What Is Hari Raya Without Ketupat And Lemang
The celebration for Aidilfitri - throughout this month of Syawal as Malaysians keep to their tradition of holding the Hari Raya open house.
At these functions, held either in residences, offices or hotels, the spread of food would undoubtedly have the 'compulsory delicacies' of ketupat and lemang.
For the Malays, the menu for their Hari Raya food offering would be devoid of the sparkle minus the presence of these two delicaies.
The senario is rather straightforward, as without ketupat and lemang, the plates of chicken and beef rendang as well as the serunding (dried spicy meat floss) on the dining tables would remain almost untouched with the absence of these two Hari Raya delicacies.
That is how synonimous ketupat and lemang with the Aidilfitri celebration..
Lemang is a traditional Malay food made from glutinous rice and cooked in bamboo stick. The glutinous rice is mixed with coconut milk before compacted into a hollow bamboo stem.
A person needs to be skilled when doing this as to ensure that the right amount of rice is placed inside without it spilling over as the mix of of rice and coconut milk cooks and expands.
One also needs the necessary skill to roast the premix lemang over the fire for hours, to ensure that it cooks evenly. When cooked, the bamboo is split open and the cooked Lemang is taken out to cool. Once cooled, the lemang is sliced up and eaten with either the rendang or serunding.
Ketupat is a type of dumpling made from rice without any filling and very popular among the Malay community.
here are two types of ketupat -- 'ketupat daun palas' and 'ketupat nasi'.
A rather unique skill is also needed to weave the casings of these rice dumplings.
MONEY FROM MAKING LEMANG AND KETUPAT
Hence, those who have the skills to make lemang and ketupat are taking the opportunity to make these delicacies in the Syawal cheer due to demand from the public particularly organisers of the open house functions.
For lemang seller Salim Bakar, Syawal is the month of windfall for him.
"I started selling lemang one week before Hari Raya. The demand was good. Throughout Syawal I expected to sell about 100 sticks a day as many people have placed orders for their open house functions".
Salim sells his lemang at a wooden shack at the 5th mile of the Rawang-Batang Berjuntai road near here.
He sells a stick of lemang at RM8 each. That comes to a 'cool' RM800 a day.
Stalls and sheds selling lemang have sprouted in many parts of the Klang valley and the average price for a stick of lemang is RM8.
For former corporate man Datuk A. Ahmed, his Hari Raya celebration would not be complete without the lemang.
"It is a must for the Malays during Hari Raya as kuih bakul is to the Chinese during Chinese New Year," he said.
He said lemang is a traditional Malay food that originated from the Minangkabau community.
"Lemang or lamang is associated with the identity of Negeri Sembilan," he said.
PRICEY BUT NOT NECESSARY TASTY
For Rohaya Harun, a clerk in the private sector, she exercise some caution when buying lemang from the roadside stalls on the fear of bringing home lemang that was undercooked, either too soft or too hard, and cooked unevenly.
Usually she would pick the lemang of her choice from the same stalls over the years.
"Some of those in the lemang trade are not the experts on this delicacy as they cook it for only once or twice a year hence the lemang is cooked not the right way.
"What a waste would it be then, when the lemang bought is expensive but does not taste good for the palate," she said.
As for ketupat, those not skilled in making the ketupat casings would choose to simply boil the instant 'nasi impit' (compacted rice) or 'pulut' (glutinous rice).
However for the rather 'sentimental person' who thinks that ketupat is irreplaceble, he would opt to buy the ready-made ketupat casings from the market or even hypermarkets despite the high price of the item.
"The originality is always the preferred choice,' according to them.
WHY NOT LEARN MAKING KETUPAT, LEMANG?
For those not skilled in weaving the ketupat casings, they should try learning the skill during their spare time as instant nasi impit can never replace the ketupat.
The same with lemang. Some spare ground in your neighbourhood can be used to roast the lemang sticks. After all, the practice of preparing the lemang mix and roasting it over a fire is sure to enhance ties among family members and neighbours during the Aidilfitri celebration.