Break fast and have a haircut too during Ramadan

Singer-guitarist Muhammad Nurasyraf Sahri, 26, and drummer Hosni Fareed Altway, 32, from Attention! The New Portsdown, performing at the Geylang Serai bazaar.
Singer-guitarist Muhammad Nurasyraf Sahri, 26, and drummer Hosni Fareed Altway, 32, from Attention! The New Portsdown, performing at the Geylang Serai bazaar.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Barber Siva Guru, 21, applying mousse on a customer at The Golden Rule Barber Co. at Geylang Serai bazaar. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Barber Siva Guru, 21, applying mousse on a customer at The Golden Rule Barber Co. at Geylang Serai bazaar. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMESPHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Fried ice-cream rolls. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Fried ice-cream rolls. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMESPHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Jayvier Tan. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Jayvier Tan. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMESPHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Black boys cubanos.
Black boys cubanos.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Famous satay burger.
Famous satay burger.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Ms Rosinar Latip (right), owner of the T Bob eatery, at T Bob's Honey BBQ Ribs with one of her stall assistants.
Ms Rosinar Latip (right), owner of the T Bob eatery, at T Bob's Honey BBQ Ribs with one of her stall assistants.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Owner of Botakmania Mohammed Yassin Harin with smoothies that his stall sells.
Owner of Botakmania Mohammed Yassin Harin with smoothies that his stall sells.PHOTO: GIN TAY FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Bananancheese.
Bananancheese.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/BANANANCHEESE
Hotel jen’s kitchen-on-the-go.
Hotel jen’s kitchen-on-the-go.PHOTO: HUAI PENG

Eat fried ice-cream rolls, listen to live music and order a pair of handmade children's shoes at Ramadan bazaars

Dressed in a patterned shirt and newsboy cap, Mr Aryan Sani, scissors in hand, is putting the finishing touches on a customer's hair at The Golden Rule Barber Co.

He is joined by a league of equally dapper-looking barbers hard at work - all meticulously trimming, shaving and shaping - in a spiffy shop decked out with cool wooden interiors and barbershop chairs.

No, this is not in a hipster district such as Haji Lane or Tiong Bahru, but the Geylang Serai Hari Raya bazaar.

In a sea of stalls selling Ramly burgers, baju kurung and kebab, shops offering interesting products and services such as The Golden Rule stand out. These are usually run by young business owners who want to try something new.

Life!Weekend visited four bazaars in Woodlands, Tampines, Arab Street and Geylang Serai and found at least 20 such shops selling products as varied as fried ice-cream rolls, handmade shoes and banana fritters with toppings.

The month-long bazaars are held during the Muslim month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and make preparation for Hari Raya Puasa, which falls on July 17 this year. The bazaars are open daily till July 16.

The Geylang Serai bazaar is the biggest player with about 1,000 stalls. The bazaars in Woodlands and Tampines have 120 to 150 stalls, while the Arab Street bazaar has 38 stalls all selling food.

"It's never been done in bazaar history," says Mr Aryan, 32, of his foray into the bazaar. "The concept is that of a Western barber, but I grew up going to Geylang Serai, so it makes sense to go back to my roots."

Prices at the bazaar, ranging from $25 for a beard trim to $35 for a haircut, are $3 less than those at his permanent shop, which is located in Race Course Road. The fully air-conditioned stall is also much welcomed in the sweltering bazaar, where the heat builds up due to the enclosed tents that the shops are housed in.

Another popular new shop also provides some respite from the heat. Happy Rollies in Geylang Serai specialises in fried ice-cream rolls which come with toppings such as Oreo cookie, Nutella and maple cornflakes. Each cup, which comes with one or two toppings, costs $5.

Its owner, Ms Gina Tow, 20, a nursing school graduate, had only one month to research and test her product after reading about the dessert online. It can be found in street markets in the Philippines and Thailand, but is new here.

For customers such as local comedian Muhd Fadzri Abd Rashid, 28, these stalls are a breath of fresh air compared with the other shops in the Geylang Serai bazaar which tend to sell similar things, such as clothes and knick-knacks.

He says: "It's the way the community is evolving. More young people are developing new ideas, taking what they see globally and interpreting them in their local culture."

One example is BananaNcheese at Woodlands bazaar, which sells goreng pisang, or fried banana fritters, with toppings such as cheese, Nutella and salted caramel. One box costs $4 to $4.50.

