careful with the hygiene factor. To avoid stomach infection, always eat fresh food being prepared right in front of you, and not those which are already sitting idle for a while.
We started our “taste trip” with the Malaysian curry puffs or kind of empanadas with savoury filling, varying from sweet potato, fish, chicken to beef. We tasted the chicken-stuffed one and it was quite interesting. Although a bit spicy for the kids, this makes an excellent snacking option for the grown-ups otherwise. We popped on some popias or Malaysian spring rolls with a Chinese origin, and those were fun. We loved both these treats.
The next visually appealing food to try was sumptuous Malaysian fishballs and chicken balls coated with a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. I had tasted similar kinds of balls in Hong Kong street food stalls as well, but the sauce in this night market was something which I really liked to eat with. This package was just “wow” and we could not stop ourselves being a bit too greedy. As we were determined to taste other local delicacies, we left this stall and moved to the next one, only to find something even more tempting!
The Murtabak(or Martabak) was definitely something we wanted to try since the time we planned the Langkawi trip. And it was before our eyes: freshly made with a generous size to suit our appetite. We were progressing towards a phase where we could say that we had a hearty dinner, rather than snacking on! The Murtabaktasted somewhat similar to the Indian Mughlai Paratha. Murtabak was tasty, no wonder, but I expected the filling to be richer. As the meat content was rather less, I was a bit disappointed. Time to move on.
The local people were happily trying dishes such as the Nasi Goreng Kampung, Mee Goreng Mamak, Char Kway Teow, Nasi Lemak and Chicken Curry Kapitan. Nasi goreng kampung is a spicy traditional Malaysian fried rice with boxing chicken, chicken satay, fried egg, local pickled vegetables and Asian shrimp crackers. Mee goreng Mamak is Mamak-style yellow mee or bee hoon (vermicelli) cooked with prawns, squids and chicken. The popular Char Kway Teow is wok-fried flat rice noodles with shrimps, leeks, bean sprouts, eggs, lard and sweet soy glaze. Nasi Lemak is actually steamed coconut flavoured rice with chicken rendang(a popular curry), sambal paste, fried anchovies and boiled eggs, served with local picked vegetables and cucumber. Chicken curry Kapitan are slow-cooked chicken drumsticks in local Malay herbs and spices and are best served with fragrant chiang mai rice.
We skipped a few stalls offering these mouth-watering “grab-and-go” dinner options. These were pre-packed and we doubted the hygiene factor. So better to avoid, we thought. As mentioned earlier, we tasted only those foods which were cooked fresh in front of us: no compromise on the quality of course! After passing by a few stalls, we discovered this stall. AN suggested that we should try the crispy fried chicken along with the vegetarian stir-fried noodles and wow, both of them were tasty and complemented each other. The kids tried a few of the grilled, local sausages and enjoyed every bite of these hand-held treats.
By now, we were full and needed some break. As it was hot, we tried the cold fare in the stalls. We tried iced Lai Chi Kang, a fascinating colourful dessert-cum-drink comprising red dates, dried longan, lotus seeds, winter melon candy, barley pearls and grass jelly. We packed some dorayakiand Srikaya for our late-night dessert and left the awesome and buzzing night market, with unforgettable Langkawi food memories to share with friends back home.