For the uninitiated, the holy month of Ramadan is where Muslims practice self restraint in the spiritual and physical form. In this time, Muslims practice keeping their thoughts pure, their words clean and they fast from dusk to dawn. So how is Ramadan in Langkawi like?
Many people who visit Malaysia for the first time during Ramadan often have the misconception that a lot businesses will be closed during the day, making travel a challenge. This is in fact untrue; most (if not all) businesses actually operate as usual. One thing that could be different is the operation hours of some eateries but even so, finding a place to eat in Malaysia at any time of the day is still easy during the fasting month.
One of the best things about visiting during Ramadan in Langkawi is the low season rate offered by most hotels. Hotel occupancies are generally low during this period therefore prices tend to be discounted, which makes it a great time to get a good deal with that luxury resort you’ve always wanted to stay at! The same applies with some tours and experiences that might otherwise cost more during the high season.
But whether you observe the fasting month or are a traveller who finds yourself on island during Ramadan, we can all share one thing in common: the excitement of the Ramadan bazaars. All across the island, Ramadan bazaars will be popping up usually at least 2 hours before iftar (break fast time) and this is a wonderful time to experience authentic Malay streetfood.
Ramadan Bazaar Tips
Here are some things to keep in mind before hitting up a Ramadan bazaar anywhere in Malaysia:
1. Bring along your own food containers. Don’t have any? The good folks at Trash Hero would be happy to supply you some.
2. There are no places to sit and dine. Ramadan bazaars are primarily for takeaways so people can break fast in their homes.
3. Iftar, or break fast time, is at sunset. In Langkawi that would be at 7.27pm in the beginning, gradually getting later by a few minutes as the month goes by. The sun will set between at 7.30pm and 7.32pm on the last week of Ramadan.
4. It’s okay to eat in public during Ramadan. While most locals avoid eating and drinking in front of their Muslim friends out of respect, don’t worry if you do. Again, Ramadan is a month for self restraint and perseverance so Muslims observing it will not mind you consuming food and drink in their presence.
5. Don’t be greedy. There will be a Ramadan bazaaar every single day of the fasting month so if you don’t get to try all the food today, you can do so another day. Avoid wastage!
Now that you are prepared for Ramadan in Langkawi, let’s talk about everyone’s favourite subject…food.
One such Ramadan special delight is the bubur lambuk, a thick Malaysian spiced congee that is commonly made and given away by mosques to anyone to break fast with. During Ramadan in Langkawi, you can even find them available for free at certain gas stations when it is almost time for iftar. Of course, any Ramadan bazaar would also have at least one stall selling bubur lambuk. This is a must try on our list as you can’t get this dish at any other time other than Ramadan.
Literally translated to “rolled goat”, you can’t miss the sight of a whole goat being roasted on a spit at a Ramadan bazaar. The goat is slowly turned on the spit, resulting in succulent, juicy pieces of mutton that go perfectly with rice. This is easily one of the most popular items at a bazaar and can sell out fast. In Langkawi, the goat is usually marinated with honey and spices.
Nasi Tomato & Ayam Masak Merah
This is actually something you have probably seen at the regular night markets around the island. Tomato rice and chicken cooked in a slightly spicy, red gravy, it is typically packed in individual takeaway boxes and makes for a cheap and cheerful meal. Perfect for those times when you’re breaking fast alone!
A murtabak stall is a staple at all night markets but its popularity especially heightens during Ramadan. Perhaps because its a great snack to share and break fast with before moving on to the main meal? Or maybe because it’s just so damn yummy whether stuffed with beef or chicken or mutton? Make sure you ask for extra pickled onions to go with each bit.
Can’t have Malaysian streetfood without topping your meal off with sweet kuih, can we? Ramadan bazaars are when stalls specializing in local desserts and snacks will show off their glorious selections of colourful kuih. From sweet layered kuih lapis, to melt in your mouth kuih tepung pelita, to palm sugar filled bombs of onde onde, try them all. Plus, their pretty colours make for an Instagram worthy pic too.
Lemang & Ketupat
When these two appear, you know that the end of fasting month is near. Both lemang and ketupat are a must have at any home celebrating Eid (Hari Raya) and their presence at the bazaars signals that Ramadan in Langkawi is almost over. Lemang is deliciously sticky rice with coconut milk stuffed in bamboo sticks cooked over a fire, whereas ketupat is sticky rice (or sometimes substituted with regular rice) encased by delicated weaved leaves. You might also encounter their naked cousin nasi impit which is just like ketupat without the casing.
We hear tourists commonly comment about the high sugar content in the drinks sold at Langkawi night markets. During Ramadan in Langkawi though, this is probably perfectly acceptable. Bear in mind that fasting Muslims go more than 12 hours without food and drink and breaking fast with a sweet drink is good to replenish energy in the body. So ditch your sweet guilt and have a sugary, satisfying drink. If not, there’s always the island’s King of Hydration, our good old coconut.
If you’re lucky enough to spend Ramadan in Langkawi, you’ll find anything from small food stalls to big food bazaars sprouting up island wide around 4pm throughout the month. We will be writing up a list of the major Ramadan bazaars that will be taking place all of May soon, so watch this space.
Ramadan Kareem to all!
Planning to visit Langkawi this Ramadan? Check out our list of authentic kampung house Airbnbs you can book for a full Malay experience.