As part of my Ramadan Around The World Series, I am pleased to share a post by blogger Iqra about Ramadan foods in Pakistan.
Ramadan is a very food-centric month in Lahore, Pakistan. Someone who is used to Lahore may not realize this, but visiting another Pakistani city makes you notice the conspicuous difference in the number of restaurants, snack stalls and street food sellers. Lahore definitely has a greater number, whatever way you look at it. Outsiders (and even Lahoris themselves) remark on how much Lahoris love to eat. Drive along any road in the main part of Lahore and you will see ten different places to eat out along the way. Come Ramadan and the eating out culture of the city is on steroids, pumped to the maximum and ready to sweep all the food lovers into its net.
If you think I am unfairly pointing out Lahore’s eating tendencies, just suggest a social gathering to a Lahori (for example, “let’s go meet a friend in the next neighborhood”) and mention that there won’t be food involved, and watch their reaction. That said, the focus of Ramadan is to recharge and rebuild spiritually, and Lahori Muslims are not left behind in the Pakistani routine of Ramadan when it comes to worship, but let’s just stick to food for this post, shall we?
Every Lahori man and child expects a laden table to meet their eyes when they come into the dining area of the house at the sound of the call to prayer, and every woman and girl who has to meet that expectation secretly wishes that they could get away with something simpler. Thankfully, we have a standard fast breaking meal at our house. The staples rotate between chaat (fruit salad), dahi baray (a bit difficult to explain–yogurt with mix-ins like boiled potatoes, onions and fried chickpea flour–yeah, I can see I’m losing you, it’s one of those things you have to experience to understand), and something fried. This “something fried” can range from French fries to pakoray (potatoes fried in chickpea flour batter), to unidentified fried objects. These UFOs can be fried eggplant, onions, spinach leaves, even little balls of leftover chickpea flour batter (if you’re paying attention you’ll have picked up that this particular flour is a big thing in this country).
The pre-dawn meal for a Lahori usually involves a paratha, which is basically a roti with a makeover involving oil or ghee, and a roti is basically flat wheat bread. For some reason we are convinced that having a heavy oily bread with some curry at the crack of dawn will give us staying power for the rest of the day. (Or maybe we just enjoy the one-month window of eating it guilt-free once in a year.) The weight-conscious or clean eaters stick to plain wheat bread (roti) and dare I say the ones who don’t have someone to make them bread at that hour opt for porridge, cereal, milk, leftover dinner or just a rushed gulp of water (in case they didn’t get up in time). In my family we usually have roti and something to go with it, like leftover dinner or yogurt.
Speaking of dinner, some families just have the pre-dawn and fast-breaking meals, others also have a regular dinner. The caffeine addicts also squeeze in tea somewhere in the day.
People usually aim to break their fast with a date, and if a date is not available, water. Usually there are a variety of options available to choose from for the beverage section of the iftar table. There’s lemonade, different types of syrups which can be mixed with water to form a sweet drink (the branded red colored syrups, sandalwood based ones, mango flavored, so on and so forth), milk mixed with a carbonated soft drink to make “doodh soda”, lassi (milk and yogurt mixed–sorry for not giving a more elaborate definition), and then the usual boxed juices and carbonated soft drinks.
Now, prepare yourself, because I am literally going to dump my poorly lit mobile photos of iftar meals on you. We can pretend you’re watching my Snapchat story in order to excuse the fact that it’s not in high definition.
Standard simple iftar, ready to go! Nearest to furthest: batter-fried French fries (can you guess what batter it is?), cream-loaded dates (another way to make an extra special date is to replace the pit with an almond, and if you want to take it to the next level, honey), a dish of pakora (potato version), and dahi baray (the yogurt dish–excuse me for not providing a close up).
This is a photo of a dish of savoury crepes and a bowl of the red-colored syrup sweet drink, from one of the days this Ramadan when my mother decided to surprise us with “something different to eat”.
This is an impromptu iftar for my mother who got a day off from preparing the meal, and went for a fruit platter for herself. Notice the chocolate that managed to sneak its way in.