Owner Nur Firdiyanah Aqirah, 22, a recent graduate from the Singapore Institute of Management, adapted the traditional goreng pisang recipe to yield a lighter fritter and pairs it with flavours more commonly found in cupcakes.

These younger business owners have their own tactics when it comes to promoting their shops - primarily through the use of social media and creating attractive visual displays.

Owner of J Handmade Corner, Mr Jayvier Tan, 25, says that following initial slow sales, he decided to spruce up his storefront with a wooden vine, wooden letters and fake grass to emphasise the craft-based nature of his product. He sells handmade suede shoes for children at his shop in the Geylang bazaar.

These tactics seem to have paid off, with these new stalls reporting brisk sales. For example, The Golden Rule sees about 40 customers a day. Happy Rollies attracts long queues of customers who have to wait for up to two hours - and 300 cups of ice cream are consumed daily.

However, shop owners say it is too early to count their chickens, with more than three-quarters of the month to go. Profits are also not certain as they have to pay rent of between $2,000 and $15,000 for the month.

For some, making money is not the key objective.

The owner of fairy lights shop My Fairy Lights, Mr Abdul Kadir Hassan, 27, is sharing the space in his shop in the Geylang Serai bazaar with two friends who are organising free music performances on Friday and weekend nights during the month of Ramadan.

Called the Rilek Jack Ramadhan Acoustic Sessions, the event, which is held outside the Singapore Post Centre near Paya Lebar MRT station, brings together more than 30 musicians who will provide tunes from various genres, such as home-grown band The Pinholes, which play old-school rock 'n' roll. There will also be art activities such as face painting and leather crafting on weekday nights.

Says Rilek Jack's organiser, Ms Nurul Azliah Aripin, 25: "We wanted to bring the music scene closer to the community and bring them together in this area, for the love of music." She says that their neighbours are receptive to them as the music draws a crowd and creates a nice atmosphere.

The size of the crowd has been varied since the performances started last Friday, but a session of live painting by artist Muhammad Ridhwan Roslan, 25, also known as Wando Studios, on Monday attracted about 30 people. The organisers expect a bigger crowd towards the end of Ramadan.

Mr Abdul Kadir says that despite the high rental rates of about $5,000, he is happy to be at the bazaar this year. He adds with a smile: "Even if we suffer a loss, at least we did something worthwhile."

nabilahs@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Lim Min Zhang


GEYLANG SERAI

THE GOLDEN RULE BARBER CO.

What: Haircuts for men in air-conditioned comfort at a bazaar? You read that right. This pop-up barber shop, which has a permanent presence in Race Course Road, offers gentleman's haircuts ($35), senior and children's cuts ($25) and beard trims ($25).  

Where: Stall 1, next to Tanjong Katong Complex, facing Sims Avenue

Open: Noon till late. Appointments accepted between noon and 6pm

Info: www.facebook.com/TheGoldenRuleBarberCo  or call 9195-5864 for appointments

HAPPY ROLLIES

What: This popular stall can be identified by its long queue of customers willing to wait for more than an hour for their treats. On the menu are fried ice-cream rolls ($5), which you can choose to get with one or two toppings ranging from banana to Nutella to maple cornflakes. It also sells pudding cups ($2.50 a cup) and s'mores dips ($3 a bowl), which consists of biscuits that you can dip in hot s'mores. 

Where: Stall 453, next to Paya Lebar MRT station, near the bus-stop in Sims Avenue  

Open: Weekday, 11am to 11.30pm (last order at 10pm); weekend, 11am to about 1am (last order at about 11.30pm)

Info: instagram.com/Happy-Rollies

RILEK JACK RAMADHAN ACOUSTIC SESSIONS

What: Tired of eating and shopping? Check out these free acoustic performances on Fridays and weekends, by home-grown bands spanning genres from pop to alt-rock to hip hop. There are more than 30 bands performing across the four weekends, with headliners The Pinholes capping the month on July 16.

On weekdays, check out art activities such as silkscreen printing, face painting and live painting. 

Where: Stall 39, next to Singapore Post Centre in Eunos Road 8, opposite Paya Lebar MRT station

Open: From 8.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for music performances, and on July 15 and 16; from 8.30pm from Monday to Thursday for art activities

Info: Search for Rilek Jack Ramadhan Acoustic Sessions on Facebook for session times. 

J HANDMADE CORNER

What: Handmade suede shoes for children aged four months to four years old. Visit in the day to catch owner Jayvier Tan, 25, at work - each pair ($16.90) takes about half an hour to make and is unique.

