Of baffling portmanteaus and struggling traders

Let’s go to the PaRam to buy some GorPis and NasGor. Later, we can head to the WarKop.

If you have no idea what that sentence means, no worries. You are not alone.

Or perhaps, as a friend suggested, I have been living in a cave (well, Liverpool has not been doing too well of late …)

Earlier this week, I discovered PaRam is a portmanteau (a blend, or a mix of two words to form a new one) of ‘Pasar’ and ‘Ramadan’, and nothing to do with the late Malaysian comedian!

Similarly, GorPis means ‘goreng pisang’ (fried banana fritters), while NasGor is ‘nasi goreng’ (fried rice)! WarKop is popular in Indonesia and means ‘Warong Kopi’ (coffee shop).

Before we blame the disintegration of the Malay language on the WeChat generation, a buddy from Alor Setar, Kedah, said he grew up with the term ‘GorPis’.

And Indonesians have been portmanteau-ing for the longest time – ‘BuMil’ for ‘ibu hamil’ or pregnant mother – is one example.

Former journalist Rizal Solomon said: “GorPis is an old one. In Alor Setar, there was a Chinese goreng pisang seller who called his cart ‘GorPis’. He was the best goreng pisang seller in town. I do not see him anymore.”

During a trip to the Pasar Ramadan in USJ 4, Subang Jaya, I spoke to three traders, who admitted it was getting harder to make ends meet.

One of them, who wished to be known as Mohammad Tuah, sells ‘Roti John Mexicano’, tacos, and nachos.

His version of Roti John comes with beef bacon, chilli (aka Coney dog sauce), and cheese.

“I had to try something different. You can find Roti John at every Pasar Ramadan. I needed something to stand out,” said Tuah, 35.

“I have been in business for over five years, but the last three were affected by Covid-19.”

Tuah said he decided to ‘Mexicanise’ his food as he is a big fan of that country’s fare.

“Sales are better than last year when we had to practice social distancing. It was hard, as we had to limit how many customers could enter the area.

“But, overall, sales are lower than what they used to be before Covid-19,” said Tuah, who hails from Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan.

“The ingredients are getting more expensive, as I use premium meats,” he said, while holding a packet of beef bacon.

One Roti John Mexicano with beef bacon, chilli, and cheese was RM15, but it was worth every sen.

Another trader, Salmiah, sells curry puffs, samosas, and other traditional cakes. Each beef samosa was RM1.50. She, too, admitted that the first week of business was slow.

“I hope we get more customers next week,” said Salmiah.

A third trader, Samsul Ahmad Saifuddin, who sells fried cuttlefish and chicken, echoed Salmiah and Tuah’s sentiments.

Samsul has been operating at the USJ 4 Pasar Ramadan for over seven years, and is unsure how much longer he can carry on.

“The profit margin is getting lower and lower each year. I do not know if I will be back here next year, or find some other venue,” said the 41-year-old from Kota Bahru, Kelantan.

The trip to the Pasar Ramadan was not cheap, as I spent RM58 – without buying full meals, although the Roti John Mexicano was delicious, and did fill me up.

I cannot remember the last time I visited a Pasar Ramadan – it was before Covid-19 – and the USJ one did not have my favourite – ayam percik.

There are still three weeks to go, and I will return to the Pasar Ramadan to get my Roti John Mexicano.

Or should that be, I will go to the SubJay PaRam to buy a RoJoMex?


Today marks a year since Malaysia entered its transition to the endemic stage after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Things are looking so much better, although we had 6,477 new cases in the past 31 days. That brought the total to 5,049,268.

There were 5,657 recoveries that took the total to 5,002,242, while there were 21 deaths that made it 36,979 patients who lost the battle with Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 technical lead, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said the agency is monitoring a new Omicron sub variant – XBB.1.16 – because “it has potential changes that we need to keep a good eye out on”.

XBB.1.16 is already in 22 countries, with a majority of cases from India.

Stay alert, folks.


Easter is around the corner, and for something different, why not try this lemon crinkle cookies recipe that is soft, chewy, and bright?


Take a trip down memory lane at Hangover PJ, 3 Two Square, in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, tomorrow from 4pm, as legendary local band The Strollers reunite for the first time in 50 years.

Due to the limited seating, the three-hour event ‘Just As We Were’ can only take in a maximum of 120 guests. Admission is free.

To end this week’s Diary, here are The Strollers with ‘Do What You Gotta Do’, an original song that topped the Malaysian charts for eight weeks.

Until next week, stay safe.


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