As mentioned previously, my plan was to spend a few days in Kota Bharu, one of Malaysia's more staunchly Muslim cities, during Ramadan. I was looking forward to the holiday atmosphere, not to mention some extreme holiday eating at markets like the one I'd encountered in Pattani. Paradoxically, this wasn't to be the case, as because of Ramadan, all shops and restaurants were closed and most of Kota Bharu's residents seemed to be elsewhere.
There also appeared to be no equivalent of a special Ramadan post-fast market in Kota Bharu, although the town's evening market was particularly buzzing. Most dishes sold at the market were served to go:
typically bundled up in sheets of brown waxed paper. But if you wanted to eat at the market it was possible to take your bundle to a stall selling drinks, order a drink, and eat there.
These fish were coated in a curry paste-like marinade and pan-grilled on banana leaves:
There was heaps of grilled food:
but I really enjoyed the curry stalls (pictured at the top of this post), which served rich, meaty curries over rice, as well as nasi kerabu, the local equivalent of khao yam, blue rice topped with sliced fresh herbs and other toppings.
The sweets were also impressive, both in terms of quantity:
On the eve of Aidilfitri, the last day of Ramadan, I waited in a very long and competitive line for two bundles of rice and took them to a drink stall. Most diners had already bought their meals, staked out a table, and were patiently waiting for the moment when they could eat again. Finally, just after 7pm, prayers were broadcast from the mosques in the area and after a month of daily fasting, Ramadan was over and people dug in: