Over the years people have turned to Google to look up recipes for “buka puasa” meals, buffets dishes and Hari Raya feasts. Here’s a look at some of Malaysia’s favourite Ramadan dishes, desserts, and Raya cookies during the coming season based on searches on Google Malaysia in the last few years.
The main dish is the centrepiece of any given meal, and Malaysians love a hearty, meaty dish. The usual Raya classics like beef rendang remain a staple of local households during this season, but alternatives like spicy tomato chicken (ayam masak merah) and spicy black beef (daging masak hitam) are also recurring favourites.
Malaysia’s top 10 favourite Ramadan-Raya main dish recipes:
1. Spicy tomato chicken
2. Soy sauce chicken
3. Chicken curry
4. Chicken paprik
5. Roasted spiced chicken
- Chicken Paprik
- Mango kerabu
6. Beef rendang
7. Roasted chicken
8. Spicy black beef
9. Grilled fish
10. Mango kerabu
There’s always room for dessert after a meal, and this is most definitely true after a long day of fasting. Puddings of many different types are a common sight at Ramadan bazaars, but cakes are just as popular as a dessert option for many in recent years.
Malaysia’s top 10 favourite Ramadan-Raya dessert recipes:
1. Chocolate cake
2. Batik cake
3. Bread pudding
4. Caramel pudding
5. Cheesekut (cheese biscuit)
7. Marble cake
8. Banana cake
9. Corn pudding
10. Sago gula Melaka
Homemade kuih raya
One may be forgiven for thinking that making kuih Raya at home is no longer a tradition, especially when it has become more convenient to buy them in bulk. This is simply not the case at all – Malaysians are still very much into making their own versions.
London Almond Cookies
Malaysia’s top 10 favourite kuih raya recipes:
1. Nestum cookies
2. Cheese tart
3. Honey cornflakes
4. Chocolate cornflakes
5. Makmur biscuit
6. Semperit Susu
7. Mazola biscuit
8. Sarang Semut
9. Rolled pineapple tart
10. London Almond cookies
Eight years ago, Syazana Sukiman bought a sewing machine to teach herself a new skill – sewing. She’d just graduated from RMIT University in Australia with a degree in architecture, but she wasn’t sure about pursuing a career in that field. She had also just married her high-school sweetheart, and so she decided to take a year off to “do some soul searching” and “find her purpose”.
In no time, she, was sewing clothes for her nieces and friends’ toddlers. Little did Syazana realise this would lead to the birth of Whimsigirl, a fashion label that has garnered a cult-like following or that she’d be getting hundreds of orders daily for her line of “comfortable, easy, everyday clothes for every girl”.
“I started sewing for fun. It was something to keep myself occupied. My designs were well-received and before I knew it, I was making a small collection for Hari Raya.
“This was back in 2011, the same year I had my first son and I remember going into labour, worrying about all the orders I needed to attend to,” recalls Syazana, 33.
The collection sold out. Syazana had found her purpose, or perhaps, it had found her. She started Whimsigirl, her children’s wear line.
Syazana opened her first brick and mortar shop in Publika, Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and Whimsigirl became synonymous with upscale children’s clothes, made from mostly cotton and linen.
Last year, Syazana decided to venture into women’s wear. Her inagural collection – launched for Hari Raya – sold out within two weeks.
“I really didn’t expect that. I guess the trust in the brand and the momentum from the children’s line were strong enough to translate into our women’s line. Mothers who liked our designs for their children, wanted to wear our clothes as well,” says Syazana.
Now, her brand focuses on women’s wear while maintaining a small children’s wear collection. They operate solely as an online business (whimsigirl.com) with a showroom in Bukit Antarabangsa, Kuala Lumpur, where customers can try on the clothes before purchasing them.
Syazana says she wears her clothes “to death” because she finds them so comfortable. She hopes her customers feel the same about her designs. Photos: AZLINA ABDULLAH
Syazana emphasises that Whimsigirl isn’t a fashion brand and therefore not in competition with other fashion labels nor dictated by popular trends.
“We design for purpose. Comfort comes first, and quality. The clothes need to be wearable and last you for life.
“I want girls of all sizes to be able to wear our clothes and feel good about themselves. Our clothes are simple. We don’t have any embellishments because we believe our girls (customers) are enough,” she says.
She adds that her background in architecture informs her design decisions, so that the clothes fit the climate and are functional.
Whimsigirl’s outfits are named after their earliest costomers and staff, as a tribute to their loyal support. Photo: Handout
The brand is a reflection of Syazana’s minimalist beliefs. “I wear my clothes to death. I like simple styles and I don’t mind repeating my outfits because I love my clothes. And that’s what I put into the designs. I want girls to love their Whimsigirl outfits so much that they will wear them over and over again,” she states.
