Fa­mil­iar yet dif­fer­ent Raya

It looks like the same old fes­tive fare, but there’s some­thing Mil­len­nial about Ili Su­laiman and Basira Yeusuff’s Raya table.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By SUZANNE LAZAROO star2@thes­tar.com.my

ILI Su­laiman and Basira Yeusuff love Hari Raya.

There’s just some­thing about the sea­son – the way Hari Raya brings peo­ple to­gether, draw­ing far-flung fam­ily and friends to­gether to con­tem­plate their roots, re­new­ing the bonds of love and com­mu­nity.

“Both sides of the fam­ily come over to ours, and food is con­stantly com­ing out of the kitchen,” said Basira. She par­tic­u­larly likes the an­tic­i­pa­tion pal­pa­ble in the week be­fore Raya, when her fam­ily lights the pelita in the gar­den and ev­ery­thing is bathed in a glow.

“And I love how ev­ery­one is dressed up and blinged out too!” said Ili.

Along with part­ner Nizam Rosli, Ili and Basira are the hearts and brains behind Agak Agak, the cosy restaurant in APW, the uber-cool F&B en­clave in Bangsar.

They serve pro­gres­sive Malaysian food, tak­ing the clas­sic and the tra­di­tional and fear­lessly put­ting their own spin on it.

Here too, com­mu­nity lies at the heart of things; Agak Agak is a so­cial en­ter­prise aimed at helping young peo­ple out of the poverty trap, and giv­ing them a solid foun­da­tion on which to build ca­reers in the F&B line (see story on page 6).

But while they have a great fond­ness for the tra­di­tions that wreathe the sea­son, they come from fam­i­lies who also en­joy put­ting their own spin on cel­e­bra­tions.

“There are cer­tain things you have to have on the table at Raya, but we do like to push boundaries, do things in a dif­fer­ent way,” said Ili. They’re happy to share some of their en­ve­lope-push­ing recipes, for read­ers who want to broaden their own fam­ily tra­di­tions this fes­tive sea­son.

Af­ter two days of ren­dang, Ili’s fam­ily can’t look at any more meat.

“It’s just too heavy, all that meat.

So then we’ll have fish ren­dang in­stead, which is much lighter and faster to cook, too,” she said. “It pairs re­ally well with the sayur lodeh we al­ways have, as well.”

The dish ac­tu­ally came about be­cause one Raya, her mother had friends who did not eat meat over. “Now it’s just be­come some­thing peo­ple look for­ward to when they come over.”

“The ke­tu­pat palas is some­thing we al­ways have in my house, so I de­cided to pair it with the hae bee for an un­usual touch,” said Basira. The kuah ka­cang is an­other sta­ple, given a richer, savoury depth with beef fat and brisket.

“So I de­cided to put in ox­tail, be­cause low, slow cook­ing is my thing,” said Basira.

For busy bees and cooks with lit­tle time though, it’s pos­si­ble to break the kuah ka­cang down into its var­i­ous steps and make it over a few days.

“As for kuih bahulu, that’s pretty much on ev­ery­one’s Raya food list! That slightly crispy out­side and soft, fluffy in­side ... I like to douse a lot of our cakes here at Agak Agak with lime syrup, so I thought a cit­rus syrup with a fresh herb like thyme would be a fun ad­di­tion.

“Also, when you have bahulu, you usu­ally have sirap ros or teh o as well, so there’s a con­nec­tion there.”

Some of these dishes are quick to make; oth­ers – like the kuah ka­cang with ox­tail, can take a while.

“It does take time and care, but hey, that’s what Raya is about – put­ting that love into what you cook.”


4 serv­ings

spice paste

6 shal­lots

4 gar­lic cloves

6 dried chill­ies, seeds re­moved and soaked in wa­ter

8 tbsp vegetable oil

1 star anise

1 cin­na­mon stick salt, to taste

1 tsp ground turmeric 1 lemon­grass stalk, bruised

4 kaf­fir lime leaves

1 piece asam keping

2cm galan­gal

1 daun kun­yit

1/2 litre wa­ter

1 cup thick co­conut milk

1 heaped tbsp kerisik

400g firm fish, cut into 4cm cubes or leave as steaks

Grind the spice ingredients to­gether. Place the vegetable oil in a pot over low heat, then add in star anise and cin­na­mon. Fry for about 2 min­utes.

Add in the spice paste, and fry for a fur­ther 8 to 10 min­utes over low heat, un­til slightly caramelised. Sprin­kle with salt to taste, and add the ground turmeric.

Add the lemon­grass, kaf­fir lime leaves, asam keping, galan­gal and daun kun­yit, along with the wa­ter. Sim­mer for an­other 5 min­utes.

When the mix­ture has re­duced, add the co­conut milk and kerisik and let it sim­mer over low heat for about 5 min­utes. Sea­son to taste again, then add in the fish.

