There’s nothing in this world like the food you will find in Malaysia during Hari Raya. Don’t get me wrong, we have amazing food all year round and for special occasions, but the delicacies served during Hari Raya are at the top of most of our tourists’ “must-have” lists.
Hari Raya marks the end of Ramadhan, or the fasting month, for Muslims worldwide, and especially here in Malaysia. So what follows a month of fasting? A whole month of celebrations and eating amazing dishes, many of which can only be found this time of the year. But you don’t have to be Muslim to enjoy them and experience everything that Hari Raya has to offer.
Introduced by foreign and local settlers many years ago, Malay heritage food is a delicious symbol of the colorful Malaysian Muslim lifestyle and has rightfully claimed its place of cultural significance during the festive season. And what better occasion than Hari Raya to take your diners on a trip back to yesteryear with a mouth-watering array of heritage delicacies from famous local places in Malaysia.
Kuantan: Puding Raja
This particular pudding was a specialty from the region of Pekan, Pahang. Puding Raja (“Royal Pudding”) is a traditional Pahang Malay dish taken as an appetizer or dessert and is easy to make at home especially when it comes to Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
You don’t need to be royalty to feast like a king, because treats like Puding DiRaja (Royal Pudding), once reserved for royal banquets, are increasingly available to the public. Puding Raja is not so much a pudding as a simple dish of bananas with a sauce or gravy made from milk and cornflour. Its palate sweetness is balanced with hints of tartness from prune, and there’s myriad textures – spongy, chewy, crispy, and smooth – in every bite.
Ipoh: Rendang Tok
Unlike many other rendang varieties where the chunks of beef are stewed in a rich and spicy sauce known as “kuah“, Rendang Tok from Perak is much drier in comparison, with the gravy being greatly reduced from prolonged simmering until all that’s left is merely a thick layer that coats and adheres onto each piece of meat. Because of this, every chunk of beef is packed with so much flavor as the spices and condiments used become concentrated and compacted from the sauce reduction.
Rendang Tok has always been a famous dish during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri here.
Rendang cooking has a long withstanding tradition in Malaysia and has since evolved and developed so many varieties, with almost every state having its own unique variation. So it comes as no surprise that Perak too has its own “special” rendang and rightfully so as it is very famous, enjoyed by not only the Perakians but also visitors to the state. “Rendang Tok” as it is known, with “Tok” to mean royalty, this delicious rendang is literally food befitting the kings!
Sabah & Sarawak: Kelupis
If you’re planned to travel Sarawak for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Kelupis is a must-try. It is a traditional snack of both the Bisaya people and the Bruneian Malay people residing in Brunei and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Glutinous rice is first cooked in coconut milk that is flavored with pandan leaves, then wrapped in daun nyirik leaves.
The prepared rolls are steamed, then left to hang so they contain no excess water and the rice inside is not wet or damp. Once unwrapped, this snack is delicious enough to be eaten alone, but it’s typically paired with curry or a spicy meat dish known as rendang.
Pulau Pinang: Halwa Maskat
Most common local delicacies in Pulau Pinang is Halwa maskat which is a traditional sweet dish served only on Hari Raya Aidilfitri. It is a very special dish for Penang.
Halwa maskat is a kind of rectangular shaped candy like jelly made from beef, flour, and sugar.
The secret to producing high quality Halwa masks is not only dependent on the right ingredients, but also on the complicated and time-consuming methods of preparation and the process of mixing the batter continuously.
The dough to produce Halwa masks should be refrigerated for three days and three nights before being stirred on a slow burn for five hours non-stop. If not, the mixture may be crusty and warm.
One of the top dishes during Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Johor Bahru is Lontong. It is a combination of nasi impit, vegetables and meat, served together with a savoury coconut milk base. Lontong can be eaten as a full meal since it has everything included in it.
Lontong is typically eaten as a breakfast dish and also served during special occasions such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Malay weddings.
Depending on the region it’s prepared in, there are several variations. Some cooks include peanuts in the gravy while others add tempeh or a hard-boiled egg. The bright orange coconut soup is usually served separately from the ingredients to avoid softening the rice cakes.
