[Penang] Ramadhan Food Bazaar by the Penang Muslim League

Queen Street in Penang’s Little India comes alive with the annual Ramadhan Food Bazaar organised by the Penang Muslim League:

Roti jala fanned out on a tray.

Ali Capati Corner, which normally serves its famous “Putu Mayam Biryani” on Wednesdays & Sundays only. During the month of Ramadhan, they sell it daily at the food bazaar.

Roti jala with chicken curry.

Biryani putu mayam, with mutton curry.

Various types of Indian sweets:

Idiyappam is called “putu mayong” in Penang - getting its moniker from the words “pottu” (the Malayalam term for it) and “mayang” (the Javanese word for “head”, in reference to the small coconut kernel being dessicated to be served with the idiyappam).

“Putu mayong” in Malaysia and Singapore is usually served as a sweet snack, accompanied by freshly-grated coconut and ground palm sugar.

Fresh coconut water makes for a refreshing drink.

Indian rojak or pasembor - a delicious mix of batter-fried morsels bathed in a spicey-sweet sauce that’s to-die for:

Murtabak - meat-filled pancakes.


We were back at the Ramadhan bazaar by the Muslim League of Penang in Little India last weekend - it was the first time in 3 years that the bazaar is back & bustling, after the COVID lockdowns in 2020-2022. There was even a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the local Muslim leaders whilst we were there.

Indian-Muslim foodstuffs here differ from Malay ones elsewhere - in Little India, Tamil-Muslim food items predominate: heavier in dry spices (cumin, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek ,etc.) compared to Malay-Muslim food, and the conspicuous absence of South-east Asian cooking ingredients like coconut milk, pandan leaves, galangal and other herbs & spices.

So, we have the South Indian-style chicken curries, heavily aromatic and perfumed with sprigs of curry leaves, spiked with tamarind juice.

We also ordered chapati flatbreads and the very local putu mayong biryani - a special biryani unique to Penang and not found anywhere else in Malaysia, where steamed rice vermicelli - known as idiyappam or string hoppers in India and Sri Lanka - were gently cooked with milk and aromatic biryani spices.

Tamil-Muslim culinary culture is patriarchal, and sellers & cooks tend to be all-male here in Little India, in contrast to the traditional Malay-Muslim culinary culture, which is matriarchal.

Roti surai, known as roti jala elsewhere in Malaysia (outside Penang) and Singapore, is a lacy, eggy crepe, usually paired with a chicken or beef curry to form a substative meal:

Now I need to check out other Ramadhan bazaars in Penang - most others are Malay-Muslim, so the dishes offered will have distinctly different taste profiles from the one here. The whole place exuded a “Southern India Muslim town” feel.

Of course, this being multi-cultural George Town, Penang, one only needed to cross one street - in this case, into Chulia Street next door and one is magically transported from “South India” to “Taiwan”, with its Hokkien food stalls. :joy:


That sounds delicious! I love breakfast (savory) sev upma, but have never come across biryani-style upma.

Ramzan bazaars were a childhood highlight usually experienced with my dad – someone or other would instigate piling into cars and driving to one in the evening well after fast was broken and everyone was back from work (occasionally even late, after dinner) and there were all kinds of deliciousness that we’d never encounter the rest of the year!


This particular dish is so unique to Penang - but you don’t usually find it outside the month of Ramadhan, not even in homes! It’s become a special dish synonymous with the fasting month!

Penang has three large Muslim communities:

  1. The Tamil-Muslims, or locally called “mamaks” who dominate the local Muslim food market;
  2. Malays - these include local Malays (from Penang, Kedah, Perak and other states within the Federation of Malaysia) plus, in a wider, loosely-defined context, Malay-speaking people from Indonesia and Southern Thailand;
  3. Jawi Peranakans - a hybrid community of Muslims from the Middle-East and North India (Punjabi, Gujerati, Pashtuns/Afghans) inter-married with the local Malays.

Each have their own type of cuisine, with very distinctive features, but with some inevitable overlaps.
BTW, all three communities lay claim to the putu mayong biryani as their own!

On Penang island, the Muslim communities collectively constitute about 25% of the total population. The Hindu & Sikh Indians make-up 15%, whereas the Chinese (Hokkiens, Teochews, Hakkas, Cantonese, Hainanese, etc.) are nearly 45% and Europeans/Koreans/Japanese/other expats make up the remaining 15%.
So, the Muslims are a diaspora within a diaspora - a veritable tapestry of multiculturalism here.

You need to come visit Penang again soon! Call me when you do. :smile:


I’d love to visit – I haven’t traveled yet in Asia at all, outside India. Soon, I hope!

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So many of those dishes look like they need to be eaten immediately, but it’s still daylight. How does this bazaar relate to the fasting requirements?

Most of the people there would take-away the food, and break their fast at home - which could be 1 to 1.5 hours away. Unfortunately, you are right - those freshly-cooked food items would’ve been better if eaten straight away.

It would be sooo fabulous to have a HO meetup / food crawl in Malaysia with @klyeoh.

That’s one thing I would happily travel for!


Please do come - I’m pretty sure I can organize a Chowdown or food crawl here!

The last food crawl I did here in Penang was when the president of the Penang Tour Guides Association asked me to conduct a 2-hour heritage food trail guided tour, whilst explaining to 60-plus official Penang tour guides about the origins of various local foods, as well as history/background of some well-known eateries and street vendors there.