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The Malaysian Culture of Thronging Night Markets

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If you happened to be in Terengganu and you like to throng night market, Dungun is the place to go. Dungun is a small town located around 100km from the state capital Kuala Terengganu. Its night market is famous for its gigantic size and it’s said to have at least a few hundreds stalls. But you have to time your visit for a Thursday as that’s when the market is held. For first time goers, finding it might be a bit difficult as the night market is tucked behind some houses across the main road. Its famous landmark is Pizza Hut and a 7-Eleven store. Therefore, look around for Pizza Hut or 7-Eleven stores. If you still couldn’t find it, you could ask some folks in town.

Once you see the open-air market, you will be grasped by hundreds of bright lights that illuminate the dark sky and rows and rows of stalls lining in a zigzag pattern as if you have walked into a labyrinth. These stalls sell all kinds of stuffs with most of them locally produced. There are clothes, fruits, vegetables, trays of beads, hair accessories as well as some of the famous home-made specialties are being sold around here.

Dungun Beach

Dungun Beach, Terengganu Tourism

You are encouraged to get there around dinner’s time and take your dinner there for you will be finding an amazing selections of genuine, cheap and delicious local food which you can’t find at any other places. Some of the famous Terengganu specialties you can find are sata ( a kind of spicy fish paste wrapped in banana leaf and grilled), nasi daging, nasi kerabu and keropok lekor.

Terengganu Tourism

Keropok Lekor, Dungun, Terengganu

There is one unfamiliar dish which I have never heard of and that you must not miss is the rojak keteh (aka rojak keting kaki lembu). That’s the cartilage from cow’s legs. It’s sliced and served in a curry-like gravy. I would definitely give it a try if I ever step my foot there.

Other than the special rojak keteh, there are also the piping hot putu halba and putu bamboo. I guess most Malaysians have never heard of it as putu piring is more commonly know in Malaysia where it’s made of coarsely ground rice flour with a filling of gula melaka and topped with freshly grated coconut. Putu piring is steamed in small portion, as small as an adult’s palm size and they are put individually in stainless steal steamers. On the other hand, for putu halba, spices including fenugreek (halba) seeds and turmeric powder are added to the rice flour, turning it greenish-yellow. The filling is the same as putu piring which is gula melaka. Each piece is put on banana leaf when cooked and they emit fragrant aroma. The ‘kuih’ is such a delicious food and I bet you could probably smell the aroma way before you reach the stall. Lastly, putu bamboo is more commonly seen everywhere in Malaysia where it’s made of rice flour rolled in shredded coconut and placed in hollow bamboo for steaming. If you are a foreigners or someone not from Terengganu, this is something that you should not miss.

After filling up your stomach, the next step of course is to weave your way through the rest of the stalls at the market. Occasionally, you will be hearing vendors calling out to customer trying to entice them with samples and bargains of buy-two-get-one-free offers. You will notice that most items sold here don’t carry any price tag. You have to ask the vendors about the price and try to bargain with them. Most often the price the vendors ask for on the first occasion is higher than the actual price. Therefore, bargain is the order of the day if you want to get the best price. Another tips of the art of bargaining at a market like this is to buy more than one item, for example getting two and ask the vendor if there is any discount for buying two or three items. Stuffs sold here are really cheap compared to big cities and food portions are generous. Most rice dish cost only RM1 and you can get three tee shirts for only RM10.
Some other stalls of interest might be the one peddling jamu akar (plant roots with medicinal properties) and ‘magic’ health portion which are usually crowded by men.

Getting There
Dungun is located 112km to be exact from the state capital Kuala Terengganu. The night market is at near Jalan Merbuk in an area called Sura Gate. If you were coming from Kuala Tengganu, take Kuantan-Kuala Terengganu trunk road to go there. It lies mid way between Kuala Terengganu in the north and Kuantan in the south.

Where to stay
There are some small hotels around Dungun but the most famous one is the Tanjong Jara Resort which offers seaside accommodation, It’s about 20 minutes drive from Dungun night market. The resort offers tours to the night market for its guests on every Thursday night. For details, call the resort at 09-8451100.

*Article is referenced from New Straights Times ‘travel’ on article ‘Thursday night live’ written by Putri Zanina.

Dungun, Terengganu Travel

Keropok Lekor, Dungun, Terengganu

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