Terengganu & Kelantan: Nasi Dagang
Ask locals in Kelantan & Terengganu what their local main dish is and don’t be surprised if all say “Nasi Dagang!”.
This flavorful Malaysian dish consists of rice that is steamed in coconut milk and usually served accompanied by spicy fish curry. It is traditionally associated with eastern parts of the country, primarily the regions of Kelantan and Terengganu, along with Southern Thailand.
Depending on the area, nasi dagang can be prepared with husked red rice or the combination of jasmine and glutinous white rice. It is enjoyed as a hearty breakfast that comes served doused in flavor-packed fish curry, and it is usually complemented by pickled vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, toasted coconut, sambal, and fish crackers.
Negeri Sembilan: Rendang Hitam
There is a dish that will never absence from the celebrations of Hari Raya, no matter whose house you go, you will never miss this dish.
Yup, it’s Rendang!
In fact, it’s not just for Hari Raya. In Malay society, whenever there is a gathering, the serving of Rendang is a must.
An all-time favorite for the festive table, rendang is often prepared with either beef or chicken infused with aromatic spices and coconut milk for hours. Many culinary experts around the world like to refer to rendang as a curry because of the way it’s slowly stewed on low heat and the array of spices, but it’s richer than a curry and has less sauce, so many Malaysians don’t consider it a curry.
Interestingly, rendang contains natural preservatives due to its recipe which calls for a unique fusion of ground spices and coconut milk, which gives the dish a shelf life up to four weeks.
Malacca’s local famous dish during Hari Raya Aidilfitri is Dodol. While the base ingredients to make this sweet Hari Raya dessert – coconut milk, cane sugar, and rice flour – appear unassuming enough, in truth, this is one of the most challenging recipes on this list. The cooking process involves continuously stirring the sticky mixture in a hot wok for nine hours. Then it is rolled, portioned out, and individually wrapped.
All this effort does pay off beautifully at the end when you bite into an incredibly rich and flavourful dessert that’s as popular with adults as it is with children. Doldol can also be found in durian, soursop, apple, jackfruit, and milk flavours.
Kedah: Lengat Pisang
Lengat Pisang is a rare type of dessert and only a few know it. Its name is given because it is steamed.
It is an iconic traditional food that is a must-have at Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Kedah.
There’s satay … and then there’s satay Kajang. Brought into the country by the West Javanese towards the end of World War I, the skewered meat is found in abundance at this town in Selangor today. Satay Kajang has gained a reputation for being perfectly tender and flavourful.
What separates Kajang’s satay from the West Javanese one is the chunks of grilled fat. Chicken and beef are the most common variant, but there are other more “exotic” offerings too like rabbit, venison, and duck, as well as liver and gizzard.
Perlis: Kurma Daging
Perlis, the smallest state in Peninsular Malaysia, abuts the Thai border. The state capital of Kangar is surrounded by limestone hills. In this region during Hari Raya Aidilfitri, curry dishes cooked with lots of coconut milk – like Gulai Daging and Kurma Daging Perlis are all-time favorites.
This dish is usually served with ketupats(glutinuous rice).
Negeri Sembilan: Masak lemak cili api
Deliciously rich and spicy, this dish is a fine representation of the masak lemak cooking style. The Minang cooking method – which usually includes turmeric with creamy coconut milk – is particularly popular during Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Negeri Sembilan.
The locals here love a good serving of heat, and masak lemak cili api delivers that through the usage of copious amounts of spicy chilli. The creamy gravy is usually served with meat, seafood and vegetables.
Take Hari Raya to a whole new level with family trips to Malaysia. Malaysia is a big nation, thus you will have ample time to explore the best areas during the Hari Raya holidays.
What better way to witness how different cultures celebrate this religious celebration than being there when it happens? This Raya holiday, how about going on a Malaysian food trip with your nose (and stomach!) as your guide? We’ve tracked down some signature dishes from the many states in Malaysia to start you off.