One of the things I like exploring during Ramadan is different cuisines. I especially enjoy experimenting with different iftar ideas from a diverse range of cultures. I find it exciting to connect with other cultures through this practice. I often reach out to my friends and ask them what they like to make for iftar, and we give it a try in our home.
I have found that every family has a specific routine for breaking their fast, and some have been passed down for generations. People hold their iftar routines very dear to their hearts. There is beauty in a family gathering over iftar after having submitted to Allah (swt) in the sincerest way all day–humbled by their hunger, brought together by their faith, and quietly making supplication as the relief of the first cold drink of water washes over them. That’s why I think people love their break-fast routines.
Whether you are just starting your own iftar routines for your family, or are open to adding different meals to your existing routine, this article has some great iftar food and drinks you can try from cultures around the world!
This flavorful and hearty soup is the perfect way to break your fast. It is packed with protein and delicious vegetables, and is very versatile when you don’t have all of the ingredients. The main ingredients of this soup are chickpeas, brown lentils, celery, and meat pieces. Added to the broth is tomato sauce, vermicelli, and a single egg. It is unlike any soup I have ever tasted! What really sets this soup apart for me is the dates that Moroccans add right before eating it. The sweetness within the tanginess and savoryness of the soup is just perfect! I follow this recipe, here.
I was definitely an adult when I realized that not every family breaks their fast with this sugary, berry flavored drink on the table. It was such an integral part of our iftar experience that it was difficult for me to imagine that others do not delight in the sugar-rush it brings. As I got older and learned about the effects of a sugar crash immediately when you break your fast, I began to avoid it. However, this sweet drink immediately reminds me of Ramadan (perhaps due to the heavy advertising in the Middle East that associates the two). If you have never had it, I think it is worth trying for sure! You can find it in most Arabic specialty stores, and it comes in a condensed form that can be thinned with water to your liking.
Fattah Bil Tamer (Bread with Dates)–Yemen
When I ask my Yemeni friend about Yemeni food, she introduces me to a world of absolutely delectable dishes. I love Yemeni food so much, and have found that Yemeni cooks are very talented (I, of course, learned this first-hand from my good friend). From a culture rich with food so filled with flavor that my mouth explodes at every bite, there is such a wide variety of iftar-specific food. I chose this one because, first of all, well, bread. And second of all, dates. This recipe literally has all of three ingredients: layered Yemeni bread, ghee, and pitted dates. The flavors blend together really well, and it is a great, filling dish to break your fast with. The layered Yemeni bread can either be made at home or bought at a Yemeni restaurant. Here is the recipe for the date dish, and the recipe for the Yemeni layered bread. In Yemen, iftar is usually served with Yemeni coffee, brewed with cinnamon and ginger as well.
Fried food seems to be something most cultures have in common during Ramadan. But pakoras are fried vegetables, so that’s okay, right? Either way, it’s a delicious appetizer and a great option for when you are in the mood for fried food. When my husband and I lived in South Asia, pakoras and samosas were two of our favorite things to eat. Made to a crispy perfection, this dish is both easy to make and satisfying to the taste buds. I personally also love a mint yogurt dish to dip the pakoras in as well. If you’ve never had pakoras, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for! Like all food from South Asia, you need to experience it to understand the craze. You can find it ready-made at most Pakistani/Indian restaurants. If you’re feeling brave, here’s a rather easy recipe to follow! A drink you will also see on a Pakistani iftar table is Rooh Afza–a sweet rose flavored drink, also usually diluted with water.
Bean Fritters- Nigeria
Speaking of fried food…this delectable dish is a staple in Northern Nigeria during iftar. The beans in this dish create a paste, and then are dipped in batter and deep fried. With different kinds of chilis, this fried dish is spicy, but not too salty (the key, I am told, is not to add a lot of salt). Though I’ve never had this personally, researching it after a good friend of mine told me about it, brought me to the conclusion that I need to add it to my list of Ramadan iftars. For an easy recipe of bean fritters, click here. Also popular in Nigeria, is a tamarind porridge made with different millets.
Let me tell you what it means growing up in a Syrian family–it means you know good food. Syrian food uses a lot of yogurt, garlic, and cilantro to enhance flavors. Kibbeh, in particular, comes in many forms and flavors, which is (yet again!) deep fried to perfection. The exterior is a mix of ground meat and bulgur wheat (really, really, really finely ground together), and the interior can be stuffed with meat, nuts, and pomegranate molasses. There are also potato kibbeh exteriors stuffed with a variety of fillings such as cheese, meats, and even chicken. Whatever variation you try, I guarantee it will be absolutely mind-blowing. Kibbeh is not an easy dish to make, but if you have a meat grinder, and are willing to give it a shot, here is a good recipe. Luckily, you may also be able to find ready-made frozen versions of this in Arabic stores. Though, be warned, they are not as good as freshly made ones.
These iftar dishes don’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to delicious ways to break your fast all over the Muslim world. From Eritrea to Turkey to Malaysia, the options are endless. If you or your family have a favorite dish, tell us about it and tag our Instagram page, @amwomenmag. Don’t forget to also tag us and let us know if you try any of these dishes out!
What are some of your must-have, traditional iftar meals?
Note: While many of the dishes we listed above are traditionally fried, they can also be baked for those looking for a healthier way to still enjoy these delicious foods.