In August around KL, you’ll come across many banners and promotions for “Hari Raya” or “Aidilfitri”. Plus, in the city’s shopping malls you won’t miss jingles and songs being played, while many will set up dioramas featuring kampung or villagestyle settings, little squares of woven leaves (or ribbons) called ketupat, and traditional lamps or pelita.
This is the Islamic celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or eid-ul fitr, which follows Ramadhan, the month of abstention from food, drink and other needs from sunrise to sunset and a focus on spiritual endeavours and good deeds.
It’s also a time of forgiveness, the asking and granting of it, between family and friends, and the act of getting together from near and far and balik kampung (going back to the hometown) fun.
Traditionally, Muslims get up early on the morning, dress in fine clothes and go to the local mosque for Aidilfitri prayers, followed by a visit to the graves of loved ones. Then it’s back to the house for merriment and food, and little green packets of duit raya, a little (or a lot of) spending money for the children from the adults.
Open houses welcome all
Most will observe the practice of the “open house”, whereupon all and sundry will be invited into the home for drinks and food. If you find yourself near a house all decked out with Hari Raya decorations, we urge you not to be shy. Just say hello, and you will be welcomed into the fold – with the prerequisite questions about where you’re from and all that, of course! – and plied with lots of food.
In Malaysia, you can also expect the King at the royal palace, as well as the prime minister, to hold open houses for the public and tourists. These events are very popular, so be prepared for long queues but excellent examples of popular delicacies.
As food is such an integral part of Malaysian culture, during the festival you can expect a great spread that includes these favourites: lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo), beef/chicken rendang (a spicy dry curry) and dodol (coconut milk and palm sugar sweets). It is well worth trying these dishes as they are incredibly tasty and symbolic of Malaysian cuisine.
The festivities go on for a month, so we urge you to take part in it. This is a great time to be in Malaysia and to experience the cultural unity shown by the many races living and celebrating together.
A celebration of food
Of course, we can’t talk about Hari Raya Aidilfitri without mentioning Ramadhan. And in Malaysia, this month of fasting just heightens the locals’ love for food, making the break of fast ceremony almost an event of its own.
From promotional meal prices at restaurants to buffets at the city’s top hotels offering delights from all around the world, this is definitely a great time to do as the locals do and take advantage of the abundance of food choices.
What Malaysians also like is street food, and the fasting month brings the very much anticipated Ramadhan bazaar, where a plethora of delights can be found.
In KL, one of the major bazaars is in Kampung Baru, the traditional Malay enclave just five minutes from the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. And this is where another icon was declared this year: The Bubur Lambuk Agung – by Tourism Minister Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen at the launch of the Kampung Baru Ramadhan Bazaar on the first day of the fasting month.
This rice porridge, especially the concoction made at the enclave’s Jamek Mosque, has an almost legendary status throughout KL. Made with herbs, spices, meat and coconut milk, servings of this dish are given out free every day to those frequenting this place of worship, and people from all over the Klang Valley are known to willingly spend the time, despite travelling long distances, just for a taste.
United over bazaars
Many Ramadhan bazaars around the city also have their own speciality dishes, recognisable by the many people who go there – examples include the popiah in PJ’s Section14, the roast chicken in Pantai Dalam and the grilled fish in Melawati – while in general, these markets are the best place to find food from all over Malaysia and from the country’s diverse communities.
The government also sees these bazaars as the perfect promotional platform to introduce these foods to tourists, while also being representations of the rich culture and heritage of Malaysia and exemplifying its unity, as they are visited by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. As Dato’ Sri Dr Ng said at the launch, “Visit the Ramadhan bazaar and you will understand what the 1Malaysia spirit is.”
So do join in as Malaysia fasts through Ramadhan and celebrates during Aidilfitri.