The festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri – known elsewhere as Eid al-Fitr – marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, and will be celebrated in early June. Hari Raya is associated with a wide range of delicious curries, sweets and snacks – here are eight of our favourites to savour this year.
This Hari Raya dish is an iconic symbol of Eid – to the point that it doubles as a festive decoration that you’ll spot adorning homes and shopping malls. A rich snack, ketupat is made by boiling the rice in a handwoven pouch made out of daun palas, or fan palm leaf. Once it is cooked, the ketupat is then sliced open to reveal fluffy, steamed rice, which goes down well with a spicy side of rendang or lontong. The story goes that ketupat were originally made for seafarers, who would hang them on their ships during long journeys to store rice in a way that kept it moist yet aerated.
A meat floss fit for Ramadan and served up during Hari Raya gatherings as well, serunding is cooked dry so that the meat is preserved for a long time. Eaten with ketupat, serunding can be made from chicken or anchovies and makes a savoury salty side dish. It also goes well with bread.
A treat that needs little introduction, satay is loved all over the region. Although there are many versions of satay in Southeast Asia, the basic premise is that a marinated meat – usually chicken or beef – is skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled to perfection over charcoal fire. Best eaten hot, satay can be enjoyed during Hari Raya with a spicy peanut sauce and ketupat. If you want to cleanse your palate, keep some raw cucumber or onions at hand before you tuck into your next stick of satay.
This dish with Minangkabau roots is rich, dry, spicy – and usually the star of the show. Some restaurant buffets prize themselves on serving up to a dozen versions of rendang, but the traditional beef offering is what really makes a Hari Raya meal complete. Cooked for hours over low heat, the beef is stewed with a host of spices and kerisik, or toasted coconut, to create a decadent treat eaten with ketupat or plain rice.
Another meat curry dish that may appeal is daging merah, which literally means “red meat dish”. Originally from the northern Malaysian state of Kedah, the beef is cooked in a mix of coconut milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk until the meat is tender and the gravy thick.
Roadsides lined with street stalls are a familiar scene in the run-up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Many of the hawkers set up fires to cook lemang, a sticky rice encased in bamboo that is roasted over the open flames. Aside from the rice, this simple dish requires only coconut milk and a touch of salt. After being cooked for three to five hours, the bamboo is cut in half to reveal sticky rice inside a banana leaf, which is used to line the bamboo. Lemang is eaten with rendang or spicy peanut sauce.
Originating in Kelantan on the east coast of Malaysia, laksam is an alternative take on the typical Hari Raya dishes that is often served in households with a Kelantanese link or relatives from the state. It features flat, rich rice noodles accompanied by a coconut milk gravy. Dishes from the east coast of the peninsula are often served with ulam (raw vegetables) and the ubiquitous, spicy sambal (sauce).
Made out of coconut milk, flour and gula melaka (brown sugar), dodol adds a sweet finish to your typically rich, savoury Hari Raya meal. Traditionally, dodol is made by families, with members taking turns to stir the mixture while it’s cooked over a low flame in a huge wok. The process is repeated until the mixture becomes a thick, sticky paste. South of Kuala Lumpur, in areas such as Kuala Pilah, gula enau (palm sugar) is used instead of gula melaka. While gula melaka is made out of the sap of a sugar palm tree, gula enau is sugar derived from the juice of a tree called pokok kabung, known in English as the common palm.
8. Kuih Lapis
This vegan-friendly cake – the name of which translates to layer cake – is made by layering different colour mixtures to achieve a striped effect. There a many versions of the kuih lapis, which can be made from either rice flour or sago flour and is flavoured with coconut milk, pandan or screwpine leaf. Red or green food colouring is added use make the distinct layers, although these days natural dyes from the blue pea flower or bunga telang may be an option instead.