Friday, August 27, 2010

Ramadan: breaking the fast Pakistani-style

During the holy month of Ramadan, there are traditional foods served for breaking the fast. In Morocco, f'tour (breakfast in Darija, or iftar in Arabic) is served after the maghrib call to prayer at around 17h30. It would not be complete without a satisfying bowl of harira, seasoned with a few drops of lemon juice. Sticky, sweet chebakiya accompany the soup. There are always dates, various breads, hard-boiled eggs dipped in cumin and milkshakes or fruit juices. Sweet mint tea rounds off the meal.

As one of The View from Fez team is currently in Pakistan, we take a look at the traditional foods served for iftar in that country. While lots of restaurants in Pakistan serve iftar, it's really a time to spend with the family and the women take pride in serving home-made favourites.

Dates are a favourite in both countries. As they are highly nutritious, they're ideal to break the fast. In Pakistan they are either eaten plain or they're seeded and stuffed with almonds or pistachios, rolled in desiccated coconut or sprinkled with rose essence for extra flavour. Sometimes they're also wrapped in edible silver foil called warq to give them place of honour on the iftar dining table.


No iftar in Pakistan is complete without this triangular, spicy fried delicacy. The wafting aroma that comes from fried samosas is tantalising. Samosas can be filled with mashed potatoes, onions, spicy minced meat, cheese, chicken or cooked vegetables. They are usually served with mint, coriander or tamarind chutney. Literally thousands of samosa stalls spring up during Ramadan in every nook and cranny of the country where vendors start frying this savory iftar item well before the prayers to meet the demands of the fasting populace.


Not unlike the Moroccan chebakiya, jalebi is a sweet pretzel that's eaten with savoury samosas to counter their salty and spicy taste. It's made with fried batter that's dyed bright orange or yellow with food colouring, and soaked in sugar syrup.


Another Pakistani iftar favourite, pakoras are fried balls of gram (chickpea) flour. Various vegetables cut into small pieces, such as onions, potatoes, spinach, coriander leaves, aubergines and green chilis, can be added to the batter, which is then deep-fried to make fritters. They're served with onion rings and chutney. The batter can also be used to make a kind of tempura, where vegetables such as cauliflower florets, onion rings and even whole green chillies are dipped in it and then deep-fried.

For the health conscious, fruit chat is an alternative to spicy pakoras and fried samosas. A variety of seasonal fruits like mangoes, bananas, apples, guavas, apricots, grapes and pineapple are cut in small cubes and served in juice. A few lemon drops are squeezed over the dish to keep it from changing color and a little salt, chat masala (spice mix)and pepper are sprinkled on the dish to give it a zesty flavor. It's very refreshing after a long day’s fast.


Another delicious food item to grace the iftar table is the chickpea or chana chat. This dish is made of boiled chickpeas mixed with boiled and cubed potatoes, chopped tomatoes, onions, green chillies and served with dollops of spicy tamarind chutney. A fabulous dish to tantalize the taste buds, chickpea chat is also nutritious and healthy.

Water is the best option for quenching thirst after a 15 hour-long fast for most people. In Pakistan a variety of sherbets, sweet syrup-based drinks, are also available that are prepared for iftar. Cold milk mixed with sherbet or soda is also commonly served. Packaged or fresh juices, lemon squashes, carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks are also consumed. After iftar, drinking tea or kehwa is also common practice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice to see this post--just left Pakistan during Ramzan, and I'm now in Fez for the first time for Eid :) Eid Mubarak!