A week ago, a Malaysian food Samaritan whispered her little secret to me. And now I'm sharing that secret with you.
Tomorrow is your last chance to experience the Malaysian Ramadan Friday Bazaar. Tucked away in Bur Dubai, the Consulate of Malaysia hosts a bazaar with eight tables of authentic, home-made Malaysian sweet and savoury treats that can up the ante on your iftar spread at home. This Friday event reignites the communal feeling and flavours of the massive Ramadan bazaars back in Malaysia, at a smaller, though no less fulfilling, scale.
The bazaar scene is one of chatty Malaysian ladies, handwritten labels gesturing to an array of dishes and steel ladles seductively poised in tall pots of curried meats. Surrounded by the intoxicating smells of chilli, lemon grass, coconut, galangal, tamarind and the spices from the pantries of these Malaysian home chefs, my slim thread of self-control snapped.
I went wild, dipping into my wallet every few seconds to fish out bank notes and fling them like worthless paper in exchange for treasure: saucy noodle strands of mi goreng, reddish brown chunks of ayam panggang (grilled chicken) packed over two kinds of spiced nasi (rice), deep-fried globes of cucur badak with their potato-pastry skins concealing a mixture of toasted coconut, sugar and spices, plastic bags with cool pandan milk swooshing about in their bellies and, yes, I'd like that glutinous rice and shrimp wrapped up in banana leaves, please! The beef rendang lady coaxed me to step closer, and it wasn't long before her intensely aromatic beef curry had reserved its place on my iftar table alongside all my other finds.
I think I've stumbled across the most authentic Malaysian fare Dubai has to offer. If you want to bottle up some Malaysian culinary magic for yourself, visit the consulate between 4 and 7pm tomorrow, and get there early – they run out of the best goodies within the first hour.
Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.iliveinafryingpan.com.