Ramadan Kareem to all my Allah lovers! Today marks Day 19 of Ramadan, aka the holy month to all Islam followers. To me, these past 19 days have pretty much been a reoccurring Thanksgiving. We prepare food all day, invite over family, visit others, eat a TON and then do it all again the next day adding onto the leftovers. The only difference is the fact everyone is fasting all day, not me, but totally give props to Breakaway Backpacker for fasting while he’s staying in Egypt. You go dude!
Breaking the Fast
Unless you want to get sick I advise you not to scarf down every single thing once you are allowed to eat. I have noticed two big re-occurrences in breaking the fast (aka finally eating) each day:
Eating a date before each meal: At first I thought this was just a random passed-down tradition, however later on I had a friend of mine explain to me all the benefits of eating a date before eating your main course. And as she explained to me, “Dates are high in potassium, a mineral necessary to maintain water and electrolyte balance in the body. After going several hours without water, such as when you wake up in the morning or after a long day of fasting, it is important to restore hydration to the body. Also, energy is depleted after going several hours without eating. Since dates are easily digestible, their sugar travels fast to the liver to provide the body with energy. They also keep you from eating too much at Iftar (the meal) as they are full of fiber and other essential nutrients. They are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin.” Can you tell she’s a lawyer? :D
Drinking soup: Now I’m not sure about all the specific health benefits to soup but if you didn’t eat all day eating something light to begin with is a pretty practical solution to not feeling worn out after your meal. This will also help in not overfeeding yourself and getting sick during Iftar.
Iftar Feast of Ramadan: A Few of My Favorite Dishes
Time for food! Iftar in Arabic means Breakfast since it is the first meal of the day, it makes sense to call it this. I have grown accustomed to a varied selection of great Arabic dishes and now I can say with confidence what favorite dishes I am eating this Ramadan.
Hummus with Meat: I am a huge hummus addict! As in the local falafel restaurant doesn’t even need to ask me what I want because it’s always the same large order of hummus ;). You can eat this multiple ways but my personal favorite is buying already made hummus, adding the ‘special sauce’ (pepper and garlic mixture), with a few spices and beef chunks. You can choose to eat it as an appetizer or a main course but either way I gobble it up every time.
Molokhia: This dish is not so pleasant on the eyes but once you get past the slimy looking texture it’s actually quite tasty and packed with a ton of vitamins. When I describe the dish to anyone I usually compare it to cooked Spinach as it has a big resemblance to it as well as a similar taste. In fact, it is commonly called Egyptian’s spinach which brings me to a little fun fact I learned; this dish dates back to the time of the pharaohs, when an Egyptian king drank it in soup to recover from an illness. Molokhia is commonly served with rice and/or chicken and sometimes just with Arabic bread. I prefer both ways especially with crispy chicken to eat along with it.
Warak Dawali: (Aka Stuffed Grape Leaves) This is another dish I never thought I would have liked at first but I now find myself asking my Mother-in-law to make it for me. Each leaf is filled with rice and a grounded up meat (we usually use beef) and then typically served with yoghurt as a dipping sauce. However, we do not make these too often as it is ridiculously time consuming rolling up rice and meat inside each individual grape leaf. In fact, we’ll be eating these tomorrow :D
Dessert Time: A Few of My Favorite Sweets
I’m finding a big pattern in most of the Arabic desserts I enjoy: they all have some sort of sweet cheese filling inside them with a sweet syrup sauce. These aren’t your typical cake and pie types of desserts but they will for sure still satisfy your sweet tooth.
Alkatayef: (Aka stuffed Arabic Pancakes) Pronounced as A-tie-if, this is my all-time favorite dessert that I have eaten here, and you can only find them during the month of Ramadan. You take a small pancake-like pastry, fill it with either a sweet cheese or nut mixture, seal them in half and then fry and cover with a sweet syrup sauce. It’s an amazing dessert and I plan on freezing quite a few for later on in the year.
Halawat El-Jibn Bil-Kishta: I’m in love with the texture of this dessert; it’s as if you’ve found a cheese-flavored marshmallow. I know that may sound a little gross but trust me it is amazing! You can find these little puff balls prepared a few different ways but I prefer them shaped as small balls and then dipped in sweet syrup and sprinkled with pistachio nuts.
Knafeh: This is an extremely popular dessert which is found throughout the year at special occasions such as an engagement party, graduation, etc. The dessert is made up of finely shredded phyllo dough on the top and bottom and then filled with a cheese filling (I told you all of these had something in common). This is also soaked in a sweet syrup sauce and you can usually find pistachios scattered along the top.