Iftar Culture Bring back the Flavor. By: Tania Amin Khan

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Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. This month, the Muslims all over the world try to continue the most important part of Ramadan month. That is undoubtedly Fasting. The fast is not simply about denying your body food and water. It also involves arguably the more taxing challenge of avoiding ill speech, arguments, loss of temper and malicious behavior. The whole point of the fast is to demonstrate submission to God and keep the mind focused on a spiritual plane. Ramadan is viewed as a month-long school where graduates leave with a developed sense of self-control in areas including diet, sleeping and the use of time.

The fasting day is book-ended by two meals: suhoor and iftar. The former is the early morning meal consumed before fasting begins at dawn, while the latter is to break the fast at sunset. If breakfast is viewed as an important meal, a healthy suhoor is even more vital as it is meant to last you up to 15 hours – as is the case this summer in the UAE – before breaking bread again. Slow digesting foods like barley, wheat, oats, and lentils are recommended and limiting fatty and sugary products would be wise. There is a propensity to binge eat at sunset, but a balanced, moderate meal would really make all the difference, considering that the evenings are spent engaging in special nightly prayers. It is also recommended to break the fast with dates, as was the practice of the Prophet Mohammed, before moving on to other dishes.

Ifter is also considered a very important time during Ramadan. Here in Bangladesh, all the Muslims both young and old try to present at the After table during the time. Most of us completed Ifter with traditional food like puffed rice, juice along with some traditional items. But Ifter culture is very rich in Old Dhaka. They inherit some items from different cultures. So if you want to taste the different flavors of ifter, you may visit to Chalkbazar. But Ifter items and culture in the Muslim community throughout the world is very appealing and full of variation. There are thousands of items served in the Ifter table. Here I tried to present the best Ifter items in the world which you can try at your home.

Harees: One of the daily dishes found in Ramadan in the Gulf Region, Harees is a porridge-like dish made of wheat, meat, and butter. Harees is a great way to restore one’s energy as it’s packed with protein and carbs and can be eaten for Iftar or Suhoor. One can find variations of this dish in Armenia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and India.

Thareed:  A very traditional Arabic dish made for Iftar, Thareed also carries a religious background due to the numerous amounts of mentions in Hadith.  In the UAE, the dish is made using Ruqaq, crispy flatbread, layered in a vegetable and meat broth.

Samboosa: Originating from the Indian Samosa, this triangle-shaped pastry is a savory snack that can be filled with Meat, Chicken, Cheese, Vegetable or even Chocolate. The differing component in a Samboosa vs. a Samosa is the use of Bezar, the Emirati spice which is a blend of cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric and much more.

Machboos: Similar to Biryani, Machboos is the name for the traditional Rice dish shared among countries in the GCC. One can use meat, chicken, fish or shrimp along with vegetables and long-grain rice, mixed with the right spices to complete this dish.  In case you’re not ready to bring on the cooking with this multiple-ingredient dish, you can check out the traditional Al Fanar Restaurant in Festival City for its authentic Emirati Cuisine.

Lgeimat/Luqaimat: Along with many Emiratis, this is definitely one of the favorite desserts of Ramadan. Pronounced Lgeimat, but written in several different ways, these fried pastry balls are the perfect way to end your Iftar meal. Crunchy on the outside, soft and mushy on the inside, Lgeimat is covered with date syrup which also includes flavors of saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Some foods that may be served at a Ramadan suhoor or iftar

  • Dates, pistachios, other nuts, and dried fruits
  • Fresh seasonal fruits
  • Fresh seasonal vegetables
  • Chabbakia – a dessert made of fried dough flavored with orange blossom water and coated with sesame seeds and honey.
  • Paomo – a bread and mutton soup
  • RamazanKebabi – a dish made with lamb, onions, yogurt, and pita bread. (Turkey)
  • Sherbet – the world’s first soft drink, developed in the Ottoman Empire. Sherbets are made

from fruit juices, extracts of flowers, or herbs, and combined with water and sugar.

  • Chapatis – unleavened flatbread that is rolled up with vegetables and meats.
  • Lavash – a soft, thin crackerbread.
  • Fattoush – a salad made of vegetables and pita bread.
  • Tabbouleh – a salad made with fresh tomatoes,parsley, garlic, and bulgur wheat.
  • Khyar Bi Laban – cucumber and yogurt salad
  • Chorba – lamb stew with tomatoes and chickpeas
  • Fasulia – stew with green beans and meat
  • Bamia – a stew made with meat and okra
  • Mujadarra – a dish made with rice and lentils
  • Konafah – a pastry made with phyllo dough and cheese
  • Qatayef – a type of Arabic pancake filled with sweet cheese and nuts
  • Fulmedammes – fava beans cooked with garlic and spread on bread
  • Kolak – a fruit dessert made with palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandanus leaf. Fruits such as jackfruit or banana are added, or mung beans.
  • Haleem – a porridge made of meat, wheat, and lentils.
  • Paneer cheese
  • Jalebi – deep-fried dough batter soaked in syrup.
  • Shabi kebab – fried patties of ground meat and

chickpeas.

If you are currently traveling in a Muslim country or live in a Muslim neighborhood, please recognize that right now is a holy time for Muslims and they are fasting during daylight hours. If you need to purchase food or drink during fasting hours, please be respectful and carry them in a non-transparent bag back to your home or hotel room where you can consume them in privacy.

Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about Ramadan and meeting Muslims in person, many mosques and Islamic cultural centers have community outreach programs where they invite non-Muslims to enjoy an iftar meal with the other members of the mosque. Be sure to check beforehand what the dress code is, as women may need to cover their arms and/or head.

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