These days, night markets are found in countries where there is a large presence of the Chinese community such as North America and South East Asia (Malaysia and Singapore). As the concept of night markets spread throughout the world, they are adapted to the local culture. In Malaysia, night markets are literally known as 'pasar malam' in the Malay language. It has a rich history and is believed to have begun from China. You can see how it's reflected in the settings of Chinese dramas depict lively night markets visited by the locals especially during festivals.
As night markets begins after 5 pm, tents are set up and the streets are brightly lit and filled with the din of sellers aggressively promoting their wares and customers haggling for the best bargains. Besides that, the smell of freshly baked pastries, cakes and food wafting into the smiling, uplifted faces of passerby is a common scenario in a 'pasar malam'. Commonly found in residential areas, 'pasar malam' is a weekly or sometimes bi-weekly affair which is catered to convenience the locals.
Normally, a 'pasar malam' is held at a designated area approved by the local authorities where certain streets are cordoned off during the occurrence of the market. Individual stalls which are allocated are charged a minimal amount. The stalls are permanently situated at certain spots and rarely changes. Most of the stalls' owners rotate between several locations in the city during the week to maximize their profits. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see the same stall in a 'pasar malam' at different locations.
Why Night Market (Pasar Malam)?
To me, a night market is like a fun fair minus the crazy rides but with fabulous food instead. You may miss the rides but the food is worth it. I once visited one of the longest 'pasar malam' in Kuala Lumpur that stretches for 1.5 km! Imagine the variety of food that is available. It is truly a food haven. It is also possible to eat at some of the stalls as tables and chairs are set up for the convenience of the customers. However, if you are comfortable with eating as you walk, a night market is the place to do so. No one is going to complain.
Food is the biggest attraction in night markets. Of course, you will be able to buy clothing, fruits, toys, electronics,
pirated DVDs and many other knick-knacks. Even if you are not planning to buy anything, taking a trip to a night market is a fun experience as you would be surprise as to what could be found there.
Types of Food in the Night Market
Mostly local specialties, depending on the stall owners. Choose from fresh fruits to western cakes. Take time to walk along the stalls and choose the types of food you want to enjoy. Just to name a few, the following specialties which are available:
- Nasi Lemak
- Nasi Ayam
- Fried Noodles
- Dim Sum (Chinese tapas)
- Tau Fu Fah (Soy milk pudding)
- Char Kuey Teow
- Satay (Barbequed Skewered Meat)
- Fresh local vegetables/fruits