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AMID the cheesecakes and decorative hampers, we truly wonder what has happened to the halwa maskat, kuih makmur and the mangkuk sia?
This is Hari Raya in the 21st century, the age of e-greetings in digital-speak, Ramadan buffet culture, lavish open house and fancy duit raya packets. Also where Malay movies for Raya are no longer the Cathay Keris standards of Damak and Kesuma but gangster "blockbusters" with 21st century dialogues of "gua cakap sama lu..." slang.
The mangkuk sia or just plain sia (pronounced with that distinctive nasal see-'ah only northerners and Penang Hokkiens can), also known as the faithful tiffin carrier, seems to have vanished from the scene.
Those days, this reliable and very practical food container neatly and vertically stacked up in several levels and held together by a bracket, was the most convenient meal transporter during the puasa month and especially the Hari Raya cake-exchange frenzy.
Since it was mainly made of tin or aluminium, it was reusable for years. In fact you could pack an entire serving of nasi kandar for five persons in one set of five-layer sia.
Now, in its place are the character-less disposable plastic wares passed off as airtight but are not. Putting their lids on or taking them off requires some skill.
There's also another type of packet or container that looks even more hazardous making its rounds -- Styrofoam.
Then we have those traditional cakes that are disappearing or have disappeared altogether, such as the halwa maskat, a sweet jelly-like delicacy that requires an elaborate mixture of flour, ghee and all kinds of cherries.
The history and origins of this cake are unclear but the name seems to have been derived from Maskat or Muscat, the capital city of Oman. Halwa means candy.
Also in the list is kuih makmur, a lumpy ghee-ish cookie that also has its roots in the Middle East. It has faded from the dining table as not many people nowadays know how to prepare it.
Following in its footsteps are other grandma delicacies with exotic names such as kuih loyang (a crispy flower-shaped cracker), pulut kacau (super-sweet glutinous rice candy), putu kacang (green beans sweet biscuit) and, telur labah-labah (literally spider's eggs but actually a variant of kuih bangkit).
Replacing them as Raya goodies are the cheesecakes, cupcakes, tarts, fancy biscuits and all kinds of pasta that also go in tandem with the Ramadan buffet culture of today.
The buffet feast, just like the Raya open house at hotels and convention centres, has become an urban phenomenon and is lavish, prompting some gluttons and "freeloaders" to sit through for hours on end sampling every single dish at the spread.
One glaring aspect of the Ramadan buffet is that it has, over the last couple of years, pushed mutton up the ladder of meat preference among Malays. Almost every buffet will feature the whole spit roast of mutton or lamb, mutton briyani and soup kambing.
It is understood that Malays have overcome their fear and dislike of mutton, which they once believed could cause a sudden surge in blood pressure or trigger a heart attack. Some butchers reported that the demand for mutton during the fasting month and Raya period has now far exceeded that for Deepavali and Christmas combined.
Perhaps it is also because of the Arabic and Middle Eastern influences creeping into our food as much as into everything else.
Greetings, for instance, have changed much. The simple Selamat Berpuasa has become Ramadan al-Mubarak and Selamat Hari Raya is Eid Mubarak. Even the buka puasa (breaking of fast) is now Iftar Ramadan.
But I wish everyone Selamat Hari Raya just the same. Now for mum's itik golek Kedah-style.