The month long fasting period culminates with Hari Raya Aidilfitri – a special occasion for family, friends and food
All around KL this July you will come across banners and promotions for Hari Raya Aidilfitri – the most important date on the Islamic Calendar. The city’s shopping malls play songs and jingles while erecting elaborate dioramas depicting kampong or village style settings, including decorations of little woven leaves called ketupat, and traditional lamps or pelita.
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or Eidul-Fitr (festival of the breaking of the fast), follows Ramadhan, the month of abstention from food, drink and other needs from sunrise to sunset. This allows followers to focus on spiritual endeavours and good deeds. This is also a time for the asking and granting of forgiveness between family and friends, and the act of getting together from near and far, as well as the all-important balik kampung (returning to the hometown) fun – each year hundreds of thousands travel to be with family.
Traditionally, during Hari Raya, Muslims rise early in the morning, dress in fine clothes and go to the local mosque for Aidilfitri prayers. Then it’s back to the house for merriment and food, and of course little green packets of duit raya, which contain a little (or a lot of) spending money for the children.
Open Houses Welcome All
Most will observe the traditional practice of the open house, whereupon all are invited into the home for food and drink. If you find yourself near a house decorated for Hari Raya, we urge you not to be shy – say hello and you will be welcomed into the fold and plied with food!
In Malaysia, one can also expect the King at the Royal Palace, as well as the Prime Minister at his residence to hold open houses for the public and tourists. These events are extremely popular, so do participate (just be prepared for long queues!). This is also an excellent opportunity to sample popular delicacies.
The festivities go on for a few weeks, so we urge you to take part in them as much as you can! This is truly a wonderful time to be in Malaysia and to experience the cultural unity shown by the many races living and celebrating together.
A Celebration Of Food
As food is such an integral part of Malaysian culture, during the festival you can expect a great spread of delectable choices that include favourites such as lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo), beef/ chicken rendang (a spicy dry curry) and dodol (coconut milk and palm sugar sweets).
These symbolic dishes are an absolute must-try! It is impossible to talk about Hari Raya without mentioning Ramadhan and the many delights that spring up during this month alone. The month of fasting only heightens the locals’ love of food, making each break of fast ceremony an event of its own.
Street food is extremely popular in Malaysia and the fasting month, as well as Hari Raya, brings about a plethora of bazaars where you can enjoy a vast spread of lipsmacking local fare.
In the traditional enclave of Kampung Baru, just five minutes from the Petronas Twin Towers, a must-try is the traditional rice porridge known as bubur lambuk. The hearty concoction made at the enclave’s Jamek Mosque has an almost legendary status in KL. Made with herbs, spices, meat and coconut milk, it’s an irresistible blend and people from all over the Klang Valley have been known to willingly travel long distances just to get a taste of this scrumptious treat.
Many bazaars around the city also have their own specialty dishes and are in general the best places to find food from all over Malaysia and the country’s diverse communities. They present the perfect platform to introduce tourists to local foods, while also being representations of the rich cultural heritage of Malaysia and exemplifying its unity as they are visited by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Make sure to visit a bazaar throughout the period and take a culinary journey through Malaysia. Meanwhile, join in the celebrations during Hari Raya!