As Ramadan comes to an end and celebrations are to commence marking the end of the month long Muslim tradition of fasting, a dark shadow follows the Muslim celebration of Eid this year. Eid is equivalent to a Christmas celebration for Muslim people and festivities are grand.
However, this year on the brink of Eid celebrations and during the last few precious days of Ramadan, saboteurs have been leaving a trail of destruction in dominantly Muslim countries (Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq), killing innocent people and even destroying Mosques (Muslim place of prayer). As Saudi Arabia sights the moon and declares Wednesday the first day of Eid, three suicide bombers have struck its cities near the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and a Shia mosque in Qatif city. In the meantime, some Eid-al-Fitr festivals in the UK have been cancelled in fear of protests or violence.
Nevertheless, despite the looming sadness over this joyous occasion, Muslims around the world have not stopped their lives and will not sit at home locked up in fear either. Afghans are making ready for days of feasting with a cornucopia of nuts and spices. Mountains of tea, dried fruit and cakes, golden saffron, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and cashews are precariously tumbled into wide, flat dishes on street corners in Kabul. Crowds in the bazaars stock up on favorites such as “simian” — crispy noodles spiced with saffron, marking the end of Ramadan with traditions that have survived nearly 40 years of tormented conflict.
Eid shopping is in full swing in much of the world. Eid denizens of Islamabad, Pakistan are shopping their hearts out at various shopping centers across the city. Both the affluent and the impoverished can be seen at shops, looking keenly for a good deal or two. Hyderabad, a very old city in India with significant Muslim influence, teems with shoppers ahead of Eid. At a time when the city welcomes Monsoons, Eid sales were not expected to flourish this year, yet this week has been dry and shoppers are taking advantage of this weather.
For this Monsoon season Eid-al-Fitr, I say my prayers for those that we have lost and give my condolences to those that have lost, and I take a deep breath in the midst of storms we swim in… exhale…. humans are resilient…let’s choose to live each and every day as if it is the only day!
So, let’s celebrate! If you ask a Muslim what traditional Eid food is, the answer will vary since Muslims are a diverse lot, and food is very cultural. One food that has travelled across much of the Muslim world is a sweet orange pretzel like dessert called Jalebi. Also called, Zulbia, it is a sweet popular in countries of South Asia, the West Asia, and North Africa. We know that this sweet item has travelled across the Muslim world and many cultures as the word Jalebi is a corruption of the Arabic Zulabiya or the Persian Zalibiya, the name for a similar dish. The dish was brought to Medieval India by the Persian-speaking invaders. In 15th century India, Jalebi was known as Jalavallika. Sanskrit work dating before 1600 CE, lists the ingredients and recipe of the dish, which are identical to the ones used to prepare the modern Jalebi.
Jalebi is made by deep-frying a wheat flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. They are particularly popular in South Asia during Ramadan. The sweets are served warm or cold. They have a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating. Citric acid or lime juice is sometimes added to the syrup, as well as rose water, but I’m opting to add a mango flavor to this dish in efforts to contribute to this month’s project – Monsoon Mangoes. Jalebi is extremely sweet and I think a little extra sweet is much needed to soften the bitter sweets hovering of this Eid-al-Fitr. The manog flavoring gives it just the subtle tang that offsets this extra sweet dessert.
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
few strands saffron
1/4 teaspoon mango essence
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon gram flour
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup fresh mango pulp strained (you can use canned mango pulp)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
ghee (clarified butter)
- Mix flours, yogurt, and baking powder. Cover the batter and set it aside at room temperature for 24 hours to ferment.
- The next day prepare your syrup by adding sugar and water to a pot and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved and reached a slightly thicker consistency. Remove from heat and add saffron and mango essence. Set aside for later.
- When ready to fry, add mango pulp to the batter and mix well.
- Transfer batter to a clean, empty squeezable bottle or plastic bag (preferably piping bag).
- Heat the ghee in a pan.
- Make randomly coiled circles by squeezing the batter out of the bottle into the hot ghee. Fry until golden and add to the sugar syrup, soak for 15-20 minutes.
- Serve warm or cold.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream for a delectable dessert.