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Posts Tagged ‘Hari Raya feasting’

hari raya food

Encik Aziz displaying his cooked ketupat in a manner that reminds me of my childhood kampung home.

Shopping for Eid, or Hari Raya as it is known in Malay, is in full swing in Geylang Serai, the Malay district in Singapore. In the last few days of Ramadan, the stores and bazaar offer almost everything in preparation for the celebrations.

As I wander around, I take in the colors. I see things new and things traditional. Festive food sold includes ketupat, rice dumplings eaten with meat dishes and a variety of sauces.

It takes a lot of work to prepare the ketupat from scratch – the way my grandmother and grandaunt did. We all helped, too, with the various tasks.

It starts with buying stalks of young coconut leaves. The leaves are woven into pouches using age-old techniques. The pouches are then partly filled with rice, and sealed. The final stage, the cooking, requires boiling the ketupat for at least four hours till the rice expands to a nicely firm texture.

It’s good that some people are selling the ketupat in various stages of preparation, providing that convenience for many households.

I come across Encik (Mr in Malay) Aziz selling fully prepared ketupat. Stop by for a little chat, and convey my respect for folks like him who keep our traditional foods and arts alive in the face of changing times.

I smile at the way he stores the ketupat – hanging on a pole. My grandmother used to do that in our kampung or childhood home. I really don’t know why, but as a kid, I loved the sight of the wooden pole laden with ketupat hanging in our kitchen.

Memories come rushing back: the ketupat and food prepared by my grandmother’s loving, meticulous hands, enjoyed by our extended family every festive season.

Selamat Hari Raya. Happy Eid.

hari raya feasting

Ready-made ketupat pouches at the Geylang Serai Market.

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Hari Raya feasting

Celebrating with the classic marble cake.

Hari Raya, or Eid, festival in Singapore and Malaysia is a boon time for those with a sweet tooth, as every home will greet guests with a selection of both Malay and western cakes and cookies.

A cake that is popular in our family is the marble cake. My aunts bake really good ones, and one could say that they are “traditionalists” or purists as they only bake the classic version of marble cake. The one that uses pure cocoa powder to create the rich brown swirl for the cake.

I suppose as I grew up with this kind of marble cake, I’m also a traditionalist at heart. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate other varieties of marble cakes.

As a kid, when we went visiting, and were served with a marble cake with red or green swirls, it was an exciting discovery for me.

It was as though it opened up a whole new world; as though a peek inside other people’s lives was offered up with each slice of the brightly swirled cake.

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Hari Raya in Los Angeles

The bright colors of the decorations and the national costumes added a tropical touch to the celebration.

One of the most popular events of the Eid season in Southern California is the Hari Raya gathering hosted by the Consul-General of Malaysia.

This year, members of the Malaysian community here as well as guests from other Southeast Asian countries made their way to the Arcadia community centre in Los Angeles county for the festive event. Some came from as far as Las Vegas and San Diego.

There was a great spread of three kinds of rice: steamed rice, nasi minyak (ghee rice), and tomato rice served with curries and and a variety of cakes and cookies, including traditional Malay desserts.

People took the time to catch up with each other. And this time, it was also a chance to meet the new Consul-General Mr Nekmat Ismail and his wife Madam Ramlah Hamid.

Malay songs filled the air, mixed with the social chatter as another Southern California celebration and tradition marked the year.

Nekmat Ismail

The Consul General and his wife surprised the guests with a song.

Malaysian festival

Two young men from the community who volunteered to serve the food.

Malay desserts

I'm always delighted to find traditional Malay desserts in California, especially my favorite, putu kacang (top,middle) made from green bean flour.

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traditional kuih

Some of the ingredients for apple-shaped  pineapple tarts.

With Hari Raya or Eid, the festival marking the end of Ramadan drawing near, baking season will soon be in full swing in many parts of the world.

Here, in California, my Malaysian friends bake both modern cookies and traditional Malay goodies, from family recipes or those via the Web. I hope they know that their resourcefulness and efforts are appreciated.

In Malay homes, there will be several varieties of kuih (a Malay word which collectively refers to cakes and cookies) set at the table for the enjoyment of guests, and for family members as well.

I know I’m fond of traditional cookies not just for the taste, but for the memories behind them . In the extended family home of my childhood, my grandmother and grandaunt did almost all the baking. Every Hari Raya, they would make pineapple tarts shaped as apples and pears.

The dough was wrapped around balls of pineapple filling, then shaped round for apples, and slightly elongated and curved for the pears. The children were called in for the fun part. My grandmother mixed a pale wash of food dye, and with a small brush we painted the “fruits”: yellow for the apples and green for the pears. Then we stuck a piece of clove for the “stem”.

Today, not many people make this type of pineapple tarts. But in my mind I see them clearly as the day I colored them.

My mother did not bake, but every year, she insisted on having kuih batang buruk, which means “old bark” or “old branch”. These are a mixture of flour shaped like tiny logs, fried and filled with a green bean filling. They can be pretty addictive and I’ve always loved its imaginative name.

I guess I’m also a stickler for traditions. I gravitate towards the heritage kuih before any other. And sometimes, they taste even  sweeter just because they are made or savored so far away from their original home.

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