What's cooking this Raya?
Home cooks reveal the carefully curated Hari Raya dishes that are must-haves on their festive table.
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
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
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