What's cook­ing this Raya?

Home cooks re­veal the care­fully cu­rated Hari Raya dishes that are must-haves on their fes­tive table.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - Sto­ries by ABIRAMI DU­RAI life­style@thes­tar.com.my

TO­DAY marks the first day of Hari Raya Aidil­fitri and with it, the start of a pe­riod of cel­e­bra­tion (al­beit a rel­a­tively muted one, given the cur­rent global pan­demic).

Like any cel­e­bra­tion, food is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of Hari Raya and Mus­lim fam­i­lies across the coun­try will be in­dulging in an ar­ray of trea­sured meals that im­bibe and en­hance the spirit of fes­tiv­ity.

From heir­loom recipes to new­found favourites, four home cooks re­veal the must-have dishes that el­e­vate their Hari Raya to a whole new level.

From gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion

In Nu­rani Mohd Ayub’s home, prepa­ra­tions for the fam­ily’s Hari Raya meal start in earnest a few days be­fore the day it­self.

“The prep work like blend­ing onions and chill­ies is done one or two days in ad­vance, but cook­ing is nor­mally on the eve of Raya. It’s be­cause on the morn­ing of Hari Raya, we go to the mosque and then af­ter that, rel­a­tives come to visit my mother – she is the el­dest in the fam­ily – so there is no time for me to cook on the day,” says Nu­rani.

Nu­rani ac­tu­ally learnt how to cook from her mother when she was grow­ing up in Jo­hor and re­mem­bers the fes­tive table heav­ing with all sorts of de­li­cious dishes.

“Some of the must-haves for us were nasi briyani, soto and laksa Jo­hor, which we al­ways had to have be­cause we are Jo­hore­ans,” she says.

But per­haps the most cru­cial meal for Nu­rani’s fam­ily – one that she has con­tin­ued to main­tain on her own Raya table since she got mar­ried and had her three (now adult) chil­dren is the fam­ily’s hal­lowed ayam Por­tugis.

“Every year, we must have ayam Por­tugis. I don’t even know why it’s called ayam Por­tugis, I don’t think it’s from Por­tu­gal. But it’s a recipe that my mother in­her­ited from my grand­mother and which she passed down to me,” she says.

AKIN to a ren­dang, Nu­rani’s in­her­ited recipe calls for chicken to be fried be­fore be­ing im­mersed in a mix­ture of blended spices, herbs and co­conut milk, re­sult­ing in a rich, heady af­fair that her hus­band and chil­dren are huge fans of.

It’s a recipe that she has also taught her el­dest son, Mohd Ariff, 26 and daugh­ter Nur Aliah, 20. They help her make it every year without fail, along­side other dishes like sam­bal tu­mis udang and ren­dang dag­ing.

Nu­rani says the dish is ac­tu­ally quite easy to make, and can be mod­ernised with the use of con­tem­po­rary in­ven­tions, like air­fry­ers.

“With mod­ern gad­gets, some Hari Raya dishes are eas­ier to cook. Like for my ayam Por­tugis, I use the air­fryer to fry the chicken so I won’t have all the mess in the kitchen such as oily sur­faces,” she says.

Nu­rani says what makes her ayam Por­tugis stand out is the ad­di­tion of can­dlenuts (buah keras).

“It’s a sort of like ren­dang but the spe­cial in­gre­di­ent is the can­dlenuts, which dif­fer­en­ti­ates the taste and gives it a nice thick­ness – that’s why my hus­band and chil­dren love it and it’s a must-have in our home,” she says.


For the chicken

1/2 a chicken, cut into 12 pcs turmeric pow­der, to taste salt to taste For blend­ing 5 red chill­ies

5-7 cili padi (de­pend­ing on how hot you want the dish to be)

50g dried chill­ies

4 red onions

6 cloves gar­lic

5cm turmeric

4cm gin­ger

6 can­dlenuts

For cook­ing

1 red onion, cut into rings 250ml co­conut milk

2 stalks le­mon­grass

3 tamarind pieces cili padi, for gar­nish

Mar­i­nate the chicken with salt and turmeric then fry chicken un­til cooked.

Blend all the in­gre­di­ents for blend­ing and set aside.

In a wok, heat some oil and sauté onions. Once onions have soft­ened, pour in the blended in­gre­di­ents and stir till aro­matic and a layer of oil emerges.

Add co­conut milk, le­mon­grass & tamarind pieces. Add some wa­ter if mix­ture is too thick. Cook for an­other 5-10 min­utes or un­til it turns into a thick gravy. Gar­nish with cili padi and eat with ke­tu­pat

- 123rf.com

This year’s Hari Raya Aidil­fitri cel­e­bra­tion will be qui­eter but fam­i­lies will still serve up their favourite fes­tive dishes.

Nu­rani’s daugh­ter Nur Aliah helps her make ayam Por­tugis, the fam­ily’s favourite dish come Hari Raya. — NU­RANI MOHD AYUB

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