16 May 7 Traditional Iftar Foods From Around the Arab World
Ramadan is the most important and sacred month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast from dawn (Fajr) to sunset (Maghrib), i.e. will abstain from eating any food and drinking any fluids – yes, chewing gum is not permitted either! Ramadan has always been a cherished and eagerly awaited month for all Muslims around the world. Arabs have always regarded Ramadan as a “visiting guest” – a guest that visits once every year; that’s what makes it so special and welcomed in with celebrations, joy, and excitement.
Despite the significance of fasting and the customs and morals behind it, food had always played an integral part in celebrating the Holy Month. The daylong fasting includes indulgence of an evening meal at Maghrib time that ends the fast called iftar. While some people try to keep their Ramadan very light, others opt for a table full of delectable foods when they break their fast.
For the duration of the month, iftar has to be the most awaited meal that people look forward to and it is usually broken with a sip of water, dates, and yogurt. Dates are the traditional staple food item in Ramadan and beginning the iftar meal with 2-3 dates is not only symbolic but also very beneficial as it provides a quick kick of energy after the daylong fasting.
What about the big meal? Well, get ready to tickle your taste buds with the below scrumptious Ramadan dishes from 7 different authentic Arab cuisines, each with a unique taste and flavor.
Harees – UAE
A traditional bowl of Harees is considered a daily Ramadan tradition in the UAE. This ancient and very popular iftar dish is also one of those cultural dishes that you’ll find served at every special occasion in the Gulf region. Simple, tasty and rich – Harees is porridge of whole wheat (called hab harees) and meat blended up and cooked slowly together to form a thick and sticky paste-like consistency. Harees in the Emirati dialect comes from the Arabic word mahroos which translates to mashed.
Harira – Morocco
This flavourful, fiber and protein-rich soup is traditionally eaten by Moroccans for iftar and it is especially popular in Ramadan. Harira is a tomato-based soup made of lentils, chickpeas, and meat (lamb or beef).
Shorbet Adas – Iraq
Ramadan isn’t Ramadan without a hearty Iraqi shorbet adas (red lentil soup) which is an iftar table must. It’s quick, nutritious and very easy to make. It is literally served every day for the duration of Ramadan for most Iraqis. Meatballs, carrots, and vermicelli noodles are sometimes added to the basic soup to make it even more of a filling perfect meal!
Mahshi – Egypt
One of the most common dishes during the Holy Month, Mahshi or the Egyptian version of assorted rice stuffed vegetables is definitely a family favorite for iftar. Vine leaves, eggplants, marrows, and capsicum peppers are all used to make mahshi and are either cooked together or separately. In Arabic, mahshi means stuffed.
Sambusa – Saudi Arabia
Sambusa or sambusak (samosa) is a staple of the iftar menu for Saudis and it is normally eaten after breaking the fast with dates as an appetizer before the big iftar meal. The popular iftar-delight crispy parcels are made of filo pastry or a homemade dough with either cheese, minced meat, or mixed vegetable filling.
Mahshi Melfouf – Lebanon
Similar to the famous Lebanese stuffed grape leaves, melfouf or stuffed cabbage rolls is a mouth-watering traditional dish of rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with a rice and ground meat filling. The word melfouf can mean both cabbage and rolled. Sometimes, the stuffed cabbage rolls are layered on top of small pieces of beef steak to give the dish extra richness.
Mansaf – Jordan
This family meal is traditionally served in one large dish and customarily eaten with one’s right hand and not with a spoon. Mansaf is a signature Ramadan Jordanian dish that is made with rice and either lamb or chicken. The meat is cooked in dried yogurt, served on a bread-thin Arabic bread and garnished with fried almonds or pine seeds.
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