Lemang Stalls, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail: Bamboo Rice Signifies the Arrival of Aidilfitri

When there’s smoke, there’s Lemang. Residents of TTDI can truly attest to this. Every year, just right before Hari Raya, this otherwise quiet neighbourhood suddenly lights up into a smokey carnival when a string of stalls selling lemang are set up along its main road, Jalan Damansara.  
Lemang is a traditional delicacy enjoyed mostly during the Ramadhan and Eid al-Fitr period. This festive treat originated from East Malaysia and has since made its way into the hearts and tummy of all Malaysian. It is made from glutinous rice, coconut milk, salt and cooked in a hollowed bamboo tube lined with banana leaves (in order to prevent the rice from sticking to the bamboo) and barbecued over a fire pit. The cooking process is a labour of love as it takes at least 4-hours to cook an average 60cm-long lemang and they have to be placed at a certain angle near a fire. The bamboo tubes have to be rotated every 15-minutes in order for the rice inside to be cooked evenly. I’m glad we can just buy them off the stalls. 
Once the lemang is ready, the bamboo tube will be split open with a cleaver unveiling a long cylindrical piece of cooked glutinous rice, which is still wrapped in banana leaf. I’ve been told by the proprietors that you can choose how you’d like your lemang to be, just like a piece of steak: rare, medium or well-done. Depending on how long it is left to burn over the fire, the result will vary between soft or harder edges. I like mine done medium. A slightly chewy edge with a soft center. They sell between RM8 – RM12 per tube, depending on size.
Lemang is usually sliced into smaller, inch-thick pieces and served together with Rendang (slow-cooked beef or chicken with spices, lemongrass and coconut milk. Yea baby, it’s all about the coconut milk! These are easily bought from these stalls as well.  You can also eat it with Serunding (spiced meat floss) or Grilled Fish like how they do it over in the East Coastal states of Peninsular Malaysia.
I was surprise to find these stalls still making them at 11:00pm on the eve of Hari Raya. People, from all walks of life, were still pulling onto the side of the road to get their hands on some freshly made lemang. When asked, the stall owner told me that her family will pack up at around 1:00am and balik kampung to Kuala Kangsar (appx 2.5-hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, provided if its a smooth ride) so they can celebrate with her family in the morning. I wished her “Eid Mubarak” and took my lemang wrapped in newspaper home to the delight of my parents.


This year’s Petronas Raya commercial, A Tale of Two Kampungs, and all their previous festive short films can now be viewed on the official Petronas Greetings website.

9 Responses to Lemang Stalls, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail: Bamboo Rice Signifies the Arrival of Aidilfitri
  1. Sean
    September 11, 2010 | 4:54 am

    Argh, I haven't had any lemang at all this year! And I didn't even know about the different preparation methods. Yeah, just like a steak, medium-rare sounds perfect. Somehow though, lemang always reminds me of bak chang … Well, without the bak, at least :D

  2. Paranoid Android
    September 11, 2010 | 7:02 am

    Capturing the essence of this traditional celebration through beautiful photos, as usual.

  3. thenomadGourmand
    September 11, 2010 | 5:26 pm

    Lemang..only prob is the oil and the indigestion after! LOL.

  4. qwazymonkey
    September 12, 2010 | 5:22 pm

    Sean: The bak is the lemang? Hmmm I wonder how chang would taste like if made in a bamboo?

    PA: Thanks for your kind words.

    TNG: Aiya, the key in enjoying it is eat in moderation. :)

  5. J2Kfm
    September 13, 2010 | 12:33 am

    Haha, funny thing was that I have always wondered how can one chop open the bamboo at home; without a proper parang or such.
    I love lemang, and keeping my hopes up for the delicacy to be included in the coming Raya feasts.

  6. CUMI & CIKI
    October 3, 2010 | 9:30 am

    seriously beautiful. the man breaking open the bamboo.. that's just a psycho sic shot. i love it!

  7. Lan Sulaimann
    October 14, 2010 | 9:22 am

    The lemang stalls for Hari Raya were normally set up for one month after Hari Raya. This is to accommodate the open houses events organized by Muslims during the whole month of Syawal (Islamic calendar).

    Once again, a great story from @alilfatmonkey!

  8. CUMI & CIKI
    August 26, 2011 | 10:43 am

    Where's the FIRE?!

    So cute.. urs got tons of lemang. Mine got tons of fire. No wonder we r bother sister:P

    (word verification striperW! Does this mean, we gonna strip at W?! hahaha)

  9. Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah
    August 30, 2011 | 3:10 am

    Aiks. I haven't had any lemang so far this year! Nevermind, I've got the Raya open houses to count on for this one, hehe. :)