For many Singaporean Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is immensely special. On top of fasting, reflecting and repenting, it’s the one time of year that gives loved ones an excuse to come together – families wake up before dawn to have suhoor, a pre-dawn meal, together. In the evenings, friends and family gather together for prayers and to break fast – better known as iftar or buka puasa.
For Singaporean Muslims based overseas like 44-year-old London-based Norashikin Othman, Ramadan and Hari Raya Puasa look very different this year, especially now while the United Kingdom is in a state of lockdown.
The team trainer at Old Chang Kee UK who has been living in Wimbledon, London for six years with her family, tells Her World what her day-to-day is like, and how she would celebrate Hari Raya Puasa this year – no less, with lots of delicious home cooked local delights. Norashikin also shares her video tutorials on her fave dishes.
On life in London
Her World (HW): What made you guys move to London?
Norashikin (N): We had a chance to move to London, partly because of my husband’s work. We felt it was a good opportunity for the kids’ well-being in terms of exposure to diversity, humanity, and especially creativity. We could also get more work-life balance and more time with the kids and family.
HW: Is it difficult to find halal cuisine in London?
N: It was in the beginning when we arrived in 2014. But more and more halal eateries are coming out, plus Old Chang Kee UK (where I work) is halal too, and it’s good for me to be part of the team. Plus, we have cut down so much on red meat, and the wide vegan/vegetarian options here are amazing and yummy, too.
HW: Do you guys usually eat out or dine in (cook at home)?
N: We cook a lot, almost everyday. But we have our cheat days too – we order takeouts on days when mum and dad are extremely knackered from the day of work.
HW: Where do you buy the ingredients, especially during lockdown?
N: We have good Korean shops, Indian grocery stalls, middle eastern shops and big supermarkets, which we do go to, to support local businesses. We have good supplies of ingredients, to be honest.
A peek into Nora’s kitchen
On Ramadan and Hari Raya
HW: Hari Raya is approaching, do you usually return to Singapore to celebrate with other family members?
N: We tried. The only time we came back for Hari Raya was in 2015, because the kids’ school holidays fortunately coincided with the celebration. For the following years, we celebrated with our small group of Malaysian and Singaporean friends here, and did our Eid morning prayers at a Malay community mosque – Sofa College – which sees Singaporeans, Malaysians and people from all walks of life coming together.
HW: How will Hari Raya be different for you this year?
N: Different as we can’t be with the community. We can’t go to friends’ houses to chill and enjoy the food, laugh and catch up, etc.
HW: How has the fasting period been during the lockdown?
N: The length of (fasting) hours is very long here: 15 to 18 hours. We’ve managed so far. It’s been alright, considering that we don’t have to commute to school and work now. This is a blessing as it gives me more time to make my traditional signature pineapple tarts and Makmur. I do sell them, especially during this period, via small orders through my Facebook and Instagram page – Party of Flour.
HW: Will u guys be “Zooming” in during Raya with friends and family?
N: Due to the time difference, we will try to Zoom.
HW: What are the dishes you will be preparing to cook on Hari Raya?
N: Beef rendang, ayam masak merah (red curry chicken), carrot rice and sambal tumis ikan bilis.
HW: How did you learn the wide repertoire of recipes over the years?
N: The hard way – through Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook cooking pages and lots of trial and error. Hahaha! It took me three years to master my pineapple tarts.