Monday, June 22, 2015

Kuih muih Rambo

Starting with an idle thought, I wound up learning exactly how new traders "break in" to the night markets/Ramadan bazaars.

Theoretically, you're supposed to have a trader's license and stall permit (1 permit per intended trading lot) before you're allowed to start operating.

The reality is, though, permits are apparently scarce, and approved location even more so.

So, what new traders learn to do is scope out the market premises to find unoccupied lots and enquire delicately with the neighboring traders whether that particular trader will be late or absent. If it's the latter, the newbie pitches their stall there and hopes for the best. This is apparently known as "Rambo-ing", where you do the thing you want to do but where you might not be supposed to be at.

It appears that you pay some sort of appearance fee if the market is run by a neighborhood or local organization. However, you risk being fined and having your goods confiscated if caught trading illegally at municipal council-organized markets.

Nevertheless, it can be quite lucrative if you sell the right thing (usually food, especially during Ramadan).

I thought of all this when Enfant Terrible and I came across a dessert stall set up away from the main Ramadan bazaar area this evening. There were 2 folding tables holding trays of traditional Malay kuih. A family of three was running it (mum sliced and scooped, son packed, dad was the cashier), and a line quickly formed behind us.

Our spoils were seri muka and kuih talam gula merah/melaka, which were perfectly lovely even if you didn't fast. The kuih were sticky and sweet but not cloyingly so, and the aroma of pandan wafted down the line. Plus, each piece cost 50 SEN, which makes me want to cry with disbelief and happiness.

From what I could see, they were down to the last 3 trays, and there were 5-6 empty trays stacked at the side. At my question, the dad said they'd started operating only an hour ago!

Though they obviously had no permits or licenses,* theirs wasn't a "true" Rambo operation, as there were no other stalls around. 10/10 for canny business acumen though: they're visible from the main road, and the Ramadan bazaar is not. Duh!

*That has never stopped anyone from buying street food, of course.

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