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Nur ar-Ramadan

Indonesians, Malaysians Different Tastes For Iftaar

By Kazi Mahmood, IOL Correspondent


Malaysians and Indonesians are neighbors yet they have such different tastes when it comes to Iftaar, though their cultures are not that different at all.

In Kuala Lumpur, restaurants are always crowded during Iftaar time, with customers booking their seats in advance and ordering in preparation for breaking their dawn-to-dusk fast.

It is a daily pleasure to see the crowds at the restaurants and food outlets in Jalan Masjid India or in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahmaan, where even the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet would be fully booked at least an hour before the Muezzin’s voice resounding high in the sky calling for Maghrib prayers.

The roads are jammed with cars and buses rushing back their occupants to their homes in distant locations.

On weekends like this Saturday, November 15, shopping malls are overcrowded with smiling customers listening to "Selamat Hari Raya" - Happy Eid el Fitr songs - though the Eid is a good nine days from now.

"Iftaar is about good food here in Kuala Lumpur and you cannot blame the Muslims since the food in this city, in this country as a whole, is excellent," Ali, a restaurant owner, told

Many restaurants are open round-the-clock, serving Sohour meals in the wee hours of the morning where nearby residents would come and have a meal before making their way to mosques to perform Fajr prayers.

"The people’s favorite is always rice and chicken coupled with sea food. It’s the way the food is cooked that is important and this attracts a variety of people for Iftar," Ali added.

He, however, told IOL that many people would also go to three- and five-star hotels to have their Iftaar since they also offer good deals, which is affordable for higher class families.

"One meal would cost $10 or more per person at hotels, we cannot get these customers yet the work force in Kuala Lumpur is vast enough for us to make enough money during Ramadan," said Ali, grinning when talking about his margin of profit.House Comfort

On the other extreme, most of Indonesians prefer to have their Iftaar meals in the comfort of their houses.

"Most of us cannot afford to eat in restaurants or five-star hotels, yet once a while we please the family and we bring the children out to food outlets for Iftaar," Ramli, a bank employee, told IOL.

He said that Iftaar meals are somehow different than those in the Middle East, where people favor to eat dates first and sip some drinks and then head for prayers.

"Here most people would eat bubur manis (a sweet soup made of corn or of wheat and even from boiled brown lentils or boiled green beans)," he added.

After coming back from the Maghrib prayers, the faithful eat the heavy stuff composed of noodles, rice, meat, fish etc.

Foreigners living in Malaysia too have their own preferences when it comes to Iftaar. Nigerians and Ghanaians in Ampang told IOL how they enjoy their Iftaar meals.

"We would put money together, buy some suji (a fine white powder made of wheat) and mix it with meat or chicken and boil it into a stew. That would make a huge meal for all of us," said Hafeez, who is not working but living in Malaysia.

"We cannot eat Malaysian food, it is too much for us, too oily at times and too much of chicken," added a laughing Hafeez.

"We also make some special sweet dish with corn, suji and some other stuff that we add together and eat straight away for Iftaar. We also love to have dates," he said.

However, Malaysians of Pakistani or Indian origins must have dates for break fast.

As one Indonesian of Malay origin puts it, dates is a very important part of IftaAr though for Malays in both Indonesia and Malaysia the basic food for Iftaar remains rice or a sweet bowl of bean soup.

"The most important thing is that we all accept our differences," said Rauf, an Indonesian working in Malaysia.