Hari Raya Haji

Today is a public holiday in Singapore.   It’s Hari Raya Haji 2013.  


School was cancelled and Trent didn’t go into work.  I had no idea what this was, and when I googled it, I found that it’s a pretty big deal.  Especially in this part of the world.  Singapore has a nice mix of cultures and nationalities, and unlike a lot of other countries, they are very tolerant and supportive of each other.  The children here are taught, from a very young age, to be accepting and understanding of each others differences.  We have Chinese, Indian, Malay, Indonesians, Filipinos, Aussies, I could go on and on and on.  Already, from our short time of living here, I can see my kids attitudes and ideas, and knowledge of other cultures and traditions increasing.   Same with myself.  I had never heard of Hari Raya before.

This is what I found in a local publication:    “Hari Raya Haji is also known as the Festival of Sacrifice. Hari Raya Haji is celebrated by Muslims around the world and is the commemoration of Ibrahim’s willingness to be obedient to Allah and to sacrifice his own son, Ishmael. At the last minute, Allah provided a ram for the sacrifice as a substitute for Ishmael.

The festival is 70 days after the holy month of Ramadan, on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja and lasts for up to four days. The festival marks the end of the annual holy pilgrimage to Mecca and demonstrates each practicing Muslim’s submission to Allah.In the mosques, prayers are said and sermons read out, then there are sacrifices of cows, goats and sheep by those who are financially able to do so.  The meat from the animals is packaged and delivered to the poorer Muslim families, the practice of which helps the devotees remember those who are less fortunate.

Later in the day, Muslims visit parents and families for a happy celebration and big meal. Bazaars and festivities are held around Singapore in places like Kampong Glam and Geylang Serai. The markets are highly decorated and there is a happy and celebratory atmosphere everywhere.

Hari Raya Haji is also known as the Greater Eid, Kurban Bayram, Eid al-Bakr and Bakrid. The ritual observance of the festival continues until sunset of the 12th day of Dhul Hijja and the sacrifices may take place until sunset on the 13th day of Dhul Hijja.”

 My housekeeper, who is Filipino, celebrated at a party with some of her friends,  and she brought home a treat for us.  She said it was  KUIH SALAT  …  “very nice” and “should try”.   So I did!!  

I unwrapped the banana leaf it was so carefully packaged in, and I found what seemed like a jello-like white substance with a swirl of lime green in it.  I sliced it into five pieces, so that we each could try a bite.   It tasted like coconuts!   I really like coconuts, but I had troubles getting past the texture, so I confess, I didn’t really enjoy my share of this.  Neither did the kids.  Nor Trent, for that matter.   However,  you may, and just in case, I found a recipe for you!!  



Makes one 20cm custard rice cake

1 1/2 cups (300g) long-grain glutinous rice (sticky rice)
300ml coconut milk (thin coconut milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1 banana leaf, softened, or baking paper
5 pandan leaves, tore along the length then knotted (optional)

Firm Custard:
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g rice flour
400ml coconut cream (thick coconut milk)
160g sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pandan paste
1. Rinse the glutinous rice, then soak in water for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
2. Line a 20cm square or round tin with softened banana leaf or use a piece of baking paper, cut to fit the base of the tin.
3. Drain rice and spoon into the prepared lined tin. Dissolve salt in coconut milk and add to the rice. Put the knotted pandan leaves on top, if using.
4. Steam the rice in a wok or steamer for 25-30 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Remove from steamer, discard pandan leaves and use a piece of banana leaf or a spoon to press the rice to lightly compress.

Firm Custard:
1. Beat eggs lightly with a fork. Add rice flour, beat in lightly to combine. Set aside.
2. When the rice is nearly done, combine coconut cream, sugar, salt and pandan paste in a saucepan. Cook over low heat for a couple of minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. Pour coconut mixture over the egg mixture, whisking as you add the coconut mixture. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over moderate heat for a few more minutes, whisking continuously, until you can feel the mixture starts to thicken at the bottom. Remove from heat.
3. Pour the hot custard mixture on top of the hot cooked rice base. Make sure the surface of the rice is moisture free before pouring in the custard so that the custard will adhere properly to the rice.
4. Steam over low gentle heat for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until the custard is set.
5. Let cool completely before cutting into diamond shapes to serve.

Taste: Sweet pandan custard on top of a slightly salty sticky rice base
Consume: Best within 1 to 2 days
Storage: Store, covered, at room temperature if serving the same day, or chill in the refrigerator and re-steam before serving
Recipe Reference(s): “Kueh Salat” recipe from Delicious Nyonya Kueh & Desserts by Patricia Lee



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