Eid-ul-Fitr or the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ signifies the end of Ramadan or Ramzan – the month of fasting – and is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Muslims believe that the Prophet received his revelations during the month of Ramadan. Eid-ul-Fitr is traditionally celebrated on the day of the first sighting of the crescent moon after Ramzan ends.
During the month, however, pious Muslims fast the entire day. Daily meals include Sehri (or Suhoor), the pre-dawn meal before fasting begins, and Iftar, the evening meal with which they end their fast. Here are some traditional dishes from different parts of India to celebrate Eid. Some of these yummy delicacies are even eaten during Sehri or Iftar.
The pre-dawn meal (Sehri) is the most important meal during Ramzan. Start your day with Pheni, a traditional semolina, flour, butter and sugar dough that is deep fried in ghee and served in milk. Pheni is digested slowly and therefore keeps you from feeling hungry until sunset.
Also made for Sehri is the Khajla from Bengal. A fried, hollow puri-like bread that is crumbled and eaten with hot milk is a foodie’s delight. The combination of hot milk and crunchy puri is delightful! While parathas and Shami Kebabs are also served during Sehri, most people prefer to make a quick meal in the little time that they have. Traditional foods like Pheni and Khajla are therefore making a comeback.
Kerala’s Moplah community celebrate Eid with gusto. Thin, flaky rice and coconut pancakes known as ‘ari pathiri’ are a huge draw, especially when served with mutton cooked in a traditional coconut gravy.
From the land of the Nawabs comes the Galouti kebab. Finely ground meat is marinated with unripe papayas and a unique mix of spices. These ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ kebabs are always a huge draw at any Iftar party.
Easily digestible, rich in protein and very filling, variations of Haleem are available in many states. In Mumbai, you would probably know it as Khichda. However, Hyderabadi chefs tweaked the original version to offer devout rozdaars and food connoisseurs a dish that definitely tickles the taste buds. This mixture of mutton, broken wheat (or rice / barley) lentils, ghee and spices, is traditionally cooked over several hours over woodfire. It is continually stirred with a wooden paddle that pounds the meat until the ingredients combine into a rich, thick stew. Haleem is a one-pot meal that can be eaten by itself. Hyderabadi Haleem was the first Indian meat dish to receive a Geographical Indication (GI) certification.
Mumbai’s Mohammed Ali Road is especially busy during the month of Ramadan. The street is lined with eateries offering everything from Shami Kebabs to Sheermal and Seviyan. However, if you have a chance, do sample a plate of Nalli Nihari – a slow-cooked meat stew that takes several hours in the pot before it reaches the desired taste and texture. This rich tender stew with its delicately spiced gravy is best eaten with flaky khameeri roti or even plain, steamed rice. This is sometimes served during Sehri as well. Traditional Nalli Nihari chefs use ‘taar’ – a little leftover Nihari – in their next day’s pot in order to achieve that unique flavor.
This deceptively rich dessert is also known as Double ka Meetha. Simple to make, Shahi Tukda consists of deep-fried bread quarters in a milk-based syrup, garnished with slivers of nuts. It’s best served chilled.
A ground-rice and milk dessert that resembles a pudding, Phirni is rich, creamy and delicately sweetened. Traditionally served chilled in earthenware pots, Phirni is garnished with slivers of blanched almonds and pistachios.
The Indian version of the pancake is decadent and delicious. Malpuas are deep-fried in ghee, dipped in sugar syrup, garnished with slivers of blanched nuts and served with rabri.
Quite literally ‘milk with dates’, this rich, creamy vermicelli dessert is cooked in milk and sweetened with dates and sugar. Sheer khorma is sometimes served during Sehri as well.
TUnlike Sheer Khorma (which is a variation of the seviyan), Seviyan is a ‘dry’ dish. Vermicelli, well-roasted in ghee, is cooked in cardamom or rose-water flavoured sugar syrup (or milk) until dry. It is served hot or cold, garnished with slivers of blanched, ghee-roasted almonds, pistachios, cashew and raisins.