The brand philosophy has apparently hit a chord with women. Whimsigirl is recording hundreds of sales daily, and Syazana and her team of six have their hands full, packing and shipping out orders before Hari Raya.
Their Eid 2018 collection comprises just eight designs – named after the brand’s early customers and staff who have remained loyal to the label through the years.
Designs are modest, practical and versatile with soft structures that allow wearers to go about their day without feeling restricted. Though they are traditional wear, they are modern enough to be paired with pants or skirts.
“Our clothes are not cheap and we want to add value for money by making them wearable and long lasting,” she says.
Building her brand has been challenging, particularly because her business evolved so quickly.
“The hardest bit was making the right financial decisions. I made many mistakes in the beginning because I don’t have a background in management or finance. I didn’t go into this with a conscious decision to start a business. I kind of just fell into it, so I didn’t have a business plan or financial strategies.
“I went into it as a designer and made mistakes that cost me money but I have no regrets. I learnt from it, asked for help and moved on,” she says, adding that her sales have doubled annually.
Syazana’s husband, Ahmad Anis Abdul Aziz, is now a partner in the business, leaving his job in Oil and Gas in 2013, to build the brand alongside her.
“You know people always say that behind every successful man is a strong, supportive woman? Well, it’s the other way around with Whimsigirl,” she says.
In 2017, Syazana was selected to go on the e@Stanford programme organised by Magic to learn from world-renowned faculty and industry experts from Stanford University, United States.
“It really changed how I saw things. I came back with a bigger outlook for the future, not just financially but also on the impact that we want to make with Whimsigirl,” says Syazana.
After Hari Raya, Syazana is looking to launch a range of casual wear. “Our clients are our think thank, actually. We ask them what they need and want,” says the KL-born designer.
A mother of two young boys, aged seven and two, Syazana dreams of creating a “movement of everyday girls” who can empower each other to be comfortable in their own skin.
“We have customers who don’t know each other but feel connected because of their affinity for the brand. Some send us photos of themselves with a stranger they saw wearing the same outfit. I mean usually it would be a nightmare to bump into someone wearing the same outfit but these girls seem to be bonding over it. It’s really nice and we want to have their back,” says Syazana.
In the large, spacious Davis home, there is a constant buzz of activity. Mum Rosdiana Sidi Davis, better known as Diana, is shepherding her children like a seasoned pro, simultaneously telling one child to change into a different set of clothes and another one to take the cat out of the house.
Through it all, she looks calm and beautiful – not even the tiniest bead of sweat trickles down her gorgeous face, as she navigates the daily chaos of running a household filled with four active children.
But busy as she is, Diana still makes it a point to cook for her family every single day. “Dinie and I recently sat down and came up with the household menu for the next four weeks. I have to plan everything in advance,” she says, motioning to her sweet 11-year-old daughter Dinie Karmila.
“It’s quite a logistical challenge with so many children. They go to three different schools, so there are pick-ups and drop-offs and cooking after all that!” chimes in husband Gerald Russell Davis.
In many ways, cooking comes naturally to Diana as she grew up with a mother who was an excellent cook and was put through the paces from the time she was 10.
Every year, Diana works hard to prepare the dishes for her annual Hari Raya open house, no small feat given that she often cooks for up to 60 people.
“One of the first few things I learnt to cook was sambal ikan bilis and nasi goreng. When I was a bit older, about 12, I learnt how to make beehoon goreng – which I thought was one level higher,” she says, laughing.
Come Hari Raya, Diana kicks her cooking up a notch, as the family hosts an annual open house for up to 60 people that she cooks exclusively for.
“A few years back, I started doing open houses, because my kids were all older, so I could cook for people and invite them. I normally cook alone, my helper helps me tidy up but I do everything else myself,” she says.
In putting together her Hari Raya menu, Diana looked to her mother for inspiration. “My mother is from Perak and she taught me how to make rendang tok, which I love because it has a different taste from other versions. And we must have rendang for Raya. Must have. Kalau tak ada rendang, tak ada Raya!” she exclaims.
Diana’s rendang tok is delicious – large beef chunks coated in a thick, aromatic dry gravy buoyed by a spicy undercurrent.
Diana’s four children and her husband really look forward to her food, so she cooks up all their favourite Malay dishes on Hari Raya day so the family can enjoy a good meal together.
She also makes a fiery ayam sambal, based on a family recipe she inherited from her mother. “In our family, the sambal all tastes the same, it’s family-style. I have to have sambal for my Raya meal, that is a tradition – it’s not complete without it,” she says.
Diana was also fixed on the idea that a complete Raya menu should have some sort of gravy to balance out the dry rendang and ayam sambal. Also, she strongly felt that the rice (she makes nasi minyak) needed some sort of curry, otherwise it would be too dry. Which is why she decided to add a dalca to the menu too.
