Ramadan, the holy month, comes alive with a hoard of celebrations. Food becomes an integral part of this festival. The women toil hard in their kitchens preparing the sumptuous of dishes for the ‘Iftar’ feast. Large woks come in by the score feeding the homeless and the needy. Ramadan advocates the virtues of sharing, caring, and trusting, which is why devout Muslims go all out to invite outsiders into their homes and share a meal with them.
Women praying on Ramadan
Image Credit: CNN
I was quite fascinated by the post fasting rituals, and got Zainab Das Jariwala, a Mumbai based PR professional, to give me a detailed insight on the rituals involving the breaking of the fast, during Ramadan.
Zainab is a Bohri Muslim, and she believes that Ramadan is the most fulfilling month for her family and herself too. She certainly awaits the ‘Iftar’ rituals and all the goodies that come along with it.
“During Ramadan, we Bori’s go down traditional, and eat from ‘Thals’. The ‘Thals’ are large dishes, and are big enough to feed eight people. The ‘Thals’ are mounted on the ‘Kundali’ (A raised platform), and placed on the ‘Safra,’ (a cloth). The concept is incorporated to inculcate sharing. The ‘Thal’ is usually not served unless eight people join in. The fast breaks with a pinch of salt that is generally passed around by the younger members of the family,” stated Zaibab. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked, “Why salt?” Zainab promptly replied stating that salt is used to cleanse the plaque that is formed in one’s mouth during the course of the day. Salt is also used to cure at least 72 ailments in the body.
Image Credit: Scoll.in
After consuming a pinch of salt, there is an interesting array of desserts that is passed around. I was worried thinking that we haven’t even started to end so soon. But yet again, the Bohri’s follow a certain (Kharaash- Mithaash ritual) salty-sweet-savoury-sweet-salt ritual that they partake in during the month of Ramadan. After the round of sweetmeats, they consume the main course, which largely comprises of grilled chicken or an egg dish. The meat is luxuriously cooked using aromatic spices, and ingredients such as coconut milk, dry fruits, saffron and more.
What I came to realize is that the Bohris follow a good diet. The goodness of olive oil has been glorified in the Quaran. The new diet prescribed by the ‘Saydena’ (the spiritual leader of the Bohri Muslim clan) is low on calorie and high on fiber. Zainab states that even the revered ‘Sayedna’ advocates good health, and keeping with the fast passed life he advocated healthy eating, while keeping the traditions alive and being less indulgent.
Since the mango season is round the corner, there are bowls of sumptuous thick luscious ‘Aamras’ doing the rounds. The other dishes included the delicious chocolate homemade mousse. Some of them took to traditional Indian sweetmeats like ‘Malpua’ (a sweetmeat made with all-purpose flour and fried in clarified butter. The sweet is dipped in a sugar concentrate, and topped off with dry fruits and saffron), laden with dollops of fresh cream. It is all so delicious. I was also informed that some of the dishes have been planned in a way that they keep you hydrated and going through the day even as you don’t consume food or water. ‘Seviya’ (Rice vermicelli cooked in hot milk, and sugar, and topped off with dry fruits) is a favorite among all Muslims.
Image Credit: Apna Mango
The Bohris don’t only enjoy a non-vegetarian fare, but include quite a few vegetarian dishes in their diet too. The mains comprised of a typical ‘Dal Chawal Palidu’ (a rice, and lentil mix that is cooked along with drumsticks.), and a ‘Channa Bateta’ (Chickpeas cooked with potatoes, and served with broken wheat flakes). The ‘Biryani’s’ (Rice and meat dish) and ‘Haleem’ (Meat dish cooked in rich sauces) cannot be missed. The Bohri food is the complete rendezvous of Gujarati, Parsi, Mughlai, and Maharashtrian cuisines.
Bohra Daal Chawal
Image Credit: Bohra Pantry
The Bohri’s take absolute pride in their sharing ritual, and they ensure that their heads are covered when they break their fast or while consuming the Iftar. In different parts of the world, the Muslims have established their own innate tradition of breaking their fast. The Muslims residing in the United Arab Emirates, usually break their fast by consuming three dates. The dates give stamina, and also help restore glucose in the body almost instantaneously.
One can witness the influence of cross cultures in the recent years. While Muslim still savour the traditional dishes, they don’t really shy from tucking into cuisines from around the world in this month. They love to experiment!
Owing to the alarming rise in lifestyle diseases, health and exercise becomes paramount concern. Oil laden foods are discouraged. People try grilled and wood fired options meat options. Some of them take to Ramadan special diet plans that help them cope with the pangs during the day, and also keep them from a very indulgent meal by the night.
As we key off, we at Kyra & Vir would like to wish all our wonderful reader Eid Mubarak.
Written by Heer Kothari