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Iftaar delights

From nihari to date cakes, city eateries are giving a gourmet spin to Ramzan dining this season. Happy feasting!

india Updated: Jul 28, 2012 00:59 IST
Zofeen Maqsood

Something nice has happened to slick city restaurants that usually offer pre-set menus and stick to uptight protocol. For the ongoing holy month of the Islamic calendar called Ramzan, many eateries in the city have turned into cosy dining places that offer the warmth of home-style community feasting with their elaborate iftaar menus.

Traditionally, as practising Muslims the world over observe dawn-to-dusk fasting during this month, the feeling of hospitality and banquet carnivals comes alive. In keeping with the spirit of the festivities, several restaurants are adding an extra something not just to the good old iftaari (the post-sunset meal that breaks the fast) but also to suhoor (the pre-dawn meal eaten before embarking on the fast). Just as it’s now common to find navratra thalis and other such festive food offered at eateries, iftaar menus are being promoted in a big way this season.

From take-away joints dishing out nihari late into the night so it can be had as a pre-dawn meal to bakers specially crafting date cookies and apple-cinnamon bundt cakes for suhoor and restaurants rustling up three-course meals comprising iftaar, dinner and desserts, the choices are now varied.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/7/28-07-12-pg-13a.jpg

“Sometimes, it’s the ritual of having food that makes it memorable. We want everyone – even those who are not fasting – to come and experience the spirit of Ramzan. We encourage people to come in groups of family and friends, as is the custom, and enjoy a wholesome iftaar prepared by our chefs,” says Poonam Malhotra, owner-chef, Café Turtle.

Clearly, many restaurants are attempting to make the iftaar a personal experience. “We want our guests to come and enjoy the iftaar just as they would do at their homes,” says Chef Vikas Mudgal of Dum Affairs in South Extension who recommends that diners do away with the pretensions of forks and spoons and enjoy the house dum biryani with their fingers. “The idea is to eat in a community as if nobody is looking over their shoulders as it typically happens in households,” he says.

Many eateries are also doing custom-made services for the month.

Rajesh Sharma, executive sous chef at The Grand says, “A middle-eastern style Ramzan menu is readily available on request which includes staple dishes such as the shish tawouk, hummus and muhamarra and traditional desserts such as umm Ali and baklava.” Chefs are also looking for recipes that are best suited for the body after a day of starving.

“Ramzan is a month of arduous fasting and the extreme heat nowadays would test anyone’s endurance,” says Sharma as he lists the hotel’s special menu for the festive season. “We are offering special kimya dates with which to break the fast. These give instant energy. We also cook the high-protein shorbeh or lentil soup with which Iraqis break their fast. Then, there is our timman z’affaran, which is rice pilaf, and the kebab iroog typical of Iraqi cuisine where the kebabs are fried rather than barbecued,” he says.

Ravindar Kumar, chef, Over the Top restaurant, says, “We serve fruit and coconut milk followed by jackfruit kebabs to break the fast. While the drink is replenishing, the vegetarian kebabs ensure there is no excess of meat during the season.”

Bakerwee, an online bakery that delivers, is doing mini lemon bundt cakes and teacakes while Dessert Carte, another home delivery service is offering date oat cake, dates and chocolate pancake, banana and walnut fritters with yogurt cream cheese that can be ordered a day in advance for suhoor meals.

“Just as Ramzan aims to cleanse mind and body, we are doing meals that detoxify,” says Malhotra of Café Turtle.

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