Ili Sulaiman's 9 Festive Dishes for Before, During and After Hari Raya Celebrations
By Ili Sulaiman
May 20, 2020

Ili Sulaiman's 9 Festive Dishes for Before, During and After Hari Raya Celebrations

What should you make before, during and after Hari Raya? Ili finds inspiration in these challenging times by recreating 9 amazing Raya classics to celebrate the Raya spirit at home

How different this year's Hari Raya will be! With social distancing at play during this festive time for Muslims, we may miss out on the traditional way of celebrating Hari Raya in Malaysia. This means the tradition of house-visiting and feasting on delicious meals of each home.

Despite this, I am finding inspiration during these challenging times by recreating amazing treats that we eat during Hari Raya, right at home. It has made me a lot more adventurous in the kitchen. I find myself digging up old family recipes, submerging myself in the art of making Raya cookies, ketupat and serunding from scratch and even recreating my best friend's grandmother's laksa which is a Hari Raya tradition in their home. So this is my pre Hari Raya prep which will allow me plenty of time to feel the build up of Raya festivities.

Pre-Raya Prep 

Pre Hari Raya Prep is essential when it comes to preparing for Hari Raya. Because festivities often go on for 3 days, it is important for every household to have enough food to last these 3 days and the variety of food will also determine the kind of prep that is required.  Here are a list of pre Hari Raya prep I am doing:

1. Raya Cookies

No Hari Raya is complete without Raya cookies. Every home has jars and jars of homemade cookies ranging from gluten free Jam Cookies to Pandan Cookies, classic chocolate chip cookies and the traditional Biskut Sarang Semut, or Ant's Nest Cookies.

2. Rendang

It's traditional for most Malaysian homes to have their own version of Rendang. In my family, we traditionally start cooking our rendang tok at least 1 week prior to Hari Raya. This is because the process takes up to 48 hours to prepare and cook. Kilos and kilos of beef and chicken are cooked in a thick coconut cream and a special blend of fresh and dry spice and made into a delicious paste. Everything is cooked on an open wood fire until everything comes together in a beautiful thick like spiced meat stew. Our family rendang is not only reserved for our own consumption but it is also usually packed up and shipped off to family members near and far to enjoy.

3. Ketupat 

The preparation of folding of the young coconut leaves takes time and practice and this is usually done a week in advance. Once filled with rice and cooked in boiling hot water, the Ketupat needs to be hung dry for at least 24 hours to set. The art of weaving the coconut leaves into triangle woven ketupat pouches is taught to us by our mothers and grandmothers. The passing of this knowledge helps preserve our culture and the tradition of Hari Raya preparation.

Day of Hari Raya

On the day of Hari raya, the whole family wakes up really early to dish up all of the raya dishes. After our morning prayers we all dress up in our fine Hari Raya clothes and indulge in a traditional Hari Raya feast as a family. Here are some of my Raya day preparations.

4. Lontong

Rich coconut curry broth cooked with vegetables served over ketupat and a side of Sambal Tempeh, Kacang and Ikan Bilis. Lontong or Lodeh is a very simple dish that requires minimal preparation and I usually cook this in the morning of Hari Raya. It's traditional in my family to have this for Hari Raya breakfast and it's something we all enjoy cooking and eating together.

5. Soto

For lunch beside the array of ketupat, rendang and serunding, some families offer Soto Ayam as their meal of choice for Hari Raya. A delicious spiced chicken broth over ketupat, served with begedil, shredded chicken and vegetables. A pretty soothing, comforting and light Raya dish. It is pretty smart to go for this option for Hari Raya after a whole month of fasting. Helps you ease into all the Hari Raya delicacies.

6. Laksa

Another favourite lookout for me during Hari Raya is scouting for the best Laksa Johor. This year, scouting for this dish is not encouraged, so I have challenged myself to make this for my family. Drawing inspiration from my best friend’s grandmother and my mother in law who are both from Johor, I pushed myself to think creatively on how to make this truly classic dish part of my new Hari Raya tradition.

2nd Day of Hari Raya 

7. Asam Pedas Daging (Spicy Tamarind Beef Stew)

On the second day of Hari Raya, it is absolutely traditional for my family to cook this dish to offer to our family. Tamarind Spicy Beef Stew (Asam Pedas Daging) is one of my family favorites and we all look forward to eating this on the second day.  Served with some steamed rice, stir fry vegetables, sambal belacan and local herb salad there is no better way to continue the Hari Raya celebration in my family.

3rd Day of Hari Raya

As the 3rd day of raya looms on us, we become overwhelmed by all the local delicacies and the richness of our Raya food. This is when my creativity takes over and I usually find ways to upcycle my leftovers and make them into one pot wonders.

8. Nasi Goreng Rendang Ayam

Nasi goreng is a staple in Malaysian cuisine, this year I am making nasi goreng rendang ayam to utalising any leftover rendang we may have. The wonders of stir frying some leftover rice, rendang, frozen peas and two eggs, and what you are left with is a delicious newly improved meal that is absolutely delicious.

9. Date Shake

With all the leftover dates from Ramadan and over indulging over Raya, your stomach may need a break from all the food so why not make a Date Shake. With natural sugars, a little ice cream (cause let's face it, ice cream is always a good idea)  and some almonds, this post Raya drink is something that is truly remarkable.

So there you have it guys! My guide to preparing for the New Hari Raya 2020. Stay safe and wishing all of you Selamat Hari Raya and Maaf Zahir dan Batin.

Ili Sulaiman is a Malaysian chef. She has several shows of her own, including Home Cooked: Malaysia; Family Feast with Ili, and authored the hot-selling cookbook, For the Love of Food. Follow her on all socials @ilisulaiman.

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