Coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus: No big celebration but preparations to mark Aidilfitri in full swing

Madam Saodah Mohamad (far left) and her daughter Nashra Nasir at Geylang Serai Market yesterday to do their festive shopping. Madam Saodah will still be cooking her signature dish of sambal goreng pengantin for Hari Raya Aidilfitri although family vi
Madam Saodah Mohamad (far left) and her daughter Nashra Nasir at Geylang Serai Market yesterday to do their festive shopping. ST PHOTO: MICHELLE NG

On Sunday, Madam Saodah Mohamad will be cooking her signature dish of sambal goreng pengantin, a traditional spicy stir-fried dish, just like she always does every Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

But this year, the 59-year-old housewife will be sharing the dish, which typically comprises beef lung, liver and prawns, with only three other household members on the day itself, instead of the usual 50 family members who visit her home.

As family visits and gatherings are not allowed during the circuit breaker period, some people, like Madam Saodah, have had to find alternatives to their yearly traditions.

She intends to cook the same amount as in previous years but plans to freeze most of it to share with her relatives once family gatherings can take place again.

Her daughter Nashra Nasir, 34, who is a chef and lives with her, helps to cook the dish, which requires a lot of preparation work.

"It's my mother's signature dish that we all look forward to having every year. All my relatives were waiting for it so we'll still cook it as usual. Hopefully after June 1, we can all meet and eat it together," said Ms Nashra, referring to when the circuit breaker measures are slated to be eased.

Muslims will celebrate Aidilfitri, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, next Sunday.

For many, festive preparations are under way to celebrate with family members living in the same household.

Lines of more than 15 people were spotted at each of the two entrances to Geylang Serai Market when The Straits Times visited at 11.30am yesterday.

Even a sudden downpour in the early afternoon did not affect the queues, as many came to shop and left with trolleys filled with big plastic bags of goods.

Some even brought along extra hands to help. Security courier Jamal Alipin, 57, kept watch over bags filled with spices, vegetables and large bunches of coconut leaves while his wife made a second foray into the market.

"My wife buys quite a bit because there're seven of us in the house. I'm just here to carry things and look after the bags while she shops," said Mr Jamal, adding that his wife plans to make ketupat in the lead-up to Aidilfitri.

"It'll be the first time in my life that we won't have a big family gathering with all my nieces and nephews during Hari Raya. It's a bit sad but there's nothing we can do."

Brothers Zahin Jummary, 15, and Danish Jummary, 20, who works as an engineer, were at the market yesterday with their father for their monthly grocery run.

With no visiting, this year's Aidilfitri will be a muted affair even though they hail from a big family of nine. "Usually there'll be many people coming to our house to greet my grandmother during this time of the month so I'm not really used to it being so quiet. But at least there'll still be our favourite dishes," said Zahin, a Secondary 3 student.

The brothers, who have three other siblings, are looking forward to their mother's special nasi briyani.

Geylang Serai Market is one of the four popular wet markets with restricted entry based on the last digit of shoppers' NRIC numbers.

Housewife Icha Hussin, 40, who has a six-year-old son, said she plans to scale back the celebrations this year. She usually cooks for 20 people, but this year, she will cook only for her family of three, with some extras to give to her neighbours.

"We didn't even buy new clothes for this year since we cannot go visiting so the mood is definitely different. We can video-call everyone but it's just not the same feeling."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: No big celebration but preparations to mark Aidilfitri in full swing. Subscribe