Tutong’s Ramadhan bazaar returns from pandemic hiatus

Aziz Idris

The Gerai Ramadhan in Tutong District has returned after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak that put a halt to the popular event in the local community last year.

Across the road from the Pengiran Muda Mahkota Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah Hospital in a typically empty lot, more than 100 vendors fired up grills and line rows of plastic tubs and baskets filled with local favourites, ready to service hungry visitors.

Many buy in bulk to bring home to break a long day of fasting with family.

Before the pandemic, some of these vendors had been selling at the lot for decades.

Last year, the majority of them had to resort to online selling at the height of health concerns. Some operated home-based stalls to make ends meet, while others halted their
businesses entirely.

With most restrictions in the country eased, the vendors were delighted to be back, selling everything from kueh malaya to ikan salai (grilled fish).

When COVID-19 restrictions cancelled most public activity last year, Zuryati Zain used the pre-order and drive-thru business concept to stay in operation. “The response was okay, but nothing beats the ‘live-cooking’ that we have here,” she told the Bulletin. Her business, Marzu Enterprise, specialises in grilled meat. However, due to shortages, they have replaced their menu with grilled fish instead. They sold out on the first day.

“I guess people have craving for street food,” she said.

Izam Suhaili of Ayam Tajau decided to join the Gerai Ramadhan Tutong to pay homage to
his town.

When the bazaar was cancelled last year, Izam operated from home and offered delivery services to his customers, and marketed the business using social media. “Although the digitised annual Gerai Ramadhan saw positive feedback, we still prefer having a physical stall where we can prepare the food in front of our customers,” said Izam.

Sharing the same sentiment was Nurliyana of Ikan Percik. Like Izam she turned to social media to market her signature grilled fish last year. She is glad to be able to join this year’s gerai albeit under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Under the government’s 5th de-escalation plan, patrons are required to adhere to the implemented SOPs by scanning the BruHealth QR code at several entry points.

The bazaar opens from 2pm to 6pm daily, until the last day of Ramadhan.

Photos show vendors at the Gerai Ramadhan in Tutong. PHOTOS: AZIZ IDRIS