Every year my family head to Hertford for the Merdeka Carnival- an Independence Day celebration organised by the Malaysian High Commission on the beautiful green grounds of the Brickendonbury estate. We always claim a spot, spread out our blankets and a tent and take it in turns to raid the food stalls for some authentic Malaysian food. There’s live entertainment from a stage, free rides, face painting, puppet shows, and trampolines for children- and of course, ice cream and candy floss. This year it felt bigger than ever!
The kids have all been coming here every year since they were toddlers- my small niece Willa was a week old at her first one!
So, like Leila’s sign says…fit’s pretty much the food that draws us back every year, getting our fill of Malaysian cooking in the market atmosphere.
This year we drove down, but in previous years I’ve taken a train from Finsbury Park direct to Hertford North (it’s about a 25-30 minute journey) then jumped on a free shuttle bus outside the station. It’s super easy to get to!
The Puji Puji satay stall always draws one of the biggest lines for legit sticky, sweet and smoky chicken satay. Their peanut sauce is the real thing and not a short cut peanut butter version. We went back three times…
It’s all true ‘Mom & Pop’ cooking, with a few restaurants setting up shop with their best sellers. Rasa Sayang restaurant and Roti King both always have long queues for their Kuey Teow noodles and fresh off the griddle Rotis.
I loaded up on piping hot banana fritters, pandan flavoured pancake rolls and cups of hot, sweet tea.
The army Veterans were also still there, with their booth and stories from the time they were stationed in Malaysia. I love these guys, Merdeka Carnival just wouldn’t be the same without a visit to their table and a flip through their photos.
We settled on the ground to watch the end of a dance performance on stage, and timed it just right as the Lion Dance was next- this is most definitely a yearly highlight for us!
Oh, heeeeeey there!
He didn’t make it round to where we were sitting unfortunately…and this little thing next to me wasn’t too happy about it either, barking his disapproval throughout. Napoleon syndrome, it’s real.
There were loads more stalls this year and it felt like the biggest crowd too- I’m sure it grows every year as word of mouth spreads.
Face painting and rides are free for the kids, the parking’s free too, so all the cash you need is just for the food!
It was also my nephew’s eighth birthday the day before, so on top of all that amazing food, was birthday cake!
I can’t believe he’s eight. I remember holding him in my lap when he was three weeks old, and I swear I made him laugh with a nose ‘boop’. Then I read that newborns don’t laugh…well, I beg to differ. I know that laugh was real.
Anyway, I can’t believe how fast this little gang of cousins are growing. So stop! Stop growing!
And that was 2015’s Merdeka Carnival. For me, it usually marks the ‘official’ start of Autumn. There’s a chill in the air, and you realise that you’ve downed about 10 cups of tea from sitting outside all day. I love it- I love the family time, recognising the same faces, the atmosphere, the sounds and smells from the food stalls- it is just genuinely a nice way to spend a day, regardless of whether you’re Malaysian or not.
It’s seems to grow each year by word of mouth, but you can check for updates on the estate’s website here. I have Malaysian food withdrawal already!