Eat, Pray and Love

Team Chronicle

Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The Islamic lunar calendar has 12 months but is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. As a result, each year, every Muslim festival gets advanced by about 11 days. This is considered a divine month because the Holy Quran was first revealed to Prophet Mohammad in this month. The objective of fasting has been aptly summed up in this Quranic verse: ‘Believers, fasting has been prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard yourself against evil.’ (2:183)

The aim of fasting is to diminish a person’s dependence on material things so that he may elevate himself to a higher level of pious living and inculcate humility, truth and honesty. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and refrain from eating or drinking anything (including water) during this period. Apart from this one has to restrain other faculties otherwise the fast might be rendered invalid. For example one must restrain oneself from listening, speaking, hearing or thinking negatively about others. By the mere observance of a fast, one becomes conditioned to leading a life of moral restraint.

The spirit behind fasting is to show empathy for those who are less fortunate and understand their problems. It is manifested through the concept of charity. It is said that if one gives away even a small amount in this month, he will get 70 times more blessings in return. Most Muslims give zakat, the mandatory 2.5% of their annual savings for charity in this month. All able bodied men, women and children who have reached puberty observe fast. Those who are sick are exempted from it. This annual observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

There are quite a few medical benefits of fasting. The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol and that of the systolic blood pressure, improved brain function and alertness due to higher brain cell production. It detoxifies the body and the energy usually used for digestion is diverted towards metabolism and strengthens the immune system.

The length of fast varies from city to city depending on the latitude and longitude of the place. In Calcutta it extends to more than 15 hours and in some places in Russia nearly 20 hours. Hence, it requires a lot of will powerand conviction.

The traditional pre-dawn meal called sehri is the most vital meal as it gives strength and vitality for the rest of the day. Observers get up in the dark to consume some food before starting their fast. For this meal, it is advisable to eat food which will release energy throughout the day and provide stamina. One can have high fibre and high protein food like apples (with skin), eggs, milk, cottage cheese, broccoli, spinach and chicken breasts.

The faithful break their fast at sunset which is called Iftaar. Neighbours, relatives and friends are invited to share this meal. This joyous get together always strengthens the ties between the community and promotes bonding and brotherhood.

Ramzan Delicacies

During the month of Ramzan, it is a well established tradition in every household that women would put their culinary skills in use and prepare different dishes with great enthusiasm. It adds a different but interesting angle to this holy month. Read on to discover the gastronomic experience that this month offers.

Nargisi Kofta

They are in the shape of an eye of narjis (narcissus flower). The kebab masala is added to the minced meat and mixed well. Halves of boiled eggs are coated with the mince mix only on one side so that egg white is visible. In Urdu literature, the beauty of a woman is expressed by referring to her eyes. Nargisi kofta sing paeans to beautiful and expressive eyes. It is a simple but exquisite dish and adds an interesting twist to the dastarkhan.


Ramzan is synonymous with many dishes and perhaps the most popular one is Haleem. It originated froman Arabic dish called Harisa and was perhaps introduced in India via Iran and Afghanistan during the Mughal era by the foreign soldiers. Over the centuries, it underwent several variations to suit the palate.

It is prepared from assorted lentils, soaked and broken wheat, spices and mutton. This dish is slow cooked for several hours, which results in a paste-like consistency, blending the flavours of spices, meat, barley and wheat. It is garnished with coriander leaves, slivers of ginger, green chillies and lemon slices. It is a high-calorie dish providing protein from the meat and fibre and carbohydrates from the various combinations of grains and pulses. Haleem can be served with chopped mint leaves, lemon juice, coriander leaves, fried onions, chopped ginger root or green chillies. It is extremely popular in Indian sub-continent and is usually eaten without any type of bread or rice.

The popularity of this dish can be gauged from the fact that during this holy month, Haleem is prepared in five-star hotels, popular restaurants and even small cart vendors. It is liked by the rozedars (those who fast) due to its energizing nature and high nutritional value. The popularity of Haleem has gone global with the opening up of couple of outlets in the United States and UAE and a Hyderabad-based restaurant got Geographical Indication (GI) status for Hyderabadi Haleem in 2010.

Shami Kebabs

Kebabs have always been an integral part of the daily diet of Indian royalty even as early as 1200 AD. This has been recorded by the famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta. But one of the all time favourite kebabs is Shami kebabs which is prepared extensively during this month. It consists of a small patty of minced or ground meat of mutton with ground chickpeas, egg to hold it together and few spices. It is usually eaten as a snack or an appetizer. Like Haleem, it is an extremely popular snack throughout the Indian sub-continent. Often garnished with lemon juice and served with sliced raw onions, the kebabs may be served with chutney made from mint or coriander.

Shahi Tukra

It is an extremely popular and tasty dessert but sinfully rich. Etymologically, the word ‘Shahi Tukra’ means pieces of royalty despite being a humble attempt to use leftover bread instead of throwing it away. Pieces of bread are fried till golden in ghee. Then they are soaked in sugar syrup and thickened milk. The milk is simmered to a thick and creamy consistency and then saffron is added. It is garnished with slivered almonds and pistachios. Khoa is added on top. It is eaten as a dessert and usually served at room temperature. But those who mind their calories should stay away from this delicious sweet dish.