With Ramadhan fast approaching, most homes set up for the feast of breaking fast. Dishes that are not seen throughout the year make themselves known in this month as traditional iftar meals. Muslims abstain from water and food from dawn to sunset in the holy month of Ramadan, with just two basic meals to tide them over. The pre-dawn meal, or suhoor, is generally rich in proteins and fiber to help them get through the day, and the meal of breaking fast, or iftar, is much-awaited traditional food.
Here are ten such dishes from around the world:
1) Chakchouka from Algeria
Image Credit: Calliopejen1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A staple in North Africa, not just Algeria, Chakchouka (pronounced Shakshouka) is basically a thick tomato sauce with poached eggs. Meaning “all mixed up”, it is a traditional healthy dish when breaking fast. The dish is thought to have originated in the Ottoman Empire, where it spread through the Middle East and Spain. Since Algeria fuses Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, there are lots of variations of this dish, with different spices used but the base remaining the same. It is generally eaten with khubs, or bread, as a staple, and is not a heavy dish that would fill one up uncomfortably after a long day of fasting.
2) Stuffed Grape Leaves from Egypt
Inherited from Greek cuisine, stuffed grape leaves is a favorite in the Arab world. Enjoyed as a snack or appetizer in most restaurants, homemade waraq ‘inab is unarguably the best. The leaves are stuffed with rice, falafel, or meat, and served sprinkled with lemon juice and olive oil for flavor and moisture. This dish can disappear in minutes for something that takes time and effort to roll!
3) Dahi Baray from India
The perfect cooling snack for summer, or for breakfasting in Ramadhan. With Ramadhan being in the summer months for quite a few years, most iftar snacks cool after the day’s heat. Dahi Baray is a favorite in India – batter made with lentils is fried until golden and soaked in a yogurt mixture topped with sweet tamarind sauce or green chutney for more spice. The result is an irresistible dish that just melts in your mouth!
4) Haleem from Pakistan
Image Credit: Kskhh, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Even though the traditional method of cooking this dish means you have to start it the day before, it is a popular dish when breaking the fast. Full of gentle spices and warm comfort, this slow-cooked dish of lentils and meat comes with variations but is always eaten with the same enthusiasm. Different regions use different flavors, but they all contain wheat, barley, lentils, and meat.
5) Adas from Palestine
Also called Shorbet Adas, or Lentil Soup, this dish means winter in Palestine. However, when Ramadhan comes around, it doesn’t matter what season it is, for it is a Ramadhan dish! Similar to the Haleem from Pakistan, but not as time-consuming, it is a delicious, simple, healthy soup. Lentils are believed to be one of the oldest cultivated legumes in the region and are rich in fiber, protein, and Vitamin C, and low in calories; thus being used freely.
6) Arroz Caldo from Philippines
The Filipino take on congee, or kanji in some cultures, Arroz Caldo is a rice soup with chicken as the usual protein. Chicken pieces and rice are boiled in a ginger-based broth until the grains disintegrate into the porridge. Common as a midday meal, the snack is substantial enough to be served by itself, hence the iftar staple, with meat or seafood sometimes substituting the chicken.
7) Beef Rendang from Indonesia
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What started as a way of preserving meat in the Minangkabau culture, turned into a favorite ethnic dish in Indonesia and Malaysia. Because of this, rendang always tastes better the next day. Flavors that unfold in layers make for a delicious stew when breaking the fast.
8) Harees from the United Arab Emirates
Similar to other cultures’ porridge is the Arab harees. Known as wheatberries in English, this is a dish that is very popular in the culture and can be found on almost every occasion. It is also a dish that is widely circulated during Ramadhan. The grain is slow-cooked with either chicken or meat until it melts into the porridge. Filling and easily digested, harees is gentle on the stomach after a day of fasting.
9) Chicken and Rice Soup from Morocco
Breaking the fast is all about gentle warm flavors tickling the taste buds after many hours of staying away from food and drink. A lot of cultures feature stews, soups, and porridge as their staple iftar snack with reason. Morocco is no exception. A quick and easy soup to make, it pretty much includes any vegetables that you can get your hands on, along with rice or noodles to add weight and texture.
10) Börek from Turkey
Image Credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There are many variations of börek found all over Turkey. Made out of extremely thin yufka pastry – phyllo pastry working just as well – the fillings are generally savory, ranging from cheese, to ground beef or spinach, even potato or sausage fillings as options. The light fluffy pastry is a delicious treat to break one’s fast.
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