Ramadan (?????) is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, thus making it one of the holiest in the Islamic calendar. Although the month calls for prayers, charity, selfless contributions, and self-accountability, but it is the practice of fasting (puasa) from sunrise till sunset for an entire month that is most recognized and synonymous with Ramadhan. This act of abstinence and mind-soul detox is in accordance to the five pillars of Islam. The month long ritual will climax in the celebration of Eid al-Fitr (????????), or more commonly known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malaysia. Eid is an Arabic word meaning “festival”, while Fi?r means “to break fast”; and so the holiday symbolizes the breaking of the fasting period.
With fasting being the central highlight of the month, you will be misled to think that food is the farthest thing on everyone’s mind. Fasting may be a Muslim thing, but eating is everybody’s game. We are after all Malaysians. To be honest, most Malaysians will tell you that the REAL highlight of the whole month would be wondering what to have for buka puasa (the breaking of fast)?
And here in our beloved country, there are many options to buka puasa with our Muslim friends.
1. Shop at the Pasar Ramadhan (Ramadhan Street Bazaar).
Malay food lovers across the country, you would agree with me that the best time of the year to enjoy a wonderful kampung-inspired meal is during this particular period. Home cooks from every district will set up make-shift stalls and share their long-kept family recipe with the world. The thing I like most about these bazaars are the friendly faces behind each stall. Consider these bazaars a huge open house where everyone is welcomed to feast on the usual suspects like Nasi Campur (mixed rice) with its variety of Malay side dishes, Nasi Kerabu (mixed herb rice salad), Lemang (Bamboo Glutinous Rice), Rendang (spiced coconut meat), Serunding (spiced meat floss), Acar (fruit preserves), Ayam Percik (spiced grilled chicken), Ikan Bakar (grilled fish), murtabak (Indian roti with meat filling), apam and a colourful displays of sweet desserts and drinks. In recent years, we’ve seen the scene change and have now incorporated other cuisines or more contemporary recipes on display.
My few of my personal favourite Pasar Ramadhan within the Klang Valley are the ones located at Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, Section 14, and Kelana Jaya. I’ve heard that this year, the one to head for is in Sungai Penchala, which Masak-Masak has beautifully covered in her annual Ramadhan Bazaar coverage. I’ve also been lucky enough to visit the vicinity of the Masjid India (Indian Mosque) within the city centre a few years ago. The area has gotten its name from this very mosque which serves the Indian-Muslim community. It was really humbling to walk pass a long queue of less fortunate souls waiting with containers in tow for some traditional bubur lambuk (congee), which the mosque distributes out daily during Ramadhan. The mosque coordinator gave me a tour of the mosque’s inner dining hall that welcomes up to 500 people daily to break fast together. The remainder of the bubur, made from fragrant rice, meat and vegetables, are then distributed evenly to around 2,000 others. This community outreach program has one individual to sponsor all the bubur for each day of the Ramadhan month.
You may log on to PARAM KL to further guide you through all the bazaar available in the Klang Valley.
2. Head To Your Favourite Restaurants.
There is no better way to break fast than to be surrounded by all your favourite dishes from your favourite restaurants. In KL, it’s highly unlikely for a restaurant, regardless of cuisines, to not get involved in the whole Ramadhan hoopla. Recently, I’ve been invited to savour the wide spread Rama V‘s Buka Puasa spread with the regular gang of food blogger.
Rama V have been a favourite of ours when it comes to fine Thai cuisine. You can read about how I went GaGa over my meal the last time (click HERE). I was glad to find my favourite Chor Ladda (Blue flower shaped dumplings stuffed with minced chicken and peanut), Tod Mun Pla Krai (Fish Cake), Hor Mok Kung (Otak-otak prawns), Tom Kar Kai (Spicy chicken soup with coconut milk), and Pad Thai Kai (Thai fried noodles with shrimps) included in the menu along with 33 other dishes and desserts to complete this grand royal feast. According to the restaurant’s proprietor, Andre Shum, one should dig into their fresh pacific oysters. Top one of your plump oysters with a specially made green chili pesto, sliced garlic, and cili padi (bird’s eye chili) for a flavourful and addictive Thai twist.
The buffet is a steal at RM75++ (adults) and RM36++ for children, and is perfect for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to savour Rama V’s offering prior to this.
3. Indulge in a Feast at Hotel Buffets.
Unlike independent restaurants, a hotel has the advantage to churn out an insanely gigantic spread. It seems there’s an unspoken competition to see who can offer the most amount of dishes in their Ramadhan buffet spread. Take the Westin KL‘s ‘Ramadhan Santapan‘ for instance, it is rumoured to put together over 700 (or was it just 170, my memory’s failing me) delectable dishes of local and international dishes which have carved a place in every Malaysian’s hearts as perennial favourites, including an exclusive selection of signature dishes from their very own line of restaurants such as Prego (Italian), Qba (South American) and EEST (Chinese). Dessert loving guests are in for a treat. At the dessert island, the divine trio of ‘Ais Kepal, Ais Batu Campur and Cendol Pilut Power‘ awaits. Diners are also spoilt with an assortement of Malaysian fruits such as the famous D24 Durian and mangosteen. It’s funny to note that while both these fruits are not allowed into the hotel, it’s OK for the chefs to serve them in The Living Room restaurant. It’s safe to assume that the concept of eating moderately during Ramadhan is not practice when one dines here.
If you thought they’ve pulled out all the stops, wait until you read about the Zam Zam water they provide to cleanse diner’s palate before they start to feast. The Zam Zam mineral water was discovered in the desert of Mecca, the holy land of Islam, almost 2,500 years ago. The well is away from any other source of water and it is self replenishing. Water from this ‘miracle’ well has been scientifically proved to contain healing qualities due to its high content of calcium and magnesium salts as well as natural fluorides. During the Hajj and Umra, pilgrims are recommended to drink Zam Zam water to quench their thirst. They also continue the tradition of bringing it back for family and friends.
The Westin KL‘s Ramadhan feast can be experienced at The Living Room from 7pm-10:30pm daily unttil 5th September and is priced at RM108++ per person (Mon-Thurs) and RM128++ per person (Fri-Sun). Starwood Privilege card members are entitled to a 25% discount.
4. Enjoy Dainty Cakes and Such.
It’s widely known that the Malays have sweeter palates, which results in the many sweet offerings during the Ramadhan period. And if you have a sweet tooth as well, do get your hands on Just Heavenly’s Indonesian Spiced Marble Cake and Sugee Fruit Cake. These are two of three specially packaged Hari Raya offering from the famous baker boys for the year. The other cake being their popular Chocolate Fudge Cake. We managed to dig into the earlier mentioned two and found them moist and full of flavours – but we’re not the least surprised by that. My favourite has got to be the Spiced Marble Cake which was inspired by the Indonesian layer cake with rich swirls of cinnamon, nutmegs and a whole bag of other mixed spiced in a light butter cake that had me popping them like there’s no tomorrow. Who needs layers when you can have swirls eh?
The Sugee Fruit Cake is by itself a special creation and is made using Nigel Skelchy’s family recipe. The recipe includes semolina mixed with sugared wintermelon, citrus peel, nuts and golden raisins. All cakes comes in three sizes and are packaged nicely in a pretty box. Prices and sizes are available for download here.