Taking a culinary trip for iftar: Pakistan edition

BY AATIKA AHMED – AYLA COŞKUN

 ISTANBUL FOOD APR 18, 2021 12:32 PM GMT+3

Garam garam pakora (mixed vegetable fritters) photographed at Bombay Street Food in Washington, DC, Dec. 13, 2018. (Getty Images).

Instead of turning inward and sticking strictly to Turkish recipes, why not take a food journey to the Asian world of Ramadan cuisine from the comfort of your own home to try these three easy recipes?

In the past, we have shared with you many typically Turkish recipes and traditions or customs Turks have for Ramadan but there are so many Muslims worldwide, from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia, and each culture comes with its own practices and preferences for celebrating this holy month.

To break away from the oh-so-traditional this year, we dived into a light fast-breaking to help you ease into Ramadan and fasting after not eating for hours and this week, we’re bringing in a more international voice in a spin-off from our mostly-Turkish perspective.

Fried onion pakora is a great tea-time and iftar snack. (Shutterstock Photo)
Fried onion pakora is a great tea-time and iftar snack. (Shutterstock Photo)

I am pleased to say that we have Aatika Ahmed on board to authentically share her cultural richness with all of us, all the way from Pakistan! I was interested in a typically Pakistani Ramadan iftar table but reading through a slew of blogs with no idea if they were even doing it justice, I just had to go to the source itself. Like how we collected and compiled the best for our Thanksgiving menu and asked our American friends to authenticate recipes and offer valuable insight, this time we leave the stage to Aatika:

Pakora

Despite promising myself to eat healthy this month, I make an exception for pakoras. After all, few if any Pakistani households go without them during Ramadan. Pakoras are deep-fried vegetables dipped in a spicy batter and served hot. There are many variations of this snack but I am going to share the recipe of my favorite kind: potato pakora, commonly known as “aalu pakoras” in Pakistan. They are often made for iftar and can be served with mint and coriander raita (spicy yogurt) or any other type of chutney.

Here is a basic recipe for this delicious goodness:

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • 60 grams gram flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed (optional)
  • Water
  • Oil

Instructions

The potatoes you select should be round and thick as you need to cut them into slices that are thin enough to cook through during frying. Place the gram flour in a bowl and add in the red chili powder, salt and crushed coriander seeds. Add in water, a little at a time, and churn to make a batter. Make sure the mixture does not get too watery because the batter has to stick to the slices. It should resemble pancake batter.

Aalu pakoras are a great appetizer and a scrumptious iftar staple. (Shutterstock Photo)
Aalu pakoras are a great appetizer and a scrumptious iftar staple. (Shutterstock Photo)

Heat up the oil on a stove and once it starts bubbling, dip your sliced potatoes into the batter one at a time, and add it to the wok. Cook on a low or medium flame till the potatoes are golden brown on the outside. They will fluff up and that’s exactly what you want.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked pakoras, and drain on a kitchen towel to remove excess oil. Once you have mastered this basic recipe, you can try using other vegetables like sliced onions, spinach whole leaves and brinjal.

Note: Gram flour is made of chickpeas and unfortunately cannot be substituted with normal flour. If you can’t get your hands on the real deal, you can always try to make your own at home with a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle, if you want to go for a more labor-intensive version.

Sweet, spicy and tangy: Chola chaat

Spicy chickpea salad is a traditional iftar staple that offers a refreshing break from the high-caloric snacks that are normally served during Ramadan. Chola chaat is also a favorite tea time snack and is often the easiest thing to serve unannounced guests. It is usually served cool.

Chola Chaat is a traditional iftar staple that is both nutritious and filling. (Shutterstock Photo)
Chola Chaat is a traditional iftar staple that is both nutritious and filling. (Shutterstock Photo)

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of boiled chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 medium boiled potatoes
  • 3 green chilies
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind pulp or 1 teaspoon of tamarind powder
  • 1 teaspoon of red chilies

Instructions

Cooking chickpeas can take a bit of time so you might want to cook them ahead and throw them into the freezer, ready to be defrosted and used in your recipes. If not, letting them rest in water for at least a night will drastically reduce your cooking time.

While the chickpeas are boiling, also bring the potatoes to a boil until they have softened. Peel them and cut them into cubes. Clean the onions, tomatoes and green chilies and chop them finely. Once the chickpeas and potatoes have cooled off mix in all the ingredients, add your spices and serve.

Tip

This salad is often served garnished with “papdi,” a deep-fried flour crispy, akin to a cracker.

A refreshing drink to wash it down: Rooh Afza

Rooh Afza is an integral part of iftar in Pakistan, so much so that right before Ramadan there is often a shortage of the ruby red sherbet. It is really simple to make and is served ice cold, quenching your thirst after a long day’s fast. Rooh Afza itself is a brand but has a great nostalgic value, and you can easily buy it online – even in Turkey. The drink itself is concentrated squash (meaning it has quite a lot of sugar) and has been around for literally over a century.

For a cold refreshing drink, try Rooh Afza. (Shutterstock Photo)
For a cold refreshing drink, try Rooh Afza. (Shutterstock Photo)

Here are two ways that you can make the drink:

Option 1

  • 2 tablespoons Rooh Afza Syrup
  • 300 milliliters water
  • ice cubes, optional

Option 2

  • 1 tablespoon Rooh Afza syrup
  • 200 milliliters milk
  • 100 mililiters cold water

You’ll just need to mix and stir all the ingredients to make it, easy as that! Garnish it with slivered almond and crushed pistachios and voila, the sherbet is ready to adorn your iftar table.

source Taking a culinary trip for iftar: Pakistan edition | Daily Sabah

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