Where: Stall 19, next to Tanjong Katong Complex, near Sims Avenue

Open: Weekday, 2 to 11.30pm; weekend, 11 to 2am

Info: www.facebook.com/Jbabyshoes


TAMPINES BAZAAR

FAMOUS SATAY BURGER

What: Customers flock to this shop for its burgers, with freshly made 100g patties that taste just like satay. It serves regular beef, chicken ($5 each) and mutton ($6) versions, but try the venison burger ($10) if you want something different. This year, the owner introduced a new item: rendang dendeng perak - slices of lean beef meat cooked with rendang spices and served in pita pockets ($3). 

Where: Stall 65 at Tampines Hari Raya Bazaar, open field next to Tampines MRT station

Open: Weekday, 1 to 9pm; weekend, noon to midnight; closes early, around 9pm, on Sunday. Burgers tend to sell out by 8pm

Info: www.facebook.com/FamousSatayBurger

BLACK BOYS CUBANOS

What: Cuban-style sandwiches with generous fillings such as chicken and pulled beef ($6 each) are the main draw here.

They sell out way before 7pm, which is around the time Muslims break their fast.

Churros ($4 for eight pieces) and drinks ($2 for a Khatira drink) are also available.

Where: Stall 35, Tampines Hari Raya Bazaar, open field next to Tampines MRT station

Open: 2pm till about 8pm, but the popular Cuban sandwiches tend to sell out before 6pm

Info: www.facebook.com/blackboyscubanos


T BOB'S HONEY BBQ RIBS

What: T Bob's honey barbecue ribs have returned after a seven-year absence from the Ramadan foodfest in Arab Street. Grilled beef ribs (up to $20 for 650g) and lamb ribs (up to $10 for 300g) are available. Lamb racks are sold on weekends only (up to $60 for 800g).

The meats are marinated overnight, baked at the T Bob eatery in Bedok North, then grilled at the stall, with a total cooking time of two to three hours. The owner recommends having the ribs with your own rice, bread or mashed potatoes for a satisfying meal.

Where: Stall B27, Arab Street bazaar

Open: 3 to 8pm on weekday; noon to 8pm on weekend

Info: www.facebook.com/pages/T-Bobs/109908369083269?fref=ts

BOTAKMANIA

What: Gulping down one of Botakmania's smoothies is a great way to cool down in the open-air bazaar. Even though this family-run business has been a mainstay at the bazaar for 30 years, new flavours are available this year to draw new customers.

The full menu: icy chendol, chendol bandung, blueberry smoothie, strawberry smoothie, coconut smoothie, mango smoothie (all $4 a cup) and mango blast ($6). The new mango blast is the most popular, made purely from mangoes with mango bits to chew on. It is also selling tacos for the first time, with beef or chicken ($5 each).

Where: Stall B25, Arab Street bazaar

Open: 2.30 to 8pm daily

Info: instagram.com/thetacomania/

Lim Min Zhang

WOODLANDS BAZAAR

BANANANCHEESE

What: Goreng pisang with a twist - traditional Malay fried banana fritters with sweet and savoury toppings. Toppings offered are cheese with salted caramel ($4), condensed milk ($4) and Nutella ($4.50).

Five to six pieces of banana fried in a special homemade batter are served in take-out boxes.

Nutella is the most popular flavour and the salted caramel version is from a home recipe.

All the goreng pisang are made on the spot, so expect to wait up to 30 minutes during the peak period in the afternoon.

Where: Stall F14, Woodlands bazaar,

Open: 3 to 11pm daily. To avoid queues, go after 8pm

Info: instagram.com/bananancheese

HOTEL JEN'S KITCHEN-ON-THE-GO

What: Orchard Road's Hotel Jen is taking its food to the heartland. The menu consists of New Zealand lamb shank with basmati rice ($12), beef lasagne ($6), pulled beef burger ($5) and cinnamon rolls ($7).

Diners have taken to the food well - last Sunday alone, 600 pieces of lamb were sold, along with 120kg of rice. The stall also sells Thai iced milk tea ($2), which comes with either condensed or evaporated milk. It is brewed with both Thai red tea leaves and golden tea leaves, making it creamy with a hint of bitterness.

Where: Stall F45, Woodlands bazaar

Open: 2pm daily, usually sold out by 7pm. Peak period is from 5 to 6pm. Last day is on July 15

Info: www.facebook.com/HotelJenTanglinSingapore?fref=ts

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Break fast and have a haircut too'. Print Edition | Subscribe