I can imagine that many families make a big deal of the first day of fast during Ramadan and particularly the Iftar or breaking of fast at sunset. Traditionally in countries like Bahrain, Pakistan or Bangladesh you will see tables full of food during Iftar. The Iftar will have various dishes of fritters and sweet and savories that are typically only served during this time of the year.
As today is the first day of fast and the first Iftar that families will have together I decided to feature something sweet and simple that comes from a small country, Bangladesh. Bangladesh may be one of the smallest countries in the world and still unfamiliar to many in the western hemisphere, however, for a tiny little country which is slightly greater than the state of New York, the country has a population equal to half that of the United States or 8 times the population of New York State. With population being so high and living space so little, you can imagine that poverty is also high. During Ramadan, the people of this country take the time to be more generous and hold Iftar to feed those who otherwise may not even have water to break their fast. Bangladesh is a Muslim country although the state does not enforce fundamental Islamic practices on its people, most everyone will fast, even the poor and those who perform hard physical labor all day long for work. Keep in mind that the cycle rickshaws are the most popular modes of transport in Bangladesh and are available for hire throughout the country, so over one million employed rickshaw drivers will cycle through the cities hauling people all day long and then break fast at sunset. Don’t they deserve a special meal at the end of the day?
With a population as such, Bangladesh has its own distinctive flavors when it comes to food and the cooks of this country will take you to a whole new dimension when it comes to kebab, biryani or any of its fresh sweets and deserts. What I have for you today is very specific to Bangladesh and not a variation of something that you may find in India or Pakistan. Kela Pitha – kela means banana and the best translation I can find for pitha is a fritter. This is something along the lines of a cross between a banana pancake and banana fritter. It comes from the villages of Bangladesh and tends to be a desert or sweet snack served often in the winter time as well as during special occasions like pre-wedding celebrations and of course Iftar. It is very simple to make, so at the end of the day if you are very hungry and can’t figure out what to make, it’s easy to grab a couple of bananas and whip this up. It is also great for when you have one too many ripe bananas that you don’t know what to do with.
Bangladeshi Banana Fritters – Kela Pitha
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
oil for frying
Mix together all the ingredients except for the oil.
Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan. Drop one tablespoon of batter into the oil at a time and fit as many drops of batter into your pan as you can without allowing the drops to touch. Fry each side until it’s brown about 2 to 3 minutes over medium low heat. Remove from the oil and allow oil to drain on a paper towel before serving.