Assalamo alykum. I always wonder how traditions of various countries are interlinked. Welcome to the new chapter for Ramadan An event to share. We are travelling to another Arabian region to discover the cuisine of Yemen with Dr.Lamya of Yemeniah. Sister Lamya was so kind to explain the traditions, food habits in detail. It took me back to the memories back home. Over to you Dr.Lamya.
Memories of Ramadans past in Aden, a southern city in Yemen Just as Yemen’s TV Channel announces Ramadan moon sighting, children pour out onto the streets of Aden singing “Ahlan Ahlan Ya Ramadan,” [“Welcome! Welcome! O’ Ramadan”]. Their laughter fills the streets late into the evening and well into midnight. It’s the only time of the year they are allowed out so late. Whilst the children play, men head to the Masajed for Taraweeh prayers and Yemeni women ponder and prep for the first Sahoor of the blessed month. They knead dough for Yemeni breads—Khobz Mulawah and Mutabaqiah— to Ramadan Anasheed on from years foregone, and the distant Qur’an recitation from the various minarets. Their labors interrupted by phone calls from well wishers, which they respond to after wiping their floury hands.
At midnight, everyone heads to bed for a few hours of sleep before the late night meal, Sahoor. They are awakened by the “Mu-saha-ratee” who comes out with his drum and walks the streets to wake up those who intend to fast the month. “Boom ! Boom! Boom!” goes the drum. “Wake up O’ Sayem [Faster] and proclaim the Oneness of the Everlasting,” says the Mu-saha-ratee. The lights come on in every window, and flood onto the street. Sibilance of night prayers, and crackling of joints of those in Salah bring the night to life. Stoves are fired up under skillets, ready for frying Mutabaqiah. The two thin layers of dough hugging the omelette-like filling is fried to golden brown perfection, before being served with “red” Adeni tea kissed with cardamon and cloves.The clatter of platefuls of food and cutlery, and laughter around the dinner table pierce the stillness of the night.
“Hurry ! Hurry! It’s almost time for dawn prayer,” warn the mothers,“Eat up! Drink up!”
Halfway through the last cup of water, the muezzin is heard clearing his throat. Cups of water are downed just before the calls for dawn prayer. Parents gently grab the vessels of water from their children’s lips and hands. Fasting has officially begun. Everyone heads to dawn prayer, the men at the Masajed and the women at home. Then it is back to bed for a few more hours of sleep before work or school.
Everyone is home in time to establish Duhr (noon) prayer , after which children and adults take a short siesta. They are awoken by the call for Asr (afternoon) prayer. Then homes turn into bee hives. Fathers and children read the Qur’an, rushing to finish their daily Juzu (part). A Juzu a day meant completing the entire Qur’an during the month of Ramadan. Then uncles pass by for a short visit, and all hunch over a Carrom board to play a round or two. Mothers and young daughters busy themselves in the kitchen, listening to Qur’an recitation while they stuff and wrap one of the favorite fried foods of Ramadan —Samboosa. They prepare the dough for the Khameer. Grind the soaked black-eyed peas for the Bagya. Beat a mixture of water, flour, water, yeast, salt and black seeds into a thick batter for Mutabaq. Pour the mixture for Lahoh on hot iron skillets where it bubbles, then use it to make the cold tangy Shafuut .
Meanwhile out on the streets in the last few hours before Iftar (the meal for breaking of the fast), trays laden with Ramadan delicacies are being exchanged between homes. The trays glisten in the sunlight, as they leave a home and enter into another. Then close to sunset, the crowded streets are still. Empty. Quiet. Everyone is at the dinner table for Iftar saying their Duas (Invocations). Once the call for Maghreb prayer is heard from the minaret, hands reach out for the plateful of succulent dates, glasses of Yemeni coffee with cardamon and ginger, or glasses of cold water and juice. Then Maghreb prayers are done, after which everyone heads back to the dinner table for fried Samboosa, Khameer, Bