Muslims around the world are deep into observing the holy month of Ramadan, a time when many of the faithful fast from sunrise to sundown if they are able, and break their fast in the evening with a communal “iftar” meal.
According to Islamic Relief Canada, Alhamdulillah, as the month of Ramadan is called, “will look very different for us this year,” and for Muslims world-wide, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as this celebration that is traditionally spent surrounded by loved ones in large family and social gatherings, will instead happen from afar, and include crucial physical distancing. That said, thanks to social media, many families will be observing as well as keeping in touch with family via virtual live experiences.
And the traditional meals, full of delicious, flavourful fare, will continue to be enjoyed, albeit in smaller settings.
And such foods!
The variety is endless, covering an array of sweet and savoury bites. Dishes like baked kebbeh, spicy stews, aromatic biyranis, stuffed vegetables and an amazing variety of sweets.
“Food is part of Ramadan’s traditions; family and friends gather to share and enjoy the two meals that are served,” notes the Food Heritage Foundation (food-heritage.org.) “Fasting has an important role in teaching patience, compassion and gratitude. It also reminds people about those suffering from poverty and hunger.”
The pandemic may have altered the Ramadan experience, but it doesn’t change its core messaging: “Although fasting is a major component of Ramadan, it is only one small piece of its purpose,” note company officials for Zabiha Halal Canadian food brand. “The celebration of Ramadan is meant to cleanse the body, mind and soul, giving an opportunity for participants to reflect on what, and who, they are thankful for.”
This includes writing stories of gratitude, which Zabiha Halal (division of Maple Lodge Farms) is encouraging, along with other random acts of kindness including helping out local food banks, or delivering groceries to shut-ins.
“Even a wave through a window or from a car,” will certainly fulfill a mandate.
Check out Zabihahalal.com for more details; #SharingHalal; @LivingHalalZH
SETTING THE TABLE FOR RAMADAN
Khudaija Sheikh-Khan along with her husband, Chef Younus Khan, run the Fusion Halal Cuisine take-out eatery in Brampton, Ont., (fusionhalalcuisine.com) , offering traditional foods including dishes enjoyed during Ramadan.
Sheikh-Khan says popular dishes, especially during Ramadan include biryani, kebab, donair (grilled meat stuffed in freshly baked bread) and that melt-in-your mouth naan bread.
“At home, during Ramadan we break our fast with dates,” says Sheikh, adding “breaking fast with date has religious significance as it’s how the Prophet Muhammad used to break his fast.”
Other favourites include “chickpea chat (salad), dahi bhalla (deep-fried lentil balls covered in yogurt) and pakora — traditional dishes from South Asian countries.”
What are some family’s favourite?
“Definitely the chickpea chat, and pakora — deep fried vegetables in seasoned batter.”
This meal is eaten before dawn and often features breakfast foods, but not always the traditional eggs and toast!
Dishes include anda paratha – flatbreads layered with whisked eggs and onion — and keema roti made with a spicy beef filling. You’ll also find an assortment of cheeses, preserves, refreshing teas and fruity yogurt smoothies to help with hydration.
After a long day of fasting, Iftaar or iftaari is often the most celebrated part of the day in Ramadan and occurs when the sun sets.
Foods eaten at this time tend to be more snack-like or appetizers and traditionally fried. Samosas: what you fill in them depends on where you come from and your preferences — beef is a traditional favourite, followed by vegetarian and aloo pakoras, savoury fried snacks made with a variety of ingredients, including spinach and onion, and the classic potato pakora.
Lastly, you can’t just eat snacks for dinner, especially after a full day of fasting, including a variety of soups. A special Ramadan meal isn’t complete without a traditional South Asian curry or rice dish, including such favourites as biryani, which is a rich and flavourful, cardamom-infused layered dish made with specific proteins (like chicken or lamb) and rice.
And nihari: a classic spicy beef stew that is often made in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.