Pasar Tani, the farmer’s market, of Johor Bahru

It was fast approaching the weekend when my wife reminded me of the promise I made to her a few weeks back and that was to accompany her to the Pasar Tani, somewhat akin to a farmer’s market, held weekly at the ward of Larkin.

Logo of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA)
Logo of the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA)

Pasar Tani is loosely translated as the Agri Market or the Farmers’ Market and this Pasar Tani (as any other in JB and in the state of Johor Darul Ta’zim) is organized by FAMA (or the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority), an agency of the Malaysian Federal Government charged with the promotion of agricultural and agricultural-related activities within the country with the objective of improving the lot of Malaysian farmers.

In the official language ie Bahasa Malaysia, ‘Pasar’ means Market and ‘Tani’ means to farm. A ‘Pasar Tani’ is held almost everyday of the week at different locations in Johor Bahru (JB) but the ‘big one’ happens to be held at Larkin.

The morning sun shining in on early Pasar Tani shoppers. (@all rights reserved)
The morning sun shining in on early Pasar Tani shoppers.
(@all rights reserved)

Why that is so, I’m not really sure. Maybe its because of the fact that the very first Pasar Tani in JB itself was held at Larkin those many years ago?

Maybe its because the Pasar Tani at Larkin is conveniently held on a Saturday, every Saturday of the week without fail all these years (except during the Eid Fitr celebrations).

And maybe, its because the Pasar Tani here is held at the carpark next to the Tan Sri Hassan Yunus Stadium, a familiar landmark especially in today’s football crazy environment involving both the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT I and JDT II) teams, and maybe, just maybe, its because the parking here is just about ample.

And so it was the following Saturday morning and rather early at that when the two of us made our way to Larkin. As we approach the location, traffic, both vehicular and human, began to build up.

Mind you, this was at around 7 am and that is for some people, me included, very early especially on a Saturday, never you mind a Sunday.

But that’s nothing compared to the stall operators who started preparing for the day as early as at 4 or 5 in the morning.

The thing about early birds, in this case, is not that because they get the most worms but rather the best and choicest parking spots near the Pasar Tani. And that in itself is an achievement.

And thank God, there is no home game for the JDT footall team this weekend and hence no ticket sales, otherwise getting a parking spot is in itself REALLY an achievement.

And so, once we had secured ourselves a very favourable parking spot, off we go to check out the Pasar Tani, the 2014 edition that is.

It has been ages since I last went to one, if I can remember that far back that is. It must have been when I was still a teenager cos I remembered carrying the basket then and today, I am still carrying the basket, so to speak. I guess some things in life do remain constant apparently. Like carrying the basket for example. But I digress.

Breakfast fare - Food on offer at the Pasar Tani. (@all rights reserved)
Breakfast fare – Food on offer at the Pasar Tani.
(@all rights reserved)

The first stall that we made a stopover was a stall that sells cooked traditional food. Readily cooked traditional food is fast regarded as a delicacy, primarily because its getting more and more difficult to get them.

The art of making them is still intact as the knowledge do get passed on from one generation to another but the art of appreciating these types of food is unless the younger generation get introduced to them at a young age.

Food with so unassuming a name as ‘Botok-botok’, for example, which is basically made up of young shoots from different types of plants, mainly plants with medicinal properties, mixed with the many and different types of spices, packed in a banana leaf and steamed to perfection.

Perfect for the discerning vegetarian and medicinal at the same time, thats what we tend to believe anyway. And there’s ‘Botok-botok’ with fish, if that’s what takes your fancy.

But mind you, its an acquired taste, this ‘Botok-botok’. It does not ‘grab’ you the moment you taste it nor does it have a big budget fancy advertising to promote it but to those who have acquired the taste, its something that does not need advertising.

As for both myself and my wife, it ‘grabbed’ us courtesy of my late maternal grandmother, who even passed the knowledge of making ‘Botok-botok’ down to my wife.

After getting our stock of ‘Botok-botok’, we made our way pass the many stalls offering local farm produce.
Tomatoes, ginger, tumeric, greens, beans, and even local fruits like banana, watermelons, jackfruits, etc etc etc.

Admittedly, its like going to the supermarket and like going to a supermarket, you must have a list. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying everything in sight and to make it worse, what you bought is what you already have stock at home. In abundance.

Home grown vegetables on sale at Pasar Tani (@all rights reserved)
Home grown vegetables on sale at Pasar Tani
(@all rights reserved)

After getting our ‘greens’, we made our way past the stalls that sells potted plants and flowers. As we have moved house many a times, our collection of potted plants and flowers has diminished or has passed on to ‘the other side’.

Since the both of us share the same vision of what a garden entails, hence it was with great restraint that we make our way past these stalls with the customary one or two look-backs.

A Pasar Tani would not be a Pasar Tani without the poultry and meat section. Selections of fresh meats, beef, lamb and mutton, were put on display for customers to make their selections. Sadly for us, increased prices have slowly taken their toll on our family’s meat consumption, and thus had to be replaced with fish.

Business at ‘Pasar Tani’s can be quite brisk especially the one at Larkin. The clientele is made up of locals and Singaporeans and as such, should you chance upon a choice pick, its best to acquire it there and then.

Reason being, for one, you may not remember where the stall is situated once you decided to ‘move on and come back later’ and secondly, due to the purchasing power of the Singaporeans, they ie the Singaporeans do tend to acquire at will.

Such is their spending power that they, understandably, are the darlings of many of the stall operators.

It may not sound nor seem fair to the locals but hey, money talks. C’est le vie! So ist das Leben! Thats life.

Typically Malaysian, there will always be stalls where you can put your purchases down for a while and have a hearty breakfast. Afterall its still early morning and breakfast fare is still available.

Potted plants and flowers on sale at Pasar Tani (@all rights reserved)
Potted plants and flowers on sale at Pasar Tani
(@all rights reserved)

Breakfast at these stalls tend to be basic, no frills kind of fare which may not go down well with some people.

But these stalls do offer affordable breakfast and although it may not be the Ritz, the chance to rest and have a hot coffee or tea to go with that mee goreng (fried noodles) or nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk) after all that walking and arms full with all the goods that you’ve bought, is rather tempting.

Even if its just a short term measure, that is until you are really done with your things-to-buy list and can finally make your way to your favourite breakfast hangout.

All in all, it was quite a pleasant Saturday morning. We got what we had come to the Pasar Tani for and as we make our way out of the Pasar Tani, it was noticeable that the traffic has increased somewhat significantly, bringing with it a mix of Malaysian and Singaporean shoppers to the Pasar Tani, to experience again for what is now a uniquely Malaysian experience, as unique a Malaysian experience as the Pasar Malam (Night Market) or the Pasar Karat (http://wp.me/p2FyzR-7j).

Over time, the Pasar Tani has evolved from purely a farmers’ market to what is now more like a mobile market for all types of small and medium businesses, which can only be good for the local economy as it contribute towards improving the lives of Malaysian farmers.

As for the Malaysian (and Singaporean) consumer, the Pasar Tani offers an alternative to the local neighourhood market, for not all that we want can be found at the market but can be found in abundance at these Pasar Tani instead.

Not a bad trade-off for all concern. Truly.

 

Date : 20 March 2014

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