Maleman (Ramadhan’s odd nights celebration)

Dear oh dear, it’s time to slide the curtain and see your face.

Crescent moon is here.
It illuminates my sky,
Showing your perfect beauty.

Dear oh dear, your love has perfectly wrapped my imperfect reality.

This dusk
To dawn
I pray.


Javanese celebrate life through sharing and commemorating ancestors. They will find reasons to call a day sacred and so they can celebrate it with especially family and neighbours through sharing. One of the chosen moments is in the last 10 days of Ramadhan.

Ramadhan is believed to have 3 phases: 1st 10 days as the grace and mercy of the God, 2nd 10 days as forgiveness of the God and 3rd ones as liberation from purgatory. It is believed that one of the nights in the 3rd 10 days is called Lailatul Qadar (literally night of revelation or night of honour) whose value is more than 1000 months so if Muslim spends the night in goodness s/he will be appreciated with 1000 months of good deeds. Many Muslim scholars interpret lailatul qadar differently; I myself believe that it is the night when a human being becomes aware of one’s bearing the quality of humanity as well as divinity. No one knows which night it is but it is believed that the night allegedly falls on odd nights of Ramadhan: 21, 23, 25, 27 or 29.

Javanese think that it would be good to share joy at any of those odd nights. Those who are blessed with abundance will share more, they will invite their neighbours to dine in and make a basket of food to bring home for each of them. The less or under privilege will usually bring 2 baskets of food to a nearest mosque or mushola to share with others; as it is not mandatory, it is ok for them not to bring anything, their neighbours will give more to them.

The odd night celebration in Javanese is called maleman that comes from the word malem (dusk or twilight) and -an (a suffix added to a word that make the word a noun or a noun another noun with different meaning). Maleman means an activity that is conducted at dusk or twilight.

We hope that by doing the maleman we can be blessed with the 1000 months of good deed of food sharing. And isn’t sharing food the simplest thing to do with neighbour? 🙏🏼

There is one kue (small cake) typically present among all food shared in maleman, it is called apem— a rice cake made with yeast and coconut milk.

Apem is a symbol of forgiveness and asking for forgiveness with each other among the Javanese Muslim. It is derived from an Arabic word “afwun/afuwwun” that means forgiving. This rice cake is a special cake appearing in many Javanese celebration as a symbol of forgiving and forgiveness among people surrounding.

I am glad that the 3rd 10 days of Ramadhan is here. Time to sleep less and pray more for the sake of my happiness and joy.



Nowadays kue apem has been creatively modified. Originally it is steamed; now many also fry it. I love this one of Javanese delicacies! 💝

Have a look of a few of the creations of our amateur cooks. 🙏🏼

we used to have this “apem conthong” either using jackfruit or banana leaves to both mould and wrap it — not many though make it due to its complicated process

the most common nowadays

this one is fried 😍

simple to cook but take long time to slice when set after cooked


apem with Javanese palm sugar as the flavour — the sweetest one

apem kembang — my favourite 😍