Be an early bird if you want to catch the action in Ubud’s morning market. How early? Try the crack of dawn. From as early as 5am, the market awakens and transforms into a bustling space, where locals do their daily marketing from stalls brimming with vegetables, spices and freshly slaughtered produce. By 9am, the Ubud Art Market takes over the space, with tourists on the hunt for souvenirs and knick-knacks, until late at night.
Even before you arrive at the morning market, the main thoroughfare of Jalan Raya Ubud that leads to it is lined with a long row of vans and trucks that peddle everything from fruit to flowers to dried goods.
Spilling out on the roads are baskets of jackfruit and jambu, billowy piles of green leafy vegetables, sacks of tomatoes and onions, and mountains of coconut leaves that are folded to make jejahitan, the ubiquitous prayer-offering baskets that line the streets. Need a broom? Head to the vans that are piled high with household goods such as brooms, brushes and dining ware.
As one approaches the Ubud morning market, a heady mix of brine, blood and herbal scents fill the air. This is not a market for the faint-hearted. The stall-owners shout out their goods and prices from their vans which are parked cheek by jowl. At a corner, a lorry fitted with a cage is filled with live chickens awaiting their fate. The locals jostle and squeeze as they inspect and select their buys over the din.
The highlight of the market is the open-air atrium at the heart of the compound. There is hardly room to mill around here as almost every inch of space is occupied by stallholders squatting by their baskets of produce, customers clutching their buys and the stray dogs zipping around. The stallowners chat loudly with local customers while giving the occasional side-eye to a handful of gawking tourists who are overwhelmed by the hive of activity.
Besides doing their early morning marketing, the locals also get their breakfast from street food stalls in the morning market. The food vendors stand by their huge vats of drinks and soups, and gigantic platters of rice, condiments and sauces, ready to feed those who are famished after their early morning marketing trip.
We scour the morning market to sample some of the street food offerings at the Ubud morning market.
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Given that this noodle dish is a breakfast staple in Indonesia, it is hardly surprising to find a street peddler serving up mee bakso or meatball noodles at the entrance of the market. The stall-owner, who has been plying the streets for more than two decades, grabs a fist-sized bundle of noodles or kway teow and tosses it with kicap manis and chilli before throwing in a couple of beef or chicken meat balls. The bakso, or meatball, stands out for its denser texture as the meat is mixed with surimi or fish paste. Finally, he ladles a broth simmered with beef bones into the bowl. There is no better wake-up call than slurping up a bowl of mee bakso.
Can’t decide on what to eat? Start off with a dizzying array of kueh and small cakes that are sold from many booths at the market. Some of the usual suspects include the steamed egg cakes, Swiss rolls, kueh lapis and banana leaf-wrapped rice cakes. Many of these sweet treats are bite-sized — perfect for eating while you are on the go in the market
Start your morning on a sweet note with Jaja Bali, an assortment of sweet glutinous rice flour cakes that come in myriad shapes and colours. They include giling giling (red worm-like strips), laklak (green discs), lupis (triangular cakes), pisang rai (banana cakes), dadar (pandan crepes) and black rice cooked in coconut milk. The colourful selection of kueh, or cakes, varies from stall to stall. These morsels of sweet rice cakes are always drizzled with gula melaka and sprinkled with a healthy serving of grated coconut.
Those with a sweet tooth can go for bubur injin, which is also known as Balinese black rice pudding. Served on fragrant pockets of banana leaves, the coconut milk-drenched black sticky rice is hand-tossed with corn kernels and shredded coconut and drizzled in thick palm sugar syrup. Brace yourself for a nutty and velvety sensation in the mouth.
Quench your thirst with this invigorating concoction that can be found in drink booths that line the street. The jelly drink comprises huge chunks of herbaceous green jelly, which is known as cincau to the locals, made with the cyclea barbata plant. A splash of coconut milk, palm sugar and slimy pink “worms” made of rice flour are added to the drink. The locals believe that this grassy drink can help alleviate indigestion and hypertension as the plant is rich in antioxidants.
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