Making Hari Raya favourites for the whole family
For the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, prayers, reflection, and fasting from sunrise to sundown marks the month-long observation of Ramadan. And to make up for this period of intense solemnity and self-improvement, the celebration of its end during Hari Raya Puasa is met with great merriment and feasting. Households are decked out with lights and tables are crammed with everyone’s favourites—from saucy, spicy main dishes to multiple sweet delicacies—meant to be shared with family, friends, and well-wishers who come pouring in through the door.
For such an established tradition, family recipes tend to be used in making these celebratory foods. And if for some reason those aren’t available to you, here are a few classic but easy dishes to whip up for the feast, with a few shortcuts sprinkled in just in case a relative or neighbor rings the doorbell a little earlier than expected.
Imagine walking into a room where, in the very midst, is a small steaming hill of golden rice and richly spiced meat. If that doesn’t signal feasting, then nothing else will. Biryani in all of its forms—beef, chicken, or mutton—will always have a place in Malay festive occasions even if it’s an Indian dish by origin.
As delicious as it is though, it can also be terribly time-consuming. Shave off an hour or so from the prep time by using two store-bought spice pastes and pre-cooking the rice. Because holiday time is meant to be spent with loved ones, not slaving away at the kitchen.
1 packet Butter Chicken paste
1 cup plain or Greek yogurt
1 kg of your preferred chicken cuts (e.g. thigh, wings, drumstick)
2 cups Basmati rice
2 ¼ cups water
4 Tbsp Biryani Masala mix
3 Tbsp ghee
4 Tbsp Borges Extra Light Olive Oil
Fried shallots and fresh chopped coriander for garnish
- Mix together the butter chicken paste and yogurt. Wash and pat the chicken dry with paper towels before massaging the spice-yogurt mixture. Store in a Ziploc bag and marinade overnight in the fridge. Before cooking, remember to take it out of the fridge for about 30 mins.
- Wash, drain, and then soak the biryani rice for an hour. Drain again and place into a rice cooker. Add 2 ¼ cups water and the biryani masala. Let the rice cook as normal.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- As the rice finishes cooking, add the ghee and fluff the grains with a fork.
- Coat a baking tray with the cooking oil, place the rice on an even layer, and arrange the marinated chicken pieces on the top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken is cooked to the bone, check by piercing one of the pieces. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving with heaps of fried shallots and coriander.
Prawns may not be as striking as crabs or lobsters. But when it’s slathered in a spicy yet tangy sauce, everyone will be fighting for a piece. This recipe goes perfectly well with chunks of lontong. And because this is a quick dish, you can prepare the ingredients beforehand and cook it up right before serving.
Ingredients - Spice paste:
150g shallots, roughly chopped
40g fresh red chilies
10g dried chilies
½ tsp dried shrimp paste (Belacan)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
½ Tbsp tamarind paste
350g medium-sized prawns
- In a food processor, finely grind the spice paste ingredients. Add a teaspoon or so of water if the ingredients are too chunky for the blades to process.
- Heat the aromatic oil in a pan, and saute the spice paste over medium heat. Stir continuously to prevent the paste from burning.
- As soon as oil separates from the paste, add the tomatoes and tamarind pulp. Simmer for 1 minute.
- Add the prawns to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the prawns turn opaque and curl up. Do not overcook. Serve immediately.
Vegetable Sambal Goreng
Vegans have a reason to party with this punchy plant-based dish. It is worth putting the food processor into use for this recipe as the fresh paste of lemongrass and galangal makes a difference in uplifting the vegetables. Sambal goreng is often cooked with meat, but it won’t be missed in this dish.
Ingredients - Spice paste:
10 dried red chilies, soaked for 10 minutes in hot water
1 medium red onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass (bottom part)
30g galangal, roughly sliced
¼ cup water
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
2 fresh red chilies, sliced thinly
150ml coconut cream
1 tsp tamarind paste
50 ml water
200g long beans or French beans, cut into 2 cm pieces
3 small squares of firm tofu, cut into small cubes
200g Tempeh, cut into small cubes (optional)
Salt and sugar to taste
Borges Grapeseed Oil for frying
- With a food processor, blend together the ingredients for the spice paste. Set aside.
- Heat up about 2 cups of grapeseed oil in a deep pan. Fry the tofu until golden, and the tempeh, if using. Remove from the oil and drain atop paper towels.
- Remove most of the oil from the pan, leaving about 2 Tbsp in the pan. Add in the onions and saute until softened, then add the spice paste. Fry these until the oil separates from the paste.
- Add the beans, tofu, and tempe in the pan and stir to coat well. Dilute the tamarind paste in 50ml of water then pour this over the vegetables.
- Set the heat to medium low, and then add the coconut cream, salt, and sugar. Mix well and let it gently simmer until the sauce is thick and well-blended. Serve warm.
Even if you’ve stuffed yourself with rich foods during the Raya mealtimes, there always seems to be room for all the sweet treats on the table. From crumbly, buttery cookies to cottony cakes, the assortment is as enticing as they are calorific. As a favour to waistlines and bursting stomachs, one may serve a light dessert in place of a heavy finisher.
Kuih lapis is a striking dessert, thanks to its multicolored layers, and it is traditionally made with thick coconut milk. Our version swaps the coconut for walnut drink for the same creaminess but without the guilt. Make this the night before so it has time to chill and firm up in the fridge.
8 large pandan leaves
320g rice flour
200g tapioca flour
Food colouring of choice
- In a saucepan, combine the pandan syrup ingredients and bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- When the syrup is cooled down, combine it with the flours, Natura Walnut drink, and salt. Stir well to remove all lumps.
- Strain and divide the batter into two containers. Add a few drops of food colouring in one, while the other remains white or tinted with another colour.
- Preheat an oiled 10 in. round pan in a steamer for 5 minutes.
- Pour 1 ladle of the white mixture into the pan, then cover and steam for 5 minutes until it is somewhat set. Pour another ladle using the coloured batter to make the next layer, cover and steam again for 5 minutes.
- Repeat the alternating layers, steaming 5 minutes per layer, until all the batter is used up.
- Steam for an additional 15 minutes then let it cool at room temperature. Alternatively, you can chill this if this was made the night before.
- Serve this sliced to show off the layers and paired with black tea.
Making the effort to cook multiple dishes for Hari Raya may seem daunting but prepping ahead of the celebrations can make it easier, and you’re sure to be rewarded with happy smiles across the table. But one of the unique joys of the prolonged festival is the fact that one can also visit other households and receive the same hospitality and their version of lovingly prepared dishes.