Day In A Life: Pasar Ramadan Vendor

23 June 2016

We follow Zul on his typical day during the holy month of Ramadan.

Zul (a.k.a. Jack) runs two stalls daily during the month of Ramadan at Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Bangsar’s Pasar Ramadan selling biryani (1001 Beriani Gam). On average, he sells 300 to 500 packs of biryani per day, served with a side of fruit acar (acar buah), with the option of chicken, beef, or mutton. Business was thriving for the past couple years, with three to five stalls running simultaneously during Ramadan bazaars across the city. However, with rising costs, lack of manpower, and an overall dip in general spending, he has had to make the tough decision to scale down this year, treading lightly to not overstretch his resources.

“It used to be possible for me to sell a pack of biryani for cheaper with a side of meat, but it’s impossible now due to the sudden rise in material cost. These days, it’s between RM12 to RM15. I do worry about the price hike and often have to explain to my customers the reasons behind it but I try my best to keep it at a competitive price.”

The day starts off with a delivery of the ingredients from the suppliers before Zul and his team of family, friends and hired help get to work in the makeshift kitchen at his regular business outlet. It starts with the marination of all meats before the biryani spices are mixed. Of course, as with all good chefs, Zul doesn’t reveal his recipe but he was more than happy to share his philosophy of a good biryani.

“You can’t skimp on anything when making a good biryani. The base is very important. Fresh ingredients are vital to making a good base. All the herbs and spices, that’s the heartbeat of the dish. But that’s what makes it expensive as well. I avoid using too much salt and there’s absolutely no MSG in my food. I like to keep the flavours as natural as possible.” 

After a few hours of toiling in the kitchen, the team spends another hour preparing the food for transport. Setting up the stalls at the market is fast enough, but Zul admits the heat can get to them sometimes, especially since they are observing fast as well. In comparison to most rice vendors at the market, 1001 Beriani Gam boasts a freshly-served pack of rice. Using a traditional kampung method, Zul uses a sugarcane-steaming method that keeps the biryani moist and warm throughout the evening, all the while emitting a sweet fruity fragrance. Customers seem impressed and drawn to the pot of steaming biryani amidst all the chaos of the pasar Ramadan.

One can’t help but have a great sense of respect for Ramadan vendors as their days are often long and hard, with preparation and cooking taking almost six hours, all on an empty stomach. Zul also broke down the differences between traditional biryanis filled with herbs and spices versus the more common biryanis around town these days, which he claims are essentially Nasi Minyak with limited spices. “Don’t be cheated by this, know the difference” was his final word of advice to me.

1001 Beriani Gam
Add: No 15, Gerai DBKL Jalan Thavers, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 019-251 3254

During Ramadan, they can be found at Pasar Ramadan TTDI and Bangsar

Story by Chris Lim
Photography by Shaun Ng & Chris Lim


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