My favorite food center comes alive only at night, every night. During the day it is a municipal council car park. At night food vendors are allowed to make use of the place to sell their food. They have to pay a small fee to use the place, but I am sure they can afford it.
With a couple of friends, I reach the food center at about seven in the evening. The sky is already darkening and the vendors have their portable fluorescent lights switched on. I walk between two rows of food stalls.
The very first thing that strikes me is the mouth-watering smell coming from the satay stall. Ah, I can see the satay seller half hidden in the clouds of smoke from his charcoal fire. There are many people seated around the tables behind him obviously enjoying the very delicious satay. We are in luck. A group of people at a table is just leaving. So my friends and I quickly occupy the table before some other people do.
The satay seller knows me, for I often come to have some satay to eat. He nods his head to acknowledge my presence. I wave in return. In a minute or two, a steaming plate of satay is placed on our table, followed by some pieces of cucumber and onion. Our gravy then arrives and we proceed to put the lovely pieces of meat into our mouths.
For five minutes or so I am oblivious of my surroundings. All I do is to eat and eat until nothing is left on the plates. When all the food is finished we order glasses of sweet sugar cane juice to drink. I finish off two glasses. How wonderful it is to have such food and drink.
We pay for the food and drinks and leave the satay stall. We decide to walk among the stalls to have a look.
It is about seven thirty and the tables around the stalls are nearly filled with people. Young and old, fat and thin people of all shapes and sizes come here to enjoy in the many varieties of food available. I see the mee seller feverishly at work trying to cope with the orders for his mee. Some of his customers are already eating. Chopsticks and spoons dig into the bowls of mee. Other customers wait patiently for their food.
Next to the mee stall is the tea stall. The fat man selling tea there is busy making teh tarik. He pours the tea from one cup to another with practiced ease. Not a drop is spilled. Some passers-by stop just to watch him pouring the tea. He pours the tea from even higher. A small boy claps. The fat man is obviously very pleased. He grins happily.
I look around me. There are stalls selling rojak and mee goring, sup kambing, sup ayam, koay teow, popiah, chicken rice, fried rice, rice with fish, fruits, drinks etc,. The variety is staggering. No wonder the place is so popular. The food is cheap and good. It is great to be able to eat them. It is great that we have food centers like this in our country.”