PETALING JAYA: After fasting from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims often share an evening meal with family and friends.
Some do so with a simple spread, while others choose to partake in the many different options available at this time of the year.
With their mission to find a buka puasa for every budget, The Star Online reporters headed to Ramadan bazaars, restaurants and hotels last week to check out the many selections available.
Traditional taste with Tashny
Ramadan is about far more than the food. Heck, it's not about the food at all. It's about experiencing poverty, learning humility, learning grace.
But being Malaysian, well - that's quite a lot about food. So it's no wonder that in Malaysia, there are dozens of succulent, satisfying options to break your fast with.
I had my #BestBuka at the Paya Serai Restaurant in the PJ Hilton. It's a mixed spread of cuisine from all over the country, as well as some western food. Hokkien mee, tapai ubi, chicken curry, roast lamb...
I tucked into sweet fluffy putu piring and also sampled the deliciously spiced chicken biyrani.
Other outstanding dishes - the tangy sweet tapai pulut and rich, luscious slipper lobster masak lemak.
The salad bar was particularly impressive - from boiled baby potatoes and smoked duck to all sorts of greens to a wide variety of jeruk and ulam - as well as rare condiments like sambal tempoyak, sambal mangga, and some incomparable cincalok.
There was a tempura section -perfectly crispy prawns, bursting with flavour. Another nice touch was the 'street food' section - kebabs, roti jala, roti canai, murtabak, and lok-lok: food you can find at most pasar ramadan, just as tasty but buffet-stye.
I loved the unpretentious local touches - a wide array of fruit, a make-your-own-ABC stall, and fresh durian! Because some philistines don't like the smell of durian, the Hilton splits and plates the fruit for you outside the hotel lobby. As much as you can eat of this fleshy sweetness.
No meal is complete without dessert, and Paya Serai's is excellent. A milky, delicious chocolate fountain, a host of jellies and cakes, delicate fruit tarts and cream puffs, bubur pulut hitam, bubur kacang merah - a spread to satiate even the sweetest of tooths.
You eat all this and more with the accompaniment of a jovial four-man band which plays classic Hari Raya songs.
Considering the spread you're getting, Paya Serai is well worth it at RM129++ a head.
Avineshwaran’s Arabic adventure
I thought it would be a breeze to get to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Not knowing that there would be an early rush-hour due to Ramadan, it took me more than 30 minutes to reach my destination.
Was the long drive worth it? I don’t think so. Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman may have more than 400 stalls but most sell textiles, decorative items, bags and shoes.
There were only a few food stalls at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. I was searching for something different there, but I could only find a stall that sells huge samosas.
According to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officials there, many stalls are empty for now and the alleys would be filled with more stalls in the next few days.
Other than that, there were the usuals like nasi campur, ayam madu, ayam percik and keropok lekor.
According to Shamsul Ghat, 30, people will come in droves to get the bubur lambuk from Masjid India during Ramadan.
Not content with my Ramadan bazaar journey, I decided to go to Bukit Bintang to check out the stalls there.
There were less stalls there but the variety of food was amazing. Delicacies like burger bakar, ayam kapit meletop and grilled Sabah honey chicken wings were some of the famous ones here.
A stall that caught my attention was the one selling nasi campur. People crowded around it and the fried chicken there was a hit among customers!
Drinks like sugar cane juice, cendol and coconut juice were also available at some of the stalls in Bukit Bintang. If you seek quality over quantity, this is the place for you.
Once I was done surveying the stalls there, I went to Naab Restaurant, a Persian diner at Bukit Bintang.
Famous for their fragrant rice and meat dishes, the restaurant had an early bird promotion for their buka puasa buffet spread.
For RM49, I decided to break fast at that restaurant and I was accompanied by my good friend, E. Subash, who is a fan of Persian and Arabian food.
Naab had a variety of dishes, with a salad selection like hummus, tabouleh, Persian fatush and shirazi salad.
The meat dishes were the best. They had dishes like gheymeh stew, lamb koobideh, chicken koobideh, ghormeh sabzi and okra stew.
The desserts were baklava, orange cream caramel and not forgetting, the all important dates.
I particularly enjoyed the meat dishes as the koobidehs were cooked well and the stew added flavour to the fragrant rice!
How can I forget! They had four varieties of rice. All of them were fragrant, particularly the Barberry variety which is full of spices.
I had never tried hummus before, and my first taste of it was pretty overwhelming as it was too strong for me. However, customers say the hummus in Naab is the best in town.
For those who want to try Persian and Arab cuisine, Naab is the best place for you. However, the early bird promotion has ended and the buffet dinner will cost RM65 per head.
I reckon you can save some money and try the food here for buka puasa. It’s worth it!
Kampung cheer with Michelle
TWO ringgit is all it takes to buy a packet of fried mee at Oyen, the 39th stall at Kampung Baru’s Ramadan Bazaar.
But the truly needy can have the same helping for as low as fifty sen.
“Amal jariah. Entrepreneurship while doing charity. I look at customers and charge accordingly. Sometimes, I give away food for free,” said stall owner Noran.
There’s plenty of heart at this must-visit market, which stretches out along Jalan Raja Alang in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
With only over 150 stalls, it is a more curated experience compared to the bigger bazaars.
Firm favourites like Raya kuih and traditional dishes are available, but you can also expect unusual offerings like maman jeruk or African cabbage pickle, a Negeri Sembilan specialty.
While you can buy bubur lambuk at quite a few stalls, many opt to wait in line at the nearby Masjid Jamek to get the Ramadan favourite after Asar prayers.
The cheerful traders are all too happy to share their idea of the best buka puasa, with answers ranging from their own wares to something as simple as jellies or cucumber juice.
Those who prefer to prepare their own meals can also take their pick from the fresh produce section, located near the Safuan Plaza end of the bazaar.
And no false advertising to fear, folks: Sofi of Ikan Bakar Abang Misai serves up grilled fish at stall 97 while sporting a most impressive moustache.
Many stalls tout specialties based on recipes passed through the generations in their family, but my #BestBuka review would take me to another nenek’s (grandmother) kitchen.
This year, JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur’s Ramadan buffet served up a selection inspired by the heritage of traditional home-cooked cuisine.
With 138 dishes available, there is something for everyone, though a love for spice and heat is recommended to get the best of this buffet.
The Malay fare here is truly their forte: the rendang was authentic and reminiscent of meals shared during Raya open houses, and the ayam percik was especially tender and tasty.
The kampung stall set-up also lends the buffet area a rustic, homey atmosphere.
I had hearty helpings of their succulent beef and chicken satay, and enjoyed some choice cuts from the ubiquitous roast lamb.
Unfortunately, my dining companion found their Thai-inspired fare lacking when compared to her favourite establishments.
That aside, she had nothing but praise for most of the desserts, which include an excellent bread and butter pudding, various pengat, and bubur cha cha.
Prices remain fairly affordable for dinner at a five-star hotel: for adults, poolside seats are priced at RM87 while the fourth floor is RM75.40, and children from 7-12 years old are charged RM43.50 and RM37.70 respectively.
For full Storify journey, check out http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2013/07/10/Buka-Puasa-storify.aspx