Ramadan is one of the most sacred religious events among Muslims, who fast from sunrise to sundown for an entire month. The practice aims at building character, resolve, and stoicism amongst the devotees of Islam. Roza (the fast) is broken every evening with a communal meal, the Iftar, traditionally with dates, milk, and water. Over many centuries, the Iftar meal has come to feature some of the best culinary celebrations of the Muslim community. In India, Iftar is a celebrated affair not just among the believers of Islam, but among most non-vegetarian food lovers. Haleem and Harees are India’s most favorite meat preparations during the holy month. While the savory offerings of India’s Iftar are delectable, today I want to highlight my 5 favorite Iftar Sweets that you must try at least once in your life:
The Phirni is one of the most popular sweets of Iftar meals. This Pudding is made with coarsely ground rice. While the recipe is close to the Kheer or Payasam, the Phirni has a thicker consistency and has more nuts, cardamom, and saffron flavors. This creamy, delicious pudding is usually baked and chilled in clay pots that absorb the moisture and thicken the pudding, adding incredible richness to the dessert.
Umm Ali is every bit the exotic little dessert that it sounds like. It has an Egyptian origin and literally means “Ali’s Mother”. The legendary dessert has a fascinating and slightly violent history. A certain Mansur Ali, son of Aybak, of Egypt avenged his father’s murder and his mother’s torture by killing his treasonous stepmom. He then celebrated his revenge by ordering Umm Ali to be made and distributed across all of Cairo. This special bread pudding is infused with pistachios, coconut flakes, cream, raisins, and sugar. It melts in the mouth and is divine in every way possible.
Sheer Khurma is also a very popular sweet available at Iftar meals. The name literally means milk with dates. Vermicelli is fried in clarified butter. Then milk (sheer) is added and the vermicelli is allowed to cook further. As the mixture thickens, sugar and dates (Khurma) are added along with other dried fruits. This special dish is served on the morning of Eid day in the family after the Eid prayer as breakfast, and throughout the day to all the visiting guests.
Khobani ka Meetha
Khobani is Urdu for Apricots. Khobani ka Meetha is a Hyderabadi dessert made with dried apricots. Apricots possibly made their way to India during Alexander’s time, since his entourage was obsessed with the fruit. For centuries, Khobani ka Meetha was strictly a royal dessert, since the imported, easily perishable, dried and preserved fruit was too expensive for commoners.
Preparation of the dish involves boiling apricots with syrup until they assume the consistency of a thick soup or compote. The dessert is topped with blanched almonds or apricot kernels and is traditionally garnished with malai, custard or ice-cream – although the real connoisseurs would advise you to stick to cream.
This sweet with a funky name is my absolute favorite on this list. It is a Bohri delicacy that I hear is pretty hard to prepare. This literally peerless cake baked with mawa, ghee, sugar, semolina, nutmeg and dry fruits, is a divine gastronomic experience. It is believed that the best Aflatoon in India is available at Suleman Mithaiwala’s in Mumbai. This amazing dessert can also be made into a biscuit and has found mention is Sadat Hassan Manto’s My Name is Radha. The biscuit version of the dessert is celebrated in Ahmedabad more than Mumbai. Just a word to the wise, it is very difficult to finish even a thin slice of this lip-smacking sweet!
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