The holy month of Ramazan is extremely special for Muslims for a variety of reasons. It’s a month where we learn to abstain — abstain from excesses, excesses in food, drink, entertainment and everything else that we take for granted during the rest of the year. This month makes us pause in our steps and reflect about everything we consume.
From sunrise to sunset, this year has one of the longest roza days in a long time — 3.30am to 6.30pm makes it 15 hours of battling hunger and thirst every day. Different people pass their days in different ways with varying levels of activity but everyone is united by that fact that come 6.30pm when the muezzin stands to give the call to prayer (azaan), everyone waits with bated breath to thank the Lord for the enormous bounty he has provided us by way of food.
This is where we trace what goes into the making of the perfect Iftar.
Throughout the year, few dates are available in the city but in this month all kinds of dates from all over the Islamic world flood the market. The cheapest ones coming from Iraq cost about Rs 80 per kilo and the most expensive Ajwa Khajoor coming from Saudi Arabia costs Rs 3,000 per kilo. We settle for the dates from Iran costing Rs 800 per kilo and are dark and longish. Dates are considered to be completely nutritious and Muslims around the world break their fast with it.
Lots of haleem outlets pop up all over the city during this season but my personal favourite will always be Aminia, in front of the Nakhoda Mosque main gate. These guys have been selling haleem from the 1930s and have mastered the art. You can choose from Chicken Regular, Chicken Boneless, Mutton, Beef Arbi and Beef Special at varying price points from Rs 65 to Rs 110 per plate. Haleem with all its dals, rice and wheat makes for a healthy item to wrap up the Iftar with — if you can stomach the dynamite spices!
Haji Allauddin on Phears Lane also known as Chuna Galli is popular for their asli ghee products and this is the time when they do amazing imartis for Rs 10 per piece or Rs 300 per kilo.
Fruits are a wonderful way of breaking your fast with something light and yet rich in glucose to replenish your day’s lost energy. It also prevents people from overeating. Due to the high demand, fruit prices shoot up considerably during this month. Bananas that usually sell for Rs 30-40 a dozen climb up to Rs 50-60, papaya is about Rs 80-100 per kilo for the desi version, Kashmiri apples are about Rs 150 per kilo, pomegranates Rs 120 per kilo and pineapples about Rs 100 per piece.
Masala gram or chickpea is rich in protein and for the Iftar is best had with salads and yoghurt. Alternatively, one can buy dahi vada and add masala chana to add flavour.
Most people who fast say that the food craving is manageable but it’s the thirst that’s unbearable! And here Hamdard, of Unani medicine fame, makes an amazing syrup that is used to make the best sherbet in this part of the world. Made with perfectly natural ingredients, Rooh Afza does exactly what its name says — replenish the soul along with the body (especially when made with a dash of lime).
I know of people who do Iftar only with pakoras. Various kinds of pakoras are popular ranging from beguni (eggplant) and pyaazu (onions) to anda pakodi (eggs) to keema pakodis stuffed with mincemeat. These go perfectly well with chutney or hot and spicy tomato sauce. The more adventurous ones go with fried fish or fried chicken pakoras.
THE PERFECT IFTAR
At around 6.30pm, everyone from the family comes together for the Iftar. Prayers are said and, traditionally, everyone sits on the floor. You are supposed to start with the dates, move on to the fruits, then the pakodis, dahi vada and sherbet but there’s no hard and fast rule. Not only does the family eat at the same time in the same house but we also share from the same plates.
Where do you go for haleem during Iftar? Tell [email protected]
Pictures: Pabitra Das