In Defence of Expensive, Unnecessarily Quirky Ramadan Bazaar Food
Top image: Ahae Taiyaki / Facebook

Dear Singaporeans, do you not like fancy Ramadan Bazaar fare? 

Do you not find joy in transcending time and tradition with upscale street food like Maggi curry mee gelato served in a salt-rimmed cocktail glass?

Did you not comprehend the cultural achievement when we pioneered french fries served in adorable cigarette boxes? Were you not entertained by the culinary innovation of bagels in various hues of the light spectrum

Are you awestruck by our Instagram posts about unnecessarily quirky food and drinks every year when the Ramadan Bazaar comes around? 

Was it the multitude of tried-and-tested local flavours given international relish that were an affront to you? If one were to marry the intricacies of Malay and Spanish piquancy through Ondeh Ondeh Churros, is it not a culinary revolution with a side of gula melaka? 

Or was it the fact that the Smokey Fries were simply fries with morsels of meat smothered in nacho cheese and barbecue sauce? And that the only smokiness involved was simply dry ice fog that served no purpose outside of just pure aesthetics?

Have you lost the exhilaration of seeing friends begging you to tell them where exactly you got these photogenic treats that “look so good sia”? What’s so wrong with taking pleasure in easy listicle fodder for Singaporean foodie blogs? 

Do you not find the joie de vivre in drenching every single snack in so much nacho cheese and mayonnaise that it’s enough to make a nutritionist weep? Are you afraid that the scrumptious, greasy taste of deep-fried decadence gets drowned out by processed yellow-and-white glaze? 

When you take a walk around various bazaars across the country, do you notice a pattern forming? 

How there seem to be bountiful homages to Japanese and Korean heritage everywhere? In that, there’s always chewy takoyaki and taiyaki that tastes lusciously of flour and air? Or the presence of TikTok-viral cheese pastry that’s all the hit in Gangnam but tastes like waffles from Woodlands North Plaza? 

How there seems to be a subversion of packaging to maximise portions, gustatory debauchery and, most importantly, Instagrammability? Like the neon-coloured drinks that come in literal buckets of too much ice and too little beverage?

How there’s always the triumvirate of Nutella, biscoff and red velvet as options to add extra diabetic oomph to desserts? The ones that hit you with a sledgehammer of sugar that you need a drink after taking a bite or two? May we offer you a cup of melted ice cream to wash it all down? 

Can you offer us some thoughts after you’re done coughing out all that milky phlegm? 

Tell us, do you miss the heydays when a standard Ramly Burger Special only costs $2 instead of $6? Are you longing for the pre-shrinkflation times, when a bag of keropok lekor comes piping hot and filled to the brim instead of the few flimsy day-old sticks you get these days? When you didn’t have to take out a bank loan to try out every single food and drink at a pasar malam? 

Image: Choo Yut Shing / Flickr

Perhaps you may have heard as well just how costly it is to rent a bazaar stall in this economy? How vendors paid up to $25,000 just to take up a spot at Geylang Serai last year? How—even after a maximum rental cap of $15,000 was imposed this year—vendors can’t fathom breaking even

Would it be fair to say that these vendors are simply doing the best they can to make sure their business survives? That they pull out every single gimmick to pull in eyeballs and foot traffic to the bazaar? Can anyone be surprised that they would feel personally attacked when anyone casts shade on their items? Would it be understandable if they’re charging extravagant prices for mediocre delicacies? 

Are you glad that pasar malams are still around despite current circumstances and increasing challenges to their existence?  

Let me know! Thanks.

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