Chowrasta Market (known locally as Pasar Chowrasta) is a long running market in the centre of George Town on Penang Island selling food and clothing.
Entrance to Chowrasta Market
Chowrasta Market is popular with local residents and visitors to Penang interesting in purchasing authentic and old fashioned preserved food stuffs to bring back with them.
About Chowrasta Market
A market has stood on the site of Pasar Chowrasta since the middle of the 19th Century, although the first market building was not erected until 1890. The area was originally inhabited by predominantly South Indian immigrants encouraged to come to Penang by the British colonial government to provide labour and engage in trade. The two streets which the market sits between are called Tamil Street and Chowrasta Street for this reason – the word ‘Chowrasta’ is believed to be derived from the Hindi term chauk raasta which means a market square. Chowrasta Market started as an Indian street market.
Most of the vendors are from Penang’s Chinese community
The composition of Penang’s population had already changed by the time the market building was erected. George Town had seen a large influx of Chinese immigrants during the period from the 1860s to 1880s and the Indian community started to lose control of many of the areas where they had originally settled, such as Chowrasta Market. This situation was occurring across the city and it resulted in serious rioting in 1867 during which the British Army intervened firing canon in public streets in Penang. Today Pasar Chowrasta is mostly occupied by vendors from Penang’s Chinese community.
Preserved fruit at Pasar Chowrasta
Paasar Chowrasta is a market of two parts. Food is sold downstairs. By the front entrance of the market are stalls dried foodstuff, preserved fruits, herbs, sauces, Chinese medicines and tea.
Dried foods at Chowrasta Market
Towards the middle and rear of the ground floor is what is sometimes termed as a ‘wet market’ where fresh goods are sold. Chicken, fish and beef is sold here, as well some live animals particularly ducks. Around this central butcher’s and fishmonger’s area are shops selling vegetables and eggs.
Vegetable stall at Pasar Chowrasta
There are escalators near to the front entrance of the market which provide access to the second floor of the market – there are only two levels. There are free public toilets on this level as well as clothes and footwear shops, and a large space devoted to second hand book shops. These book shops are the only part of the market where the vendors are predominantly from the Indian community.
Location of Chowrasta Market
Chowrasta Market is located on Penang Street in George Town between two side streets off Penang Street: Chowrasta Street and Tamil Street.