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The Eid spread

August 19, 2012

KARACHI: While Eidul Fitr is associated with revelry, new clothes, gifts and eidi, the gastronomic dimension of the festival is no less important. In fact, some would say it lies at the core of the celebration.

After a month of fasting and contemplation (though those luxurious Iftar dinners fly in the face of the whole concept of self-denial!) Eid is seen as a time for feasting, with the celebrations spread over three days (or more).

In Karachi, just as certain foods have come to be associated with the month of Ramazan, certain items are considered essential for Eid. For example the Iftar spread is considered incomplete if sizzling pakoras and samosas, luscious dates and a variety of cool, sweet beverages are not on offer. Similarly, Eid seems incomplete unless sivayyan or their more elaborate avatar sheer khurma are not on the menu. But while these vermicelli-based desserts may signify the traditionalist Eid taste, the occasion features a wide variety of both sweet and savoury goodies to whet the palate.

While sheer khurma is on offer throughout the day at home and while visiting others, countless other delights tempt the faithful after fasting for a whole month. Hence some people tend to over-indulge.The day usually begins with a hearty breakfast usually consisting of a variety of fried eggs — omelettes, scrambled, poached — scooped up with puri or crisp parathas and with the option of spicy Shami kebabs. While out on the Eid greeting trail you may well be offered more kebabs as well as crunchy nimco and an assortment of chaat or dahi baray. The chaat may be based on Kabuli channay or their smaller black cousins.

Of course all of this is washed down with copious amounts of fizzy drinks. If you are not fond of such beverages, forget takalluf and please do inform your hosts and opt for juice or water instead, because a dozen glasses of cola will leave you bloated and nauseous at the end of the day.

Eid lunch is a relaxed, leisurely affair in the metropolis, with many households opting for steaming platefuls of spicy biryani or fragrant pulao. In case you are thinking of biryani, try and skip the packaged masalas and go for your own recipe or that of an older female family member. This way if luck is on your side you may come up with something that tastes original. Besides, you really don’t know what’s in that box of masala.

For dinner, many people, especially the younger lot, prefer to hit multinational burger or pizza joints on Eid. This may have its takers but personally, it cannot match up to a home-cooked meal, especially on a festival that’s all about celebrating familial and communal bonds.

Gastronomic trends on Eid are also changing with the times. Mitthai of various sorts did and certainly still does occupy a hallowed place on meethi Eid. If one wants proof of this, just swing by popular mithai-wallas around chaand raat. It’s as if the sweet stuff is being given away for free. No doubt the Eid festivities receive a boost by consuming sugary delights such as gulab jamuns, ras gullas and barfi. But there has been an increasing trend of giving people ‘Eid cakes’. Many leading city bakeries advertise their ‘Eid cakes’, which are really no different than cakes sold on any other occasion. What’s next? Eid pizza? I shudder to think.

Also, considering the breakneck speed of urban life, some people opt to serve reheated pre-packaged frozen items such as chicken nuggets or samosas instead of slogging it out in the kitchen all chaand raat.

Whatever direction the Eid feast may be taking, as long as it’s served up with warmth, style and flavour, it’ll remain a cultural institution for a while to come. Just remember to have some green tea handy when you’re done devouring the Eid delights.—QAM