The month of Ramadan is one of fasting, but also festivity – it’s the build up to Hari Raya Adilfitri! Also known as Hari Raya Puasa in Singapore, the festival of Eid or Eid al-Fitr in Arabic falls on 17 July this year. It is one of the biggest celebrations for the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore, bringing together family and even non-Muslim friends. Check out how you can join in the festivities here!
During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, adult Muslims in good health will fast from sunrise to sunset. This is to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. While fasting, Muslims will not eat or drink anything, not even water. This means that many Muslim food stalls will be closed in the morning, only opening in the afternoon in preparation for the breaking of the fast. But once the sun sets, you can see crowds of friends and families gathering at restaurants, hawker centres and food courts to share a boisterous, convivial evening meal.
You can get a taste of the Raya celebrations and the gotong royang (community) spirit too. Here’s how:
Visit the Ramadan Bazaars
In preparation for Hari Raya Adilfitri, homes are spring cleaned, new housewares and clothes are bought, and – of course – delicious food is eaten after the fast is broken. There are a couple of sprawling bazaars that cater to these activities, and the largest in Singapore is the one at Geylang Serai. Historically one of the Malay settlements in Singapore, Geylang Serai still has a sizeable Malay presence so it’s no surprise that the Raya celebrations here are huge! Stalls upon stalls at the bazaar sell everything from carpets, cushions and Islamic artwork to bags, shoes and Malay clothes.
Of course what’s a bazaar without food? It goes without saying that halal pasar malam staples such as steamed sweet corn, kebabs and vadai are available, but there is much more to try at the Ramadan bazaar! Dum biryani (fragrant basmati rice cooked for hours with a mélange of spices and mutton or chicken), mee goreng (fried noodles) and Ramly burgers (beef, chicken or fish patty with an egg and several sauces such as black pepper, chilli and mayonnaise) are must-tries. For those with a sweeter tooth, don’t miss out on putu bambu! Rice flour is steamed in a hollow bamboo mould, with a stick of gula melaka (unrefined palm sugar) in the middle. Served piping hot with grated coconut, be sure to eat these on the spot as the oozing gula melaka is the best part!
If you find yourself in need of a cold drink, there are plenty of drinks stalls to help keep you hydrated. A range of cordials are available, ranging from orange and blueberry to uniquely regional flavours such as bandung (rose syrup with condensed milk), water chestnut and sweet corn. Smoothies have made an appearance at these bazaars too, and if you find a stall selling coconut shakes, be sure to try it. Coconut water is blended with ice, coconut ice cream and coconut flesh to create the ultimate concoction for cooling off in the Singapore heat.
To get to the Geylang Serai bazaar, simply get off at Paya Lebar MRT Station (CC9/EW8). A new kid on the block has also opened up at Tampines Central 5, so if you’d rather check out the Tampines Ramadan bazaar instead, just get off at Tampines MRT Station (EW2).
Try Different Halal Dishes
Apart from bazaar foods, you can also sample staple halal dishes. In Singapore, it’s easy to get both Malay and Indian halal dishes as any hawker centre or food court will have at least one halal stall. Below are a couple of our picks for foods to try, but there’s plenty more where these came from so prepare a drink if you aren’t used to spicy foods!
This can’t be beat if you want to try a variety of dishes. At the nasi padang stall, you get to pick and choose whatever sides you want to accompany your steamed white rice. Rendang, a spicy dry stew made by simmering beef in spices and coconut milk, is a must-try. Those who love their carbs can pick a begedil, a potato patty. As for vegetables, there are stir-fried vegetables with sambal (chilli paste usually with shrimp paste and fish sauce) or, if you want some gravy, sayur lodeh consists of veggies cooked in a deliciously light coconut curry.
For a lighter meal, try a bowl of mee soto. Yellow noodles with beansprouts, shredded chicken and spring onions are served in a bowl of traditional chicken broth called soto. If you don’t want the noodles and just want to try the soup, you can ask for a bowl of soto ayam. Prefer rice to noodles? Soto ayam can be served with lontong or ketupat, which are basically rice compressed into cakes before being cut into bite sized pieces.
A Singapore invention, local legend has it that the roti john was created for a Caucasian customer when he asked a Malay hawker for a burger in the 1960s. The enterprising hawker used a loaf similar to a French baguette and slathered it with minced mutton, eggs, onions and chilli. Popularised later by an Indian hawker, roti john can be bought from both Malay food stalls and Indian Muslim food stalls.