I passed the closing hours of Ramadan last week in Jakarta, where the indefatigable prayers of imams tolled out from loudspeakers mounted on minarets nonstop into the night at such a pitch that they continuously jarred me out of sleep. Back in Kuala Lumpur, the final prayers of the season rung out until 11 or 12 at night; in other more conservative states, such as Terengganu, they could be heard with a gusto on par with Jakarta. But regardless of where the prayers were, they all heralded in the same thing: Hari Raya, a time when family and friends come together to feast on a motley of dishes, the first time they have been able to eat during the daylight hours for a month.
In Malaysia, the steamy Ramadan bazaars begin to close down before Hari Raya, but that doesn’t mean that the food disappears. Last week, I published a 20-item list with CNNGo detailing some of the food that can be found at these bazaars, many of which are regional staples. While writing this piece, I visited the bazaar by my office three time, and tasted everything that went into the list, sometimes more than once. And, to answer the most probable follow-up question, “Yes, everything tasted fresh and fantastic.” I didn’t even get diarrhea.
“Perhaps starving yourself for a month would help put off some weight,” you may think. But that is not so. Just because Malays can start indulging in these dishes during the day doesn’t mean they’ll start loosing weight. In fact, quite conversely, many waistlines tend to expand during the holy month because those who are fasting take in carbohydrate-a-plenty cuisine at late hours while largely remaining inactive during the day.