Iftar dinners are a big part of Ramadan. It is often done as a community, with families, friends, neighbors and even strangers coming together to break their fast together and enjoy delectable, flavorful food.
The food varies between different cultures and contributes to the richness and uniqueness of the iftar meal.
Traditionally, the fast is broken with dates or something small at sundown. Often, fasters will break the daily fast with dates or a small bit of food, pray the evening prayer, and then eat a full Iftar meal.
Here is a list of different countries and how the Muslims of different countries break their fast or what is commonly known as Roza
In India, Muslims break their fasts with family and friends, with most Mosques also arranging free Iftar for the fasters. Preparations for Iftar usually start hours before sundown.
The spread of Iftar can be grand, with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, along with a variety of beverages such as – Haleem (a very popular dish which is made of wheat, barley, meat, lentils, and spices. It is slow cooked for 7 – 8 hours), Nonbu Kanji (a filling rice dish of porridge consistency cooked for hours with meat and vegetables), samosas, pakoras, kababs, Rooh – Afza sherbet, faloodas and so much more!
Iftar in Pakistan is usually heavy – similar to India – consisting mainly of sweet and savory treats such as chicken rolls, spring rolls, shami kababs, chana chaat, dahi balay, jalebi and so on.
In the northern part Laghman soup ( it is a flavorful noodle soup. The aromatic broth is filled with vegetables and lamb strips.) locally known as Kalli or Dau Dau is an iftar staple.
Bangladesh, where the community consists of Bengali Muslims also follow a wide variety of food is prepared to break the fast. Some of the common Iftar items found on an iftar table includes Peyazi (made of lentils paste, chopped onion, and green chillies almost like falafel), beguni (thin slices of eggplant dipped in a thin gram flour batter), jilapi, haleem, chana-muri, samosas, dal puri, chola, mughlai parota and traditional Bengali sweets. Also, drinks such as yogurt shorbot, lemon shorbot and borhani are indulged in.
Iftar is known as berbuka puasa in Malaysia, which literally means to open the fast. Like many other Asian countries, Malaysian iftar meal also consists of various mouth-watering delicacies such as – Nasi lemak (a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf), laksa (it is an epic coconut noodle soup) chicken rice, satay, and popiah. Beverages such as bandung drink, sugarcane juice, and soybean milk mixed with grass jelly.
The traditional dishes that Muslims in Afghanistan break their fast with usually includes shorwa (soup) bolani (fried or baked flatbread with a vegetable filing) kababs, du piyaza (meat that is stewed in an onion based sauce), manto (minced meat wrapped in pasta), kabuli pulau (rice with lentils, carrots, raisins and lamb), and shorm beray. Afghani cuisine also has some delicious range of desserts such as – Baklava, kadu bouranee and firnee to name a few.
In Iran, Iranians traditionally break their fast with dates and a cup of tea or hot water. Some of the traditional Persian dishes like, sweet tea, bread, cheese, fresh vegetables, zoolbia and bamieh (two traditional Persian sweets coated in sugar syrup), halva, sholeh zard (a sweet Iranian dessert made of rice, sugar, and saffron), ash reshteh, and haleem, as well as various kinds of soups, are commonly served for an Iftar meal.
Nigeria quite possibly hosts the largest Muslim community in West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. And just like the rest of the Islamic world, iftar holds the same importance in Nigeria’s Sunni population. The traditional food that is eaten to break the fast includes Jollof rice (consisting of tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, chillies, peppers, red palm oil, vegetables, meats, and fish), suya (spicy meat skewer), injera and wat (pancake-like bread and several kinds of stew) kitcha fit-fit, couscous, mafe and various other dishes.
In Turkey, just like any other country populated with Muslims, Ramadan is celebrated with great joy. In larger cities like Istanbul, all of the restaurants have set menus for iftar. These menus consist of soup, iftariye (an appetizer platter consisting of dates, olives, cheese, pastirma, sujuk, pidesi – Ramadan special bread). One of the most celebrated desserts called Gullac (made with milk, pomegranate and special kind of pastry) is served in most of the places.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are probably one of those countries where Ramadan is the liveliest. Working and school hours are shortened for the fasters to relax before and after suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and after Iftar.
The traditional dishes that are made to break one’s fast consists of simple dates, simple salads, soups, laban (a fermented milk drink) foul and tameez bread, meat filled borak, shawarma,, rice dishes such as mandi (consists of meat and rice with a special blend of spices and cooked in a pit underground) kabsa, majboos, maqluba and so much more.
Popular desserts include kunafeh (made with semolina and cheese), basbousa (sweet cake) luqaimat (deep fried dough balls, drizzled with date molasses), etc.
Ramadan is believed to be the holiest month of the year in Islam. It is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him).
It is also believed that in this month, the gates to heaven remain open and the gates to hell closed. Muslims are instructed to fast in the Surat Al-Baqarah, the second and the longest chapter of the Quran. During this time, Muslims abstain from food and drink. However, the month isn’t just about not eating or drinking. It is about self-control, fixing your inner character and empathizing with those that are less fortunate than you.