• Behind the Cuisine

Fasting and feasting: March sees the start of Ramadan, the most holy month in Islamic culture

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Written by Scoffable
Mar 22, 2023
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We spoke to Scoffable partner Pankaj Rawat to learn more the role of food and fasting in this month of prayer, reflection and gratitude.

Ramadan, considered the holiest month in Islamic culture, begins on 22 March. It is a time for prayer, reflection, gratitude and community, and, like many religious celebrations, food plays a key role. But perhaps not the way you might expect.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset every day, meaning no food or drinks can be consumed during daylight hours. Fasting is said to purify the soul, encourage a focus on prayer, and provides an opportunity to remember those less fortunate.

Pankaj Rawat, owner of Bell Bottom, which has three takeaways in Edinburgh and Livingston, will be observing Ramadan. He told us a bit more about what the holy month means to him:

“Ramadan is a time of celebration. Family and friends, people across the local Muslim community, get together to enjoy a meal at the end of the fast”.

This meal, eaten in the late evening after sunset, is known as Iftar. It often begins with dates, as the prophet Muhammad is said to have eaten when breaking a fast. Dates are perfect for this purpose, as they help to balance blood sugars after such a long time without eating. This is usually followed by a range of savoury dishes, sometimes served as a buffet. Pankaj says:

“Usually desserts are eaten first, and then a high calorie meal. We like having high calorie food to keep us going when we are fasting during the day. There is lots of meat and naan bread involved.”

Soups are also popular as they help to rehydrate those fasting. Fruit and vegetables in stews and salads are also a staple of the Iftar.

Pankaj says there is no one traditional dish in the Iftar but dishes local to the country or region are often made. Some of these dishes, particularly desserts, are only made during Ramadan. In some locations, the meal is a huge communal celebration. In Abu Dhabi, it has been reported that one mosque’s Iftar feeds 30,000 people each night!

Before dawn, Muslims may have a second meal, known as suhur. This takes place before the first prayer of the day. Traditionally, it features cheese, eggs, beans, fruit, and vegetables to keep people nourished through the daylight hours.

three small brightly coloured bowls sit on a rustic metal table. The turquoise bowl on the left is full with dried chickpeas. The orange bowl in the middle contains cashew nuts. And the coffee-coloured bowl on the right contains dates. Some chickpeas, cashews and dates have spilled from the bowls and sit on the table around them.
Dates are a traditional way of breaking the fast
Each day's fast is broken with the Iftar, a meal with family and friends.

Interestingly, Ramadan always takes place in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, but because this is different to the Gregorian calendar that is observed in the UK, Ramadan moves each year. This means that most Muslims experience Ramadan through different seasons, rather than it being an event which always happens in Spring. But it also means that some years, when Ramadan occurs in summer, the fasting period is much longer because of the longer daylight hours.

At the end of Ramadan is a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr, which is one of the most important Islamic festivals. Eid al-Fitr is a time of joy and celebration. People dress in their finest clothes, and homes are decorated with colourful lights, balloons, and other festive items. Gifts are exchanged, special food is prepared, and prayers and special ceremonies are held.

Many Scoffable takeaway and restaurant partners observing Ramadan are still open for business, including Bell Bottom. Some staff may take time off to spend time with family, but their colleagues will prepare their usual mouthwatering meals around observing prayers, fasting and enjoying celebrations.

You can try some of Pankaj’s fantastic curries, streetfood or ‘naanwiches’ by ordering from Bell Bottom Livingston, Bell Bottom Edinburgh (Liberton), and Bell Bottom Edinburgh (Wester Hailes) – all available to order for delivery from Scoffable.

Ramadan Mubarak to our customers and partners observing the holy month.

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