Feature: From ketupat to opor ayam, Indonesian Muslims enjoy Eid dishes with families after 2 years apart

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by Nurul Ramadhan

JAKARTA, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Last Sunday could be the busiest day in two years for Kartika Widjaja, 29, as she and her mom spent the whole day cooking various dishes for her family and relatives who would visit them the day after.

Kartika was among millions of Indonesian Muslims who celebrated Eid al-Fitr, locally known as lebaran, that fell on May 2, and finally could manage to gather with family in her hometown in Yogyakarta after two years of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ketupat, opor ayam, rendang, sambal goreng hati and soto ayam are must-haves on the table of the Eid day.

"We made no less than 50 ketupats to welcome all family members and friends who came from other cities," Kartika told Xinhua.

Ketupat is a special and ubiquitous rice cake served during the Eid celebration. It is the compressed rice packed inside a palm leaf woven into a diamond shape. It has a very bland taste and can be eaten with other authentic Eid dishes such as rendang and opor ayam.

Rendang is dried beef curry, a signature dish that originated from Indonesia's West Sumatra Province. It normally takes seven to eight hours to cook the meat until the coconut liquids evaporate and the meat turns dark brown and tender.

When the meat has been infused with rich flavors of various spices -- lemongrass, galangal, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and chili -- and coconut milk, rendang is ready to serve.

Rendang is a world-famous food known for its delicacy. According to CNN International's survey for the World's 50 Delicious Foods in 2021, rendang ranks 11.

"For the past two years, I could not go home. I spent Eid day in Jakarta alone, eating ketupat I received from my Jakartan friends," said Kartika, who works in Jakarta as a private employee.

Lebaran, or Eid al-Fitr, the biggest Muslim celebration in Indonesia, marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Going homewards, locally called mudik, is an annual tradition for Indonesian Muslims, where people go to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with families. This year, the Indonesian Transportation Ministry estimated that there were no less than 85 million people who went homewards, as the Indonesian government has waived social restrictions.

In 2021, there were 1.5 million people going homewards, and in 2020, when the pandemic first struck and the government imposed a very strict lockdown, there were only 297,000 people who could manage to go to their hometown, according to the data from the ministry.

"Now, I am happy to be able to cook ketupat and opor ayam again with my mother," Kartika said. Opor ayam is a chicken stew with coconut broth.

Another Eid specialty is sambal goreng hati, chicken or beef liver cooked with diced potatoes, spices and coconut milk.

Just like Kartika, 32-year-old Lina finally could go homewards in Cirebon, West Java, after not meeting with her big family for three years.

"I woke up very early in the morning to go to the traditional market to buy six kg of chicken to cook opor ayam and four kg of beef to cook sambal goreng hati and bakso (meatballs)," Lina said.

She also prepared some authentic lebaran snacks, including bika ambon, a Medan specialty treat made from tapioca flour, eggs, sugar, pandan leaves, lime leaves, lemongrass, turmeric, salt and coconut milk mixed with palm wine or other fermented liquids.

"I spent 12 hours to cook it until the texture was strong and I am happy to do that as I haven't been doing this for almost three years," Lina said.

She hoped that the pandemic could be over soon to let her and millions of Muslims across Indonesia celebrate the annual Eid with families as usual. Enditem

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