[By Afsana Islam]
Don’t dampen your spirits when you see the hike in petrol prices in Malaysia – let’s look at the brighter side! One of the perks of living in Malaysia is the chance to experience the many different types of cuisine, including Malay, Indian, Chinese, Korean, European – you name it, and this country’s got it. And with Hari Raya approaching, tourists and international students, like me, are as always looking forward to the many food bazaars and open houses to savour more local treats, which have led to some traditional Malay-dish finds that I have fallen in love with.
Quoting a Malaysian friend of mine, ‘Hari Raya without ketupat is a crime.’ These delicious packed treats are a symbol of Hari Raya here in Malaysia. A rice grain stuffing is weaved inside coconut palm leaves, and boiled till the rice inside is cooked. Usually served with rendang or serunding, it can also be found at satay stalls with peanut gravy.
Rendang is a beloved festival dish, a sophisticated and aromatic beef curry made with 13 herbs, spices and ingredients from the garden including lemongrass, ginger, galangal, garlic, onions, coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, pounded star anise, chilli paste, soy sauce, toasted coconut and finally, coconut milk. The curry is slow-cooked for hours to tease out the complex aromas and flavours. During Hari Raya, it is common practice in a Malay household to cook a 10-kilo rendang curry for five hours in a massive wok set up in the garden, stirred using wooden paddles.
This sweet treat comes in different flavours, including durian, coconut, pandan and more. It is chewy, sweet and sticky, and made of coconut milk, palm sugar and glutinous rice flour. These ingredients are cooked together for up to nine hours, while continually being stirred. Dodol can be found in supermarkets or night markets not only during Hari Raya but throughout the year.
Ask any Muslim and they will swear that next to the ketupat, Hari Raya is incomplete without serunding. This amazing dish is actually beef floss made with spices and cooked until it is dry. The floss can be a bit spicy, and can be enjoyed with ketupat as well.
These traditional Malay dishes can seem intimidating at first, especially if you are new to Malaysian food, but a little adventure won’t harm anybody! Try out some of these scrumptious treats and dishes this Raya, and let us know what delicacies you like to celebrate special occasions with!