Eid al-Fitr is the three day Islamic festival of breaking the fast. It marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which muslims refrain from eating or drinking in the hours between sunrise and sunset. The beginning of Eid is signalled by the first sighting of the new moon, but kitchens all over the world will be ready and waiting. Friends and families will be coming together to celebrate, exchange gifts, pray and make charitable donations, but the main event is the feast. Often known as ‘the sweet Eid’ due to the proliferation of sugary snacks on offer, it’s usually a colourful, fragrant and lavish affair. Here’s a look at some of the best loved Eid al-Fitr dishes from around the world.
In the Arabian Gulf, harees is a bedouin dish that’s thought to have been prepared for thousands of years. Made with cracked wheat, salt and chicken or lamb, it is cooked slowly before being beaten to a porridge-like consistency with a wooden stick called a ‘midrib’. Served with lashings of ghee or clarified butter, harees is a celebration food that’s synonymous with Eid in the United Arab Emirates and the wider Gulf. In Levant countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, you’ll always find maamoul at Eid. These shortbread cookies are made with semolina flour and rosewater, stuffed with dates and pistachios, moulded into little balls and dusted off with icing sugar. Maamoul is often homemade, so the spicy aroma of baking cookies is a welcoming feature in many households during Eid.
In Morocco, the traditional Eid al-Fitr breakfast wouldn’t be complete without meloui. These crisp pancakes are made with semolina flour, butter and sugar, which is kneaded, moulded, rolled into a coil like a mini carpet, then flattened; a touch of yeast allows the dough to rise slightly during baking. For a savoury twist, sometimes meloui comes stuffed with khlea, a kind of preserved beef marinated in garlic, cumin and coriander. Kahk cookies are a staple feature of any Egyptian Eid celebration. These tasty cookies are stuffed with a sweet mixture of honey, ghee, walnuts and sesame seeds called agameya, and are thought to date back to the time of the Pharaohs.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi households all over the world will celebrate with a comforting bowl of seviyan kheer. The desert has its origins in Mughal cuisine, and combines roasted vermicelli with condensed milk, cardamom, pistachios, saffron and ghee, and can be served either hot or cold with a decoration of silver leaf. Seviyan may appear in various guises at Eid: sheer khurma adds dates and cashew nuts to the mix, while meethi seviyan omits the milk. In northern India, grilled meats, kebabs and deep-fried samosas will accompany a huge platter of yakhni pulao, a variety of fragrant mutton rice with cardamom, fennel seeds, cloves and black peppercorns. It is often served with a cooling cucumber yoghurt raita.
With the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia’s Eid al-Fitr celebration is known as Lebaran. A key feature of any Lebaran feast will be ketupat, which roughly translates as ‘packed rice’. A parcel of young palm leaves is neatly woven and folded around cakes of glutinous rice, which have been half-cooked in coconut milk. After steaming, the parcels are cut open and the rice cakes are served with beef rendang or opor ayam (chicken cooked in coconut milk). Wherever there’s an Eid celebration in China, there’s often sanzi (also known as sangza), or deep-fried noodles. They are most popular among the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang province in northern China, and consist of wheat-flour dough, pulled into long, thick noodles, which are then fried until crispy, and twisted into a conical shape like a pyramid.
In Turkey, Eid al-Fitr is often called Seker Bayram, or the sugar festival. And that means lots of baklava. The phyllo pastry delicacies are firmly rooted in Ottoman cuisine, and come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. Either which way you slice it, baklava usually involves thin layers of dough combined with walnuts, pistachios, almonds or hazelnuts, which are then slathered in honey syrup mixed with rosewater or orange blossom water. Thought to have originated in ancient Persia, Tufahije are apples stewed in sugar water, and are a key component of any Eid feast in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and throughout the Balkans. The apples are peeled, cored and poached, then stuffed with crushed walnuts and whipped cream, topped with cinnamon and served in the poaching liquid.