Turn off the heat, but let the pot sit on the stove for a fur­ther 15 min­utes, so the hot broth cooks the fish.


ke­tu­pat palas (makes 40)

40 daun palas, for wrap­ping 1 1/2 litres fresh san­tan

3 fresh pan­dan leaves, knot­ted salt, to taste

1kg white gluti­nous rice

spice paste

15 dried chill­ies, seeds re­moved and soaked in wa­ter

10 shal­lots

1 1/2cm fresh turmeric

6 cloves gar­lic

3 stalks lemon­grass 6 can­dlenuts

15g bela­can (toasted) 500g dried shrimp, washed and drained 60-80ml oil

1 piece asam keping, soaked in

4 tbsp wa­ter

6 kaf­fir lime leaves salt and su­gar, to taste

To make ke­tu­pat palas

Place san­tan, pan­dan leaves and salt in a pot over medium heat. Do not al­low the mix­ture to boil.

Add the gluti­nous rice and cook over low heat till all the liq­uid evap­o­rates. At this point, the rice should be half cooked and slightly oily in ap­pear­ance. Re­move from heat and al­low to cool.

Fold the ke­tu­pat pock­ets (to see how, go to youtube.com/watch? v=xh2tq6o0Vtc). Pack the rice into the ke­tu­pat pock­ets firmly, and tie a knot at the top of the tri­an­gle to se­cure the par­cel. You should get roughly 40 ke­tu­pats.

Place in a large pot and just cover with wa­ter. Boil till ke­tu­pats are cooked, about

45 to 60 min­utes.

To make sam­bal hae bee

In a blender, grind the spice paste ingredients till fine.

Dry toast the shrimp in a pan till aro­matic. Re­move from heat and al­low to cool. Place in a blender and process to a coarse, sandy tex­ture then set aside.

Heat the oil in a

heavy-bot­tomed pan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and saute till fra­grant and the oil starts to sura­gain, face about 10 min­utes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and con­tinue cook­ing. Sea­son to taste with su­gar and salt. Cook the mix­ture un­til it is dry and fra­grant.

To serve

Dish the sam­bal hae bee out into a serv­ing dish, with ke­tu­pat palas on the side.


6 serv­ings


10 shal­lots, peeled

4 cloves gar­lic, peeled

5cm galan­gal

6 stalks lemon­grass, bruised 1kg ox­tail

100ml cook­ing oil

20 dried chill­ies, seeds re­moved,

soaked and pureed

500ml wa­ter

1 tbsp tamarind paste

100g gula Me­laka

50g caster su­gar

800g toasted peanuts, roughly ground 3 pan­dan leaves, knot­ted salt, to taste

Place all mari­nade ingredients, ex­cept lemon­grass, into a blender and process with a lit­tle wa­ter to work the blades.

Pour out into a bowl and add the lemon­grass. Add the ox­tail, mix to make sure it’s well-coated in the mari­nade, and leave to mar­i­nate in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

Just be­fore cook­ing, re­move ox­tail from mari­nade and pat dry with paper tow­els. Re­serve mari­nade.

Place a bit of cook­ing oil in a heavy-bot­tomed pan with a cover (prefer­ably a Dutch oven). Sear the ox­tail on all sides. Re­move the ox­tail and set aside.

Add the re­served mari­nade to

the pan and saute till translu­cent and aro­matic, and the oil starts to sur­face again, about 10 min­utes.

Add the blended dried chill­ies and saute till cooked. Then, add in wa­ter, tamarind paste, su­gars, peanuts and pan­dan leaves. Stir well.

Add the ox­tail, stir­ring lightly. The liq­uid should just cover the ox­tail, so add a lit­tle wa­ter if necessary. Cover with lid and trans­fer to an oven pre-heated to 150°C. Braise for 4 hours. Sea­son to taste and serve hot.


Makes 80 small or 60 medium kuih 200g caster su­gar

5 eggs

2 or­anges, zest only

125g all-pur­pose flour

1 tsp salt


250ml fresh orange juice 100g caster su­gar 3 sprigs fresh thyme

To make kuih bahulu

Pre­heat the oven to 180°C. Grease the kuih bahulu moulds with oil us­ing a brush.

Place su­gar and eggs in a bowl and beat till mix­ture is light, frothy and su­gar has com­pletely dis­solved.

Add the orange zest to the mix­ture, then fold in flour and salt.

Pour the mix­ture into pre­heated kuih bahulu moulds till al­most full. Bake in a fan-forced oven for 10 to 12 min­utes, or un­til golden.

Re­move moulds from the oven and, us­ing bam­boo skew­ers, re­move the kuih bahulu to a wire rack to cool.

Mean­while, fill the mould with bat­ter again – grease with some oil first if necessary, and bake in the same man­ner, re­peat­ing un­til all the bat­ter is used up.

To make syrup

Place all ingredients in a small, heavy-based pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook un­til the su­gar melts and the mix­ture re­duces slightly. Re­move from heat and let cool. Driz­zle over the kuih bahulu at the table.

— Photo: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The Hari Raya table gets a gen­tle re­fresh­ment with out­side-the-box recipes from so­cial en­trepreneurs Ili Su­laiman and Basira Yeusuff of Agak Agak.

For Basira (left) and Ili, Hari Raya is a time for fam­ily and friends to feast to­gether. — Pho­tos: YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

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