Pasar malams, also known as the Singapore’s very own version of night markets, are a joy to be at. Though it can be humid and crowded at times, it is the atmosphere and variety of shops selling all kinds of knick knacks that we love. Not forgetting the myriad of food options that have evolved throughout the years.
These days, you can spot fancy – and IG-worthy – food items like bagels, Thai iced tea and dragon breath dessert. Then there are the OG fan-favourites like the Ramly burger, a staple in all pasar malams; kueh kuehs; Taiwan sausages and dragon’s beard candy. The only downside is that these night markets pop up around our neighbourhood often unexpectedly, so cravings can’t be satisfied pronto.
However, this may all change because here are recipes of some of our (and hopefully yours too) favourite finger food from pasar malams.
Curry Fish Ball
Yums. The thought of these little bouncy and chewy fishballs, soaked in spicy curry gravy is guaranteed to excite the palate. It’s a great midday savoury snack in my opinion, especially for those looking for a spicy kick to perk up their afternoon.
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
5 shallots, minced
1½ tbsp flour
60g Thai yellow curry paste
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup coconut milk
3 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 pinches of sugar
2 packs of fried fish balls
Add oil to a skillet over medium heat. Fry the shallots until they start to caramelise.
Add the flour and stir thoroughly to combine, cooking for a minute or so.
Make a space in the center of the pan and add the curry paste. Fry until fragrant.
Add the chicken stock and stir thoroughly, breaking up the curry and the roux. Bring to a boil and let it thicken.
Add coconut milk, curry powder, soy sauce, white and black peppers, sugar, and finally the fish balls.
Close the lid and simmer for 10 mins until the curry sauce thickens.
Serve immediately in the pan or on skewers. Drizzle leftover gravy on top of fishballs.
Piping Bag Churros with Chocolate Dip
Churros have steadily gained popularity in our night markets, with some boasting unique dips to pair them with. No prizes for guessing why this sweet and warm dessert is one of the greatest desserts in the world – crispy on the outside; soft, tender and warm on the inside with its signature waft of cinnamon.
The key to getting the right texture is getting the temperature of your oil right. Hotter oil gives you a crispier outside with softer insides, which is the ideal texture we are looking for. Be careful that your oil isn’t too hot or else the dough inside won’t be cooked!
1 cup water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
For the coating:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
For the chocolate sauce:
113g dark baking chocolate chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the coating, mix sugar and cinnamon together in a large shallow dish, set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the water, sugar, salt and vegetable oil. Bring the mixture to a boil then remove it from the heat. Stir in the flour, mixing until it forms a smooth ball.
Transfer dough into a pastry/piping bag with a star tip.
Add 3-4 inches deep of oil in a large deep sided skillet. Heat over medium heat to about 170 degrees. Line a plate with paper towels.
Pipe the dough over the pot of oil to about 4 inches, then using a scissors or a sharp knife to cut it. Careful not to burn yourself. Fry churros until golden, rotating a few times so that the churros cook evenly till they are golden.
Transfer to plate and dab off excess oil then immediately transfer to coating dish until evenly coated.
To make the chocolate sauce, heat heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat till hot. Remove from heat and add chocolate to mix, pressing and mixing it in till smooth.
Dip tips of churros into chocolate sauce and serve immediately.
Rice Cooker Muah Chee (Glutinous Rice Balls)
The sticky and chewy peanut snack is an all-time favourite. Though it can be found in many foodcourts and hawker shops these days, nothing tastes quite the same as those bought from pasar malams, agreed? So why not try this recipe at home for yourself to see if it meets your standards.
2 cups rice flour
2 cups water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Oil (to coat inside of rice cooker)
Add the rice flour and water into a bowl. Stir well and rid all visible lumps in the mixture.
Dab some oil onto a kitchen towel and coat the rice cooker pot with a thin layer of oil.
Pour the mixture into the rice cooker pot. Press the “start” button and let cook for 3 mins.
Gently stir the mixture and let cook for another 3 mins.
Let mixture form and continue stirring for every 3 mins until sticky dough forms.
Add sesame oil and mix it with the muah chee dough.
Cut muah chee into bite size amounts and toss it with peanut powder.
The piping hot steamed braised peanuts taste the best in a cool environment. I remember purchasing a packet and eating them on a rainy day at home with my cider. The best kind of supper one could ever ask for. If you enjoy shelling those raw peanuts while watching soccer, this flavourful soft peanuts will take it up a notch. Trust me.
500g raw peanuts, with shells
21/2 tbsp salt
3 cloves garlic
3 star anise
3 cinnamon sticks
Wash the peanuts and remove any spoilt-looking ones
Combine everything in a deep and heavy based pot and bring to a boil. The water should cover the peanuts.
Lower heat and simmer, stirring from time to time to ensure even cooking for at least 4-6 hours. Keep topping up water if need be.
When peanuts are done, remove pot and drain well.
Ramly Burger has got to be the most iconic night market food people would flock to pasar malams to get a bite of this messily-delicious burger. During my younger days, I had to queue for nearly an hour to order just one burger but boy, the wait was so worth it.
For the chicken patty:
360g fresh minced chicken
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp Maggi seasoning
1 tsp salt
For the buns:
4 burger buns
For the sauce:
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp black pepper sauce
2 tbsp chili sauce
1 tsp curry powder
Combine the minced chicken, white pepper, and Maggi seasoning. Chill for at least 20 minutes.
Remove and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape it into discs.
In the saucepan on medium-high heat, add a light coat of oil and fry the chicken patty.
Season with salt, Worcestershire sauce, and curry powder. Flip over and repeat.
Cook the patties until they are golden-brown on both sides.
In the same pan, pour in a beaten egg. When the egg is almost fully cooked, place a chicken patty in the centre of the omelette.
Gently fold the omelette on all four sides to cover the patty.
Slice burger buns and spread with butter. Toast the buns till golden brown.
Place the omelette-wrapped patty on the buns.
Add black pepper, mayonnaise and chili sauce. Serve.
Crispy Apam Balik (Pancakes)
If you frequent the Ramadan bazaar, you are bound to spot a few stalls selling crispy apam balik, which is a thin layer of crispy pancake with fillings like peanut, butter and creamy corn!
200g all-purpose flour
100g rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
Roasted peanuts, finely chopped
200g canned cream corn
3-4 tbsp salted butter
In a bowl, combine the flour, rice flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and baking soda. Thereafter, whisk in the egg and water.
Wrap the bowl with cling wrap and leave it to rest for 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.
In a small non-stick pan over medium heat, lightly oil the surface. When the pan is hot, evenly coat the pan with the batter and cook for about 1 min or until the batter sets and forms small bubbles.
Sprinkle sugar on top of the pancake and keep cooking for another 4-6 mins or until pancake is light golden brown. Top with some cream corn. Lift pancake from the pan, fold into half and serve immediately.