Fantastic feasts and where to find them
The month-long fasting observed by Muslims across the world is upon us and slowly drawing to its close. Whereas in Islamic countries this might play out well because most are fasting and praying as per schedule Indian Muslims deal with more than just routine fasting. For around thirty days a year, Muslims here find themselves in a unique position of waking and keeping awake at unearthly hours while the rest sleep and starving while the rest eat. Add to that the never-ending questions that must be answered when all you want is to keep quiet because your throat is drying up or else cry because iftaar is hours away!
You can have water… right?-No
What no water at all?-Nooo
You don’t eat for the entire month? -Yes, we don’t from Dawn to Dusk
Do you keep all the rozas?-Try to
Do you then eat through the evening? -Wha… nooo!
Children keep Rozas too?- Yes
Isn’t the weather too hot to fast?-No
What all does one abstain from? ( followed by knowing glances) -Oh give me a break (massive eye rolling)
I think most of us have tried and somewhat succeeded in removing the fog of ignorance surrounding this month but still, somehow the month seems to come across as some sort of medieval punishment inflicted on our race for wrongs done
Contrary to the popular perception Ramzan is not a form of self-inflicted torture and is more about celebrating the will and the strength to abstain from not just food but from everything that harms the soul like anger and ego and temptation… it’s also more about food than any other month in the Islamic calendar. Yes, read that slowly… again!
The streets buzz with life post-midnight as makeshift shops, serving everything from biryani to seekh kababs to kheer to Kashmiri chai, with Batasha, ( kind of dry Croissant) Dahi Vade magically pop up on sidewalks only to quietly disappear post eid
There are things you eat in Ramzaan that you don’t even hear of the rest of the year round and surprisingly the iftaar boasts of a mostly vegetarian fare with names that are weird sounding and fantastical like Kachaloo for instance which is merely boiled potatoes sliced and sprinkled with masala and chutney but a rose by any other would not smell as sweet so kachaloo it is!
Then comes Gulgulay sweet yeasty batter made from flour dough that goes straight into hot oil coming out a rich caramelly brown, crisp on the outside moist and soft on the inside.
There is the Chane ki dal either soaked or boiled and the black gram again boiled and served with onions and lemon. Dates. Dahi Vadey another dish made of lentil dumpling, it is soaked in yogurt mixed with spices and is eaten with Meethi & Khatti Chutney spread on top.
Fruits cut and diced and tossed together with sugar and lime make up the fruit chaat and the Hamdard ka Rooh Afza ( Sherbat) with its age-old bottle makes an appearance on every Iftaar table… and no you can’t escape it, they will mix it up in milkshakes and lemonades and what not… and make sure you have it!
Next, is the Lachcha called so because it’s like wiry vermicelli but wound round and round to look like fluffy discs and can be found next to the mountains of sewain on display in any sewain shop!
These are soaked in hot milk and had for Sehri, the pre-dawn meal had before keeping a Roza
Apart from these lesser known home cooked Ramzaan specific foods, there is the Nehari ( from the Arabic word
Nahar which meant morning/day) which was supposed to be had as the first meal of the day along with the kulcha (rich leavened bread) to accompany it.
So while days are spent going about every day business without a drop of water or a morsel of food the evenings are full of socializing, meeting up for iftaar or even Sehri, sitting together talking and eating as a community, as a family!
And no it’s not a torture and nobody is sad or forced to fast… it’s just that it’s slightly difficult to have a sense of humor on an empty growling stomach!
Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi
Photo Courtsey: www.Shezannj.com Restaurant, Banquet & Catering.