Ramadan is just around the corner! What is Ramadan you ask? During the holy month of Ramadan Muslims are required to abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset. For the past few years, Ramadan has fallen in the summer, so it is crucial to stay hydrated and drink more between iftar and suhoor. Iftar is the meal to break the fast after sunset. Typically, people will enjoy dates, dried apricots and Ramadan juices, before heading to evening prayer. After that, large meals are the norm, usually with family and friends. Suhoor is a meal taken just before sunrise, before the day of fasting starts. All of the following are traditional Ramadan foods and drinks that can keep you up and running.
Jallab / جلاب
The popular nutritious drink native to Syria is also popular in the Levant during the holy month. It is made of dates, grape molasses and a touch of rose water, served cold with ice cubes and topped with pine nuts.
Erk sous / إرك سو
This drink is served cold throughout the year, but in Ramadan many people in the Levant countries and Egypt just can’t get enough of it. It is a black, mildly sweet and slightly bitter beverage made from the licorice root. Erk sous is put in special traditional containers made of copper or glass to keep it chilled.
Tamarind / تمر الدين or Tamer hindi / تمر هندي
Tamar Hindi or Indian dates is a very popular refreshing cold beverage in the Arab world. It tastes sour and is made by breaking the tamarind fruit, soaking it in water then sifting it. The juice is then sweetened with sugar, chilled and served cold.
Amar al din / قمر الدين
Probably the most popular Ramadan drink, amar al din, can be consumed during iftar or suhoor. It is a perfect way to start iftar as it contains enough sugar to boost the digestive system without over stimulating it. Made from either rolled dried apricot or dried apricot paste, amar al din contains digestive aids, metabolism regulators, vitamins, and other useful properties.
Sobia / سوبيا
Made by lightly fermenting brown bread, barley, spices and sugar, sobia can be white or dyed red. Very popular in Saudi Arabia, the drink is often sold in plastic bags by street vendors during the holy month.
Khoshaf / خُشاف
This sweet treat is essentially a fruit salad. It’s made of dried fruits, apricots, plums, figs, dates, and raisins. They are boiled together and the mix is sweetened to taste and flavored with rose water. Khoshaf is typically served in small portions, just to break the fast before sunset prayers and then the sit-down meal.
Dates and milk / Altamaru walhalib / التمر والحليب
Dates and milk are traditionally eaten right after the sunset call to prayer to break the fast. People begin their iftar by consuming the dried dates, which are put in milk overnight. While plain dates and a simple glass of milk are certainly traditional, it is also common to spice things up a bit by making fun and delicious recipes using stuffed dates.
Karkade / Alkrkdi / الكركدي
Refreshing hot or cold, and with a color that is as intense as the flavor, karkadeh is a sweet infusion made from the hibiscus flower. Karkadeh, which is a typical Ramadan drink, is also served for other occasions such as weddings. With a hearty iftar meal the cold version is preferred.
Carob juice / Kharoub / خروب
Kharoub or carob juice, is one of the most popular traditional drinks throughout the Arab world. In Libya, Sudan and Egypt, it’s the perfect cold beverage to consume during hot summer days and, of course, during Ramadan. The healthy and refreshing drink is rich in fibers, protein and antioxidants.
Qatayef / القطايف
Whether it’s closed qatayef or the smaller ones known as asafiri, these mini pancakes stuffed with cream and nuts are a Ramadan special in the Middle East. Ramadan is never complete without this gem.
Harees / الهريس
This dish goes back to the 17th century and can be found in different Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Dubbed “the master of the dinner table,” harees is a staple iftar dish. Harees, which means “mashed” or “squashed,” consists of mashed wheat often cooked with meat or chicken. These ingredients make harees a nutritious, filling meal full of protein and fibers – one that can sustain those fasting for long hours.
Sambousek / سمبوسك
An iftar table in the kingdom is never complete without these delicious fried dumplings that come stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. Sambousek originated in India where it is considered a snack or an appetizer and is usually eaten with soup or a yogurt-based sauce.
Fattoush salad / Sultat futush / سلطة فتوش
No one can resist the tangy taste of a fresh batch of fattoush, let alone during iftar! Arguably the national dish of Lebanon (along with tabouleh), fattoush is a healthy way to break the fast thanks to its fresh ingredients which include cucumber, tomatoes, radish, watercress and lettuce.
Harira soup / Shworbat harira / شوربة حريرة
After dates, soup is the best way to break your fast and this traditional Moroccan soup is a great and irresistible option. Harira ingredients include chickpeas, lamb meat, noodles, tomatoes and a lot of spices. It is believed that this soup used to be served on dinner tables in Andalusia.
Fattah / الفتاح
Not to be confused with the Levantine fatteh, this traditional dish is served mostly during the holy month of Ramadan in Egypt. Fattah is not a light dish as it packs volumes of flavor with ingredients like rice, beef, tomato sauce, vinegar and garlic.
These dishes are just a drop in the bucket of a wide variety of Ramadan culinary tradition. If you’re salivating over these dishes, why not try out a recipe? Your taste buds will thank you!