Bustling Morning Street Wet Market Toned Down At Chowrasta
This is the best Asian wet market experience in George Town. Wake up early for a true blue Penang experience of shopping at an authentic lively wet market. Watch the street vendors set up stall just before the crack of dawn. By 6am most of the roadside stalls would be set up with vans parked and goods offloaded.
Watch how the local housewives shop as they moved from stall to stall to do their marketing. Most of the shoppers and vendors know each other. It’s the daily chat and mingles they look forward to.
It’s worth the effort to walk through the market even if you don’t plan on buying anything. Just taking in the colours, smells and people watching is a great pastime.
The Chowrasta Market is known as “Kelinga Ban San” in Penang Hokkien. Translated it means “South Indian Market”.
There are four roads bordering the Chowrasta Market. Most of the market activities spill onto the three bordering roads.
For my jaunts, I head there during the weekends. Definitely a fun place to immerse myself in on Sunday morning. I seldom go into the Chowrasta Market building. Like most locals, I prefer the open-air section street wet market along Kuala Kangsar Road. This offers more to bargain hunters. I can get fresh meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, plump juicy fruits and vegetables.
Most visitors would enter Kuala Kangsar Road from either Kimberly Street or Campbell Street. The two shorter roads, Chowrasta Street and Tamil Street connect to Penang Road.
As there are vans and lorries parking on both streets, there are fewer street vendors here. Dried foodstuff from China and women’s clothes wholesalers are predominant on Chowrasta Street. Along Tamil Street, there are Indian grocery shops.
Chowrasta Market itself is a haven for tourists looking for cheap bargains, souvenirs. Food is abundant with a large range of local goodies. There are pickles, sweets, dodol, tempoyak, cincaluk, and tambun biscuit and even homemade cookies.
It is easy to find good and cheap food for breakfast in most outdoor food markets. There are five “kopitiam” (coffee shops) on Kuala Kangsar Road. These are hidden just behind the umbrella hawkers selling decent, affordable breakfasts.
I head to my two favourite breakfast food here. There is a popular Chee Cheong Fun cart which serves steamed flat rice noodle rolls is without any filling. The springy rice rolls are drizzled with oil and three types of sauces. The pungent prawn paste (hae ko), sweet red sauce (tee cheou), and chilli sauce.
Another breakfast favourite is the Chee Cheong Chok, a thick flavourful congee cooked with pig innards and blood cubes. This is topped with loads of white pepper, spring onions and chopped crispy deep-fried pig intestines.
I down that with ‘Kopi C’ a thick local coffee with thin evaporated milk. ‘Kopi‘ is local coffee with thick sweetened condensed milk. ‘Kopi O’ is just black coffee with sugar.
You could choose to grab a cup of cold soybean milk to go and walk off those calories.
NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED
It takes a while to get used to the smell of a wet market. Side stepping the puddles and no tripping over the tripod legs of huge umbrellas soon becomes second nature. It takes about half an hour to walk the length of Kuala Kangsar Road.
For a truly Malaysian experience, watch out for the motorcycles balancing containers and goods riding through the crowd of pedestrians and shoppers! Seriously no one seem to care as everyone just go on their own pace as they jostle for space on the narrow road.
A few kids take turn pulling each other as they ride in discarded boxes on the pavement.
PAJAMAS & BRAS
Even though there are plenty of shops selling clothes at wholesale prices, no one seem to mind the pajamas and women’s underwear on display overhead.
Do walk in some of the regular clothes shops to look around if you want to buy some cheap clothes. There are batik dresses, nice shirts or souvenirs. Some of these items you won’t find at the Batu Ferringhi night market.
There are loads of cheap shoes and sandals that look like the original on display. I bought two pairs of these to pair with my fave jeans for my weekend jaunts. One pair of sandals I wore hiking up Pala-U waterfall in Hua Hin, Thailand. I kid you not!
FRESH FRUIT & VEGES FOR THE PICKING
Penangites love a good bargain. More than that they love to pick and choose their fresh produce and fruits. So it’s okay even if you’re picky and take your time choosing. The vendors are friendly even if you don’t buy.
There are fresh banana combs on sale. Fresh jackfruits cut and sold in plastic packets and imported grapes and persimmons. There’s another morning flea market at Lorong Kulit worth checking out.
CHOWRASTA MARKET is open daily
*This hive of activity with random wet market stalls on Kuala Kangsar Road is now cleared. The vendors are allocated stalls along Chowrasta Road.
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