“I thought of a vegetable curry because I always have to have gravy to go with rice. And vegetarians can eat it too so it’s a good vegetarian option,” she says.
Adding the light, zesty jelatah (pineapple and cucumber salad) to her Hari Raya menu was a no-brainer for Diana who simply says, “It goes so well with the nasi minyak!”
As her Hari Raya open house is traditionally a week or two after Hari Raya itself, Diana makes some of the same dishes on the first day of Hari Raya for her kids who await the arrival of her food with eager anticipation.
“My god – they cannot wait! They look forward to it so much. The sambal ayam especially is everyone’s favourite. On the first day of Raya, I make the rendang and ayam sambal and kuah kacang just for us,” she says.
At her Hari Raya open house though, Diana’s food is often met with the same enthusiastic reception. It seems her food is loved by all – both young and old alike.
“I even have to tell my husband, ‘Please tell your friends to take turns eating!’ Because they don’t want to leave the table, they love the food and keep on eating!” she says, laughing happily.
Serves 6 to 7
For blending together
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black pepper corn
3 star anise
For blending together
30 dried chillies, cut and boiled until soft
10 small onions
3 inches ginger
5 stalks lemongrass
1/2 inch (1.3cm) galangal
1/2 inch (1.3cm) turmeric root
1 cup corn oil
1kg beef tenderloin
400ml thick coconut milk
3 tbsp kerisik
1/2 a block of gula melaka
3 pieces asam keping
3 turmeric leaves, sliced thinly
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
salt to taste
one stalk turmeric leaves, sliced thinly
Heat up the oil. Pour in all the blended ingredients. Mix together and cook until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). This should take about 30 minutes.
Add the meat. Cook until the meat is soft, 30-45 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Cook the mixture until it is thick and dry. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. This should take about 1½ hours.
Once the mixture dries up (depending on your preferred texture), turn off the heat. Transfer the rendang onto a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced turmeric leaves.
JELATAH (PINEAPPLE & CUCUMBER SALAD)
Serves 6 to 7
1/2 a ripe pineapple
1 medium sized cucumber
1/2 medium sized red onion, sliced thinly
2 fresh red chillies, sliced thinly
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Remove the pineapple skin and eyes. Cut into wedges and remove the core. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.
Cut the cucumber into 4, lengthways. Cut into 0.5cm pieces. Set aside.
In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients together well. Adjust the amount of vinegar, salt and sugar to your taste. Refrigerate before serving.
Serves 6 to 7
100g yellow lentil
2 medium potatoes, cut into 6 pieces
1 carrot, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp meat curry powder
1 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 cup corn oil
3 small onions, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 inch (2.5cm) ginger, sliced thinly
2 stalks curry leaves
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
2 star anise
3 cardamom pods
1 tsp mixed halba
300ml coconut milk
salt to taste
1/2 a brinjal, cut into small pieces
1 tomato, cut into 6 pieces
5 long beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) lengths
Wash dhal until the water is no longer cloudy. Soak overnight in water, then drain the next morning.
Boil 500ml water. Put in dhal and boil until very soft. Drain and blend it with a little dhal water. Reserve the rest of the dhal water.
Steam potatoes and carrot until half cooked. Keep the steamed water.
In a small bowl, mix meat curry powder and tamarind paste with a cup of water. Set aside.
In a big pot, heat up the corn oil. Stir fry onions, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and spices until onions are tender. Pour in the curry powder mix and fry until you get pecah minyak (a layer of oil emerges). Add 1 cup of steamed vegetable water and 1 cup of boiled dhal water. Let the mixture reach a boil.
Once boiling, add the blended dhal, coconut milk and salt. Leave it to boil. Then add brinjal, steamed potatoes and carrots. Cook until soft. Lastly add tomatoes and long beans. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve hot.
Serves 6 to 7
1 whole chicken, cut into 12 pieces
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp salt
50 dried chillies, cut and boiled
1 big red onion
1/2 tbsp belacan
1 cup corn oil
1 tsp asam jawa (tamarind paste) mix in a cup of water
2 tbsp brown sugar or to taste
1 cup chilli sauce (any brand)
salt to taste
1 big red onion, sliced into ring shapes
parsley leaves, for garnishing (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. Marinate the chicken with turmeric and salt and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Take out and set aside.
Blend all ingredients for blending with some water.
On medium heat, add oil in a large frying pan. Pour in the chilli paste and cook for about 15 minutes or until oil surfaces and the paste is slightly dry. Stir occasionally.
Add the tamarind juice and stir. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the sambal looks thicker. Add the brown sugar, chilli sauce and salt to taste. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Lastly, add the oven-cooked chicken and the onion rings. Mix well. Let it cook for another 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Remove the chicken from the pan. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve hot.