A Festive Evening With Great Food and Company
One of the most celebrated public holidays in this country is the Muslim celebration of Hari Raya Puasa. Also known as Aidilfitri or Lebaran, Hari Raya is a holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a month of spiritual reflection.
Hari Raya Puasa is the day of celebration after a successful 30 days of fasting with the preparations for Aidilfitri starting on the last day of Ramadan. Here in Singapore, the three day festive celebration takes place predominantly in the Malay enclaves of Geylang Serai and Kampong Glam, where the streets come alive with colorful decorations, performances and bazaars selling everything from carpets to local Malay specialties.
Muslim homes throughout the city prepare an abundance of traditional delicacies and open their doors to friends and family to celebrate and ask one another for forgiveness. We were fortunate to be invited by dear friends to celebrate a home-cooked Hari Raya Aidilfitri feast prepared by their talented Indonesian helper, Yati.
The dining table was beautifully decorated with a festive and colorful spread of traditional Indonesian Aidilfitri favorites. Each place setting was adorned with ketupat, a traditional steamed glutinous rice cakes elegantly wrapped in coconut leaves.
The centerpiece was a tall elegant cone of nasi kuning, a turmeric and pandan infused coconut rice, surrounded by classic ayam goreng, spiced fried chicken and kering tempe, caramelized tempeh with palm sugar and tamarind with platters of assorted krupuk, airy prawn and spiced rice crackers. One of my absolute favorites served, was a Sumatran rendang with oxtail, a slow cooked curry seasoned with aromatic spices and coconut milk. The dinner was perfect and orchestrated beautifully.
We closed the evening lounging in the living room savoring soursop and pulut hitam (black sticky rice) ice cream and feeling pleasantly stuffed. We felt slightly guilty that we were rewarded with such a fantastic meal without spending a month fasting. Quickly we reminded ourselves that we were just fortunate to be invited to participate in a Muslim tradition and felt honored to share in a Hari Raya Puasa celebration with our friends.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Dry curry beef with coconut milk
2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 2 inch cubes
4 shallots, chopped
5 cloves whole garlic
¼ cup chopped galangal
2 tablespoons grated fresh turmeric (can substitute 1 tablespoon ground turmeric)
2 red Fresno chiles, stem and seeds removed
3 kaffir lime leaves, stems removed and tear leaves
6 candlenuts (can substitute macadamia unsalted roasted macadamia nuts)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded thin
To make the aromatic paste, use a blender or a mini-food processor to grind the shallots, garlic, galangal, turmeric, chile and candlenuts to form a thick paste. If using a food processor, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water to facilitate the grinding. Reserve the torn kaffir lime leaves for frying.
Heat a dutch oven or a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and saute the aromatic paste and kaffir lime leaves until fragrant and turns a shade darker, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, water, tamarind paste, sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the cubes of beef and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce turns thick and dark brown and the meat is fork tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally so the beef does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Transfer the rendang to a warmed bowl, garnish with finely shredded kaffir lime leaves and serve warm.