Ramadan Kareem to all those who are observing the holiday! The days are long and the fasts are difficult but alhamdulillah (praise be to God), it makes you grateful for the food and drink you have waiting for you at iftar (evening breakfast). Many of us are blessed with comfortable homes, plenty of food and loving families. Part of the reason we fast is to remember those of us who are less fortunate. The Muslims being persecuted in Myanmar. The innocents dying everyday in Syria. Through this remembrance and appreciation of our blessings, we cultivate a closer relationship with God. Ramadan also brings to light the culinary diversity of Muslims around the world. Dates are an iftar staple, as that was the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Otherwise you might have kutaeif (a type of pancake) in Palestine. Kolak or cendol (sweet drinks) in Indonesia. Güllaç (a rosewater dessert) in Turkey. Back in Bangladesh, iftar consists of the following: cucumber slices, soaked lentils with raw ginger, puffed rice, fruit and a plethora of fried vegetables and lentils bathed in a thick gram flour batter. Sometimes they even fry this oversized hot pepper and eat it as is!! And I have to say: I hate it. I am sorry. I love Bengali food. I loathe the iftars. The raw ginger. The bland lentils. The batter that is so thick that the vegetables got lost in them. And whose idea was it to break your fast with fried foods anyway? The only exception is the potato patties (studded with pieces of hard boiled egg) and HALEEM. OMG. Haleem is to the subcontinent what Pho is to Vietnam (well, technically nihari is) in that it just a bowl of simmering, goat, lentil and barley deliciousness. I’ll post about it later, but for now, the drinks.
Though the foods may vary, one thing is pretty consistent: a cool, refreshing drink to down it all with. I’ve had all kinds of sweet concoctions with my iftars growing up. From lemonade (using lemons I squeezed by hand, and sugar that I dissolved by stirring and stirring and stirring…) to Tang and Rooh Afza (probably the bane of my existence). Mango lassi is a common one as well, but ever since I had a taste of my first virgin mojito, mint limeade has been the go to sweet drink at our household. Thanks to a huge bunch of mint leaves brought over by my in laws this past weekend, I was able to make a batch of that mint syrup I posted about ages ago. I add some sparkling water for effervescence and sprigs of fresh mint for visuals.
- 1/2 cup lime juice (juice from about 3 limes)
- 1 cup mint simple syrup
- 1 to 1.5 cups sparkling water
- 2 mint sprigs
- Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher and stir to combine.
Note: if you’re too lazy to make the mint syrup, feel free to simply add sugar to taste and a few handfuls of mint leaves (be sure to muddle the leaves with a muddler or end of a wooden spoon to release the juices). Superfine sugar dissolves more easily than regular, so you can run it through a food processor to get it fine. I personally use raw sugar, which gives my limeade a nice amber color.