A flavoursome tour of Ramadan foods from around the world
The month of Ramadan is a time for fasting and purity for Muslims all over the world. There is also the ritual of breaking the fast after sunset, Iftar, and eating before sunrise, Suhoor. An array of delicious foods are part of these practices.
Here’s a selection of traditional Ramadan dishes from everywhere.
Most Muslims break their fast with a handful of dates because the Prophet Muhammad is said to have eaten dates to end his fast. These desert fruits are full of nutrition, making them the perfect thing to eat after fasting. They are eaten fresh, dried and stuffed with nuts.
Soups and stews
Soups, stews and porridges made with an assortment of lentils, meat and vegetables are en essential part of Ramadan meals, especially because they provide necessary nutrition for those who are fasting. Among the most famous of these soups is the Moroccan Harira, made from chickpeas, lentils and meat. In the Arab world it’s common to eat Harisah, a porridge of pounded wheat and meat. It travelled to India centuries ago and was transformed in the kitchens of the Nizams of Hyderabad. Here it is Hyderabadi Haleem, one of the highlights of the Ramadan menu.
Salads that are mix of grains, lentils, greens, herbs and vegetables are part of the Middle Eastern culinary culture and are included in Ramadan meals. There is, for instance, Tabbouleh, made of soaked bulgur, parsely, mint and tomatoes. It’s a key dish in Middle Eastern mezze, a spread that includes hummous, yogurt cheese such as labneh and kibbeh. Fattoush, which has pita crisps tossed with lettuce and tomato, is also a popular salad in the region.
A variety of flatbread such as Pita and Qaboos are eaten with meats and salads while breaking the fast. In Indian and Pakistani homes, it’s Rotis and Parathas, while in Malaysia it would be common to see Roti Canai being served.
Meat is a mainstay of many Ramadan meals. In India, an array of spiced and fragrant Kebabs are cooked in homes and emerge from street stalls during this season. Variations of meat Kofta – also known as Kofte and Kibbeh – are eaten in the Arab world, in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Balkans and further afield. There are other meat dishes also such as Thareed Laham, in which lamb is layered with flat bread.
In India, biryanis are a big part of Ramadan meals. The Hyderabadi version is known for its elegance and subtlety and the Moplah Muslims of Kerala make their own delicious version. Mujaddara is a Middle Eastern dish comprised of rice, lentils and fried onions and makes a filling meal during Ramadan.
In Jordan and Palestine it is traditional to eat Mansaf, a dish of lamb cooked in yogurt, served over rice and garnished with almonds and pine nuts. It is served especially for Eid al-Fitr. In Egypt, rice is stuffed into eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini to make a popular dish known as Mahshi and eaten during Ramadan.
Sweets are eaten during Ramadan as much for the energy they provide as for the pleasure they yield. In Indian Muslim homes, Vermicelli Kheer, Barfis, Pedhas and Phirni are much-loved sweet endings to a Ramadan meal. In the Arab world, you’d come across sweet dumplings made from butter, sugar, milk and flour known as Luqaimat. In Egypt they are called Zalabia, a Ramadan treat.
Each region has its deep-fried fritters and other crisp snacks that make up the Ramadan meal. Pakoras are popular in India and Pakistan, while in Indonesia they eat banana fritters known as pisang goring. Samosas filled with spicy minced meat are also popular snacks at this time of the year.
In India and Pakistan, the Falooda is part of the Ramadan meal, loved for its sweet richness. Sherbets are also drunk during this month when it’s important to stay hydrated.
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