In June, nearly two billion Muslims will come together with family and friends to celebrate the end of the month of Ramadan. To ready you for the occasion, we’re going to take a short culinary tour to find out what Muslim communities around the world enjoy during the festive season of Eid al-Fitr (known as Hari Raya Aidilfitri in much of Southeast Asia). Some of these dishes are also commonly found during Eid al-Adha (or, as we know it, Hari Raya Korban).
Lamb Ouzi Rice
We begin our journey in the Middle East. “Ouzi” is Lebanese for rice, but don’t get confused: this dish is enjoyed far beyond the borders of modern Lebanon, and consists of much more than rice. Expect to find a host of spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg, for example – and braised lamb that has been roasted to sear the juices.
Many cultures in the Middle East have variants of the dish but the essential elements are the same: slow-cooked lamb that is served with rice, nuts and raisins. In Iraq, it is typically prepared by stuffing the lamb with rice and spices, and then baking it in an oven. Some other methods call for burying the meat in a pit to give it a smoky flavour. Meanwhile, cooks in the United Arab Emirates tend to wrap the meat in date palm leaves before cooking it in an oven. In North Africa, the dish is cooked in a clay oven known as tabun. If you’re up for something different this festive season, try your own version of ouzi here. Serve it with a side of cucumber or mint yoghurt – the perfect accompaniment to any lamb dish.
Fancy a break from rice? Then chicken pastilla is the Hari Raya dish for you. Widely associated with Morocco, pastilla is often described as a North African meat pie. Traditionally made with squab or fledgling pigeons, this savoury dish mixes both Moorish and modern influences. Kitchens serving it today typically use shredded chicken, although offal or fish are common alternatives. Often considered a main meal, the pastilla is served as an appetiser to mark the start of special feasts like Eid al-Fitr. Some recipes employ a filo-styled pastry, with butter-covered layers added one on top of the other, but to keep it authentic you can try your hand at making a warqa pastry. Warqa is sometimes called a brick pastry, and the traditional technique involves dabbing the sticky dough on a hot pan. The cooking method requires a little practice to perfect, so this recipe advises a more simple method of painting the batter on to the pan. If you really want to impress your guests this Hari Raya, try this pastilla recipe.
In Central Asia, sangza is a snack often eaten during festive occasions such as Eid al-Adha and marks the end of harvest and sacrifice in this particular region. Based on this Uzbek recipe, it is made out of milk, butter, sugar and flour. The dough is rolled out into noodle-like strips and shaped or twisted into rings before being deep fried. Eaten with yoghurt or spicy dips made out of chilli and garlic, it is also a popular snack in Xinjiang, the region of China that is home to much of the country’s Muslim population. Once cooked, the snacks are stacked up on a pyramid as high as three to four feet and eaten informally. Feel free to snap them off and eat them plain or with a dipping sauce.
A special Egyptian biscuit that appears not only during Eid al-Fitr but also Easter and Christmas, kahk offers a deliciously sweet ending to a sumptuous festive meal. These cookies are typically made from spices, flour and nuts, and then dusted with powdered sugar, but alternative ingredients include walnuts and honey. Kahk can also be exchanged as gifts at parties or weddings.
They are made from special, traditional moulds that are passed down from generation to generation, and the baking is done communally. Historically, bakers made kahk moulds with the words “kol wishukr” (“eat and say thank you”) printed on them. Learn how to make your own kahk with this recipe.
Eaten by hand, this flour pudding is popular in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Asida is made from cooked wheat flour, sometimes with butter or honey added, and then eaten with a sauce that varies depending on the local custom. In Sudan, for example, it’s a savoury tomato sauce, while Libyans might eat it with a date syrup. Traditional recipes sometimes also call for flour made from lightly grilled barley. The rich offering is also served up during childbirth or traditional ceremonies like the Aqiqah, when a newborn baby’s hair is cut seven days after birth. Because of the high carbohydrate content, it’s also considered to be an energy food suitable for women in labour.