Eating healthy during Raya

Go easy on your digestive system, and don’t overdo the feasting during this festive season.

IT is now four days into the month of Syawal, and with the school holidays stretching on for another week ahead, there is still plenty of time for Malaysians to continue celebrating Hari Raya Puasa.

Of course, being the hospitable and food-loving nation that we are, food is going to be a major part of that celebration, especially at open houses.

If you think about it, those who observe the Islamic obligation of fasting during the month of Ramadan, followed by the celebratory traditions of Hari Raya Puasa, actually require their bodies – in particular, their digestive system – to make quite a transition during those few weeks.

Firstly, your entire eating schedule is completely inverted from day to night. Then, after a month, you not only switch back to eating during the day overnight, but are also faced with dozens of mouthwatering delicacies to feast upon – some of which you may only eat once a year during this festival.

Even during the fasting period itself, Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) honorary secretary Prof Dr Norimah A. Karim notes that people tend to overeat after the breaking of fast, even though they should just be eating as they usually do, only at night.

“Actually, we should be eating normally, but many people think that because they have fasted for the whole day, they need to eat a lot.

“And this is especially so when they go for buffets; because we pay so much, we feel that we need to eat a lot,” she says.

And although for Hari Raya, there will, of course, be a generous spread of food, Prof Norimah advises people to just eat enough to feel full, and not go overboard.

“When it comes to eating, it is the same whether puasa (fasting) or normal, sick or well; we always use the same three principles: balance in diet, eating in moderation and consuming a variety of foods.”

As for the home cooks preparing the meals, she says: “For Raya, you cannot not have rendang or (sayur) lodeh or ketupat or lemang, because that is our tradition.

“But we can change the recipe a bit, put in less santan (coconut milk), sugar and salt, and use healthier cooking methods like roasting or braising.”

She adds that cooks should try to provide variety in their menu, including healthy options like cut fresh fruit, vegetable options like ulam or other types of salad, soup-based noodles like soto, porridge, and plain water.

Other ways to help decrease overindulging on food is by providing or using smaller plates, and dividing the food into smaller portions, as this creates the illusion that the portions taken are sufficiently large enough to fulfil our appetite.

As for those who suffer from those common non-communicable medical conditions that are directly affected by food intake, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, Prof Norimah notes that even though they may be on medication, it does not mean that they can eat whatever they please.

“You have to remember that you are not well. Maybe you can make an exception for one day, but after that, you need to go back to following the dietitian or nutritionist’s advice.

However, she adds that for Malaysians, the problem is translating knowledge into practice.

“Malaysians know what is good or bad, they just don’t practise it. Food is abundant in Malaysia, it’s just how you choose your food.”

This problem of overindulging during festivals is important enough that the Health Ministry started producing booklets in various languages around each major festival period beginning last year.

These booklets contain practical tips and relevant recipes on how to eat healthily during such celebrations.

The latest one was introduced last Tuesday for this year’s Hari Raya Puasa celebrations, and revolves around the theme of open houses. (It can be downloaded for free at

To further inspire our readers to cook and eat healthily this Hari Raya, here are five traditional recipes from NSM’s Resipi Sihat, Pilihan Bijak (Volume 2) book, which can obtained by downloading a pdf copy from or e-mailing to purchase a copy.


 Prawn and Petai Sambal

Serves 5


100g petai

300g fresh prawns, discard head

40g (1 tablespoon) chilli paste

100g (10 pieces) shallots, grounded

20g (2 pips) garlic, grounded

30g (1 stalk) lemongrass, crushed

25g (1 tablespoon) tamarind paste, mixed with 1 cup of water to make tamarind juice

25g (1 tablespoon) brown sugar

25g (1 tablespoon) vegetable oil

250ml (1 cup water)

Salt to taste


1. Wash the prawns and drain well.

2. Heat the oil in a pot and stir fry the chilli paste, shallots and garlic. Once fragrant, add the water and cover the pot. When the oil breaks the surface of the water, mix well.

3. Add in the tamarind juice, lemongrass, sugar and salt, and stir.

4. Lastly, add in the prawns and petai. Cover the pot. When the sauce becomes oily and thick, remove from the pot and serve.

Steamed Tenggiri Fish and Vegetables in Banana Leaf (Botok-botok Johor)

Serves 5, with rice

Ingredients for fish

150g (2 pieces) tenggiri fish

125ml (½ cup) diluted milk

250g (1 cup) grated coconut, fried without oil for kerisik

20g fish curry powder

70g (3 stalks) lemongrass

29g (1cm) ginger

20g (1cm) galangal (lengkuas)

80g (7 pieces) shallots

20g (4 pips) garlic

15g (½ tablespoon) tamarind juice

10g (1 tablespoon) vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Ingredients for wrap

1 banana leaf

Group A:

·20 leaves of sweet potato shoots

·10 leaves of papaya shoots

·10 leaves of mengkudu shoots

·10 leaves of puding kuning pendek shoots

·10 leaves of semangkuk shoots

·10 leaves of beruas shoots

Group B, all sliced thinly or shredded:

·3 turmeric leaves

·20 leaves of selasih

·20 leaves of kesom leaves

Method to prepare fish

1. Clean the fish.

2. Grind the lemongrass, ginger, galangal, shallots and garlic, together with 1 cup (250 ml) of water, until fine. Mix this with the fish curry powder.

3. Heat a little oil. Add in the mixture from step two, the kerisik and water, and mix well. Lower the heat and leave it to boil.

4. Add in the tamarind juice, diluted milk and salt. Leave it to boil for 10 minutes or until the gravy thickens.

Method for wrapping

1. Spread out the banana leaf and arrange half of the shoots from group A on top.

2. Place the cleaned fish in the centre, and add in the cooked spices.

3. Sprinkle the leaves from group B on top of the fish. Arrange the remainder of the shoots from group A on top, and wrap the banana leaf firmly around everything.

4. Steam for 30 minutes until cooked.

Vegetable shoots

Serves 5


500g (2 cups) vegetable shoots

·300g paku shoots and midin shoots

·150g pucuk manis shoots

·30g kesom leaves

·20g kaduk leaves

10g (1 stalk) lemongrass, crushed

15g (2cm) galangal (lengkuas), crushed

150g (1 piece) sweet potato (yellow flesh), cut into small cubes

40g (2 pieces) red chillies, cut into 4 pieces each

20g (3 pips) garlic, sliced thinly

40g (4 pieces) shallot, sliced thinly

20g (3 tablespoons) anchovies, head discarded and coarsely pounded

20g (3 tablespoons) selayang fish meat

6g (1 teaspoon) budu (pickled fish)

5g (1 teaspoon) salt


1. Preparing the vegetable shoots:

·Select and wash the shoots to be used, and drain.

·Pluck the leaves from the stalks, and discard the hard stems.

2. Preparing the fish:

·Clean and grill or bake the fish until cooked.

·Debone the fish and flake it. Pound it until it is fine.

3. Add all the ingredients, except for the vegetable shoots, in a pot with 2½ cups of water.

4. When the water boils and the sweet potato is tender, add in the vegetable shoots. Stir occasionally and allow it to shimmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Rendang Tok

Serves five


600g lean beef, cut into 12 pieces

30g (3 tablespoons) skim milk powder, mixed with 1 cup of warm water

20g (4cm) galangal (lengkuas), scraped and juice discarded

75g (½ cup) coconut flesh, for kerisik

2 cardamom seeds

½ star anise

½ cm cinnamon bark

1 piece dried tamarind

5g (1 tablespoon) curry spice

30g palm sugar

3g (½ teaspoon) salt

1 litre (4 cups) water

Ingredients for mixture A

10g (2 tablespoons) coriander spice

5g (1 tablespoon) cumin seed

2g (1 tablespoon) black pepper

8g (10 pieces) dried chillies

Ingredients for mixture B

30g (3 stalks) lemongrass

5g (1cm) ginger

200g (20 pieces) shallots

10g (2 pips) garlic


1. Fry the ingredients for mixture A together without oil and blend them.

2. Blend the ingredients for mixture B.

3. Clean the beef, drain and marinate it with mixtures A and B for 30 minutes.

4. Pour the water into a wok. Add the marinated beef, along with the galangal, cardamom seeds, star anise, cinnamon bark, curry spice, palm sugar and salt. Cook until the beef is half done.

5. Add in the dried tamarind and skim milk. Stir for 1-2 minutes.

6. Add in the kerisik and stir until dry.

7. Serve with rice.

Kuih Koci

20 pieces


200g (1 cup) green beans

100g (2 pieces) palm sugar, cut into small pieces

125ml (½ cup) low-fat milk

1 tablespoon plain flour

200g (2 cups) glutinous rice flour

10g (1 piece) screwpine (pandan) leaf, folded

3g (½ teaspoon) salt

Banana leaves, cut into squares (16cm x 17cm)

Cooking oil, enough to apply on top of banana leaf

Method to prepare filling

1. Boil green beans with 3 cups of water until soft.

2. Add milk, palm sugar, screwpine leaf and salt, and stir over low heat.

3. When the mixture is slightly dry and thick, add plain flour and stir until it thickens. Set aside to cool.

4. Once it is cool, take a thumb-sized amount of mixture, and shape it into a ball for the filling. Repeat until the mixture is finished. (This should produce about 20 balls.)

5. Heat a steamer.

Method to prepare kuih

1. Pour the glutinous rice flour into a container and add the salt. Add small amounts of water to the flour and knead it until the dough is soft.

2. Take a small amount of dough and flatten it on your palm. Place a ball of filling in the centre of the dough, wrap the dough around it, and form it into a ball.

3. Place the ball onto a square of banana leaf, and fold the leaf around it in a triangular shape.

4. Repeat steps two and three until all the filling and dough is used up.

5. Steam the kuih koci for about 10-15 minutes in the steamer until it is cooked.

6. Remove and serve.

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Health , Health , Nutrition , diet , Hari Raya


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