During Ramadan, Muslims break their fast at sunset with a meal called Iftar.
There are lots of Iftar parties, restaurants offer special Iftar menus, and it’s generally a time when you eat a lot of food, which is understandable if you’ve been fasting all day.
But for most Americans, who go about their day eating as they normally would, and then go to an Iftar, this when they start to pack on the pounds if they’re not careful (myself included).
The fast is traditionally broken with dates,* and the other food that is served varies depending on where you are, but there seems to usually be a good amount of fried food.
Nate and I were invited to an Iftar at the home of a Bangladeshi friend, and we’ve also been to some restaurant Iftars. As you might expect, the home-cooked Iftar was hands-down the best.
Our friend and her family made fried meat and potato fritters, fried eggplant, fried pastries filled with cheese, fried lentil fritters, and fried semonlina fritters that tasted like Bangladeshi hush puppies. She also made Vietnamese spring rolls, which were just amazing. They served homemade limeade, made from the limes grown on their rooftop, and freshly made lassi, a sweet yogurt drink.
I ate more than my fill, only to discover that this was just the Iftar meal, and dinner was still to come. So then I ate some really tasty chicken and rice. I had flashbacks to hram in Moldova, which is a several-day celebration in each village, town and city in Moldova celebrating the name day for that locality’s patron saint. You’d go from one party to the next, where you were expected to basically do nothing but eat.
A few nights ago we went to an Iftar party at Heritage, an Indian restaurant. We were served Iftar plates, full of dates, fruit and fried food, and then there was a buffet dinner. The halim, a spicy lentil stew with chunks of meat which is traditionally served for Iftar, was tasty and not too greasy.
A traditional Iftar dessert (following in the “fried food” theme) is jilapi, which is basically like if you made a funnel cake and it didn’t expand while it was being fried, and then you soaked it in sugar syrup. It’s crunchy, sweet, and you can’t tell when you bite into it if it’s grease or syrup that’s dripping down your chin.
It’s interesting going to restaurants right before Iftar because the restaurant will be packed, and there will be loads of food and drinks at every table, but no one is touching anything. When I sit down at a restaurant, I always reach for something to drink and it’s hard to see it in front of me, but to not drink it. I can’t even imagine how those that have been fasting all day must feel.
We tried Nando’s Iftar platter, and it was way overpriced, cold, and blah. I think it will be a while before I go back to Nando’s because that experience was scarring.
There were lots of restaurants with Iftar specials that we wanted to try, but we just didn’t have time (or pants that would fit if we kept eating out every night). Luckily, there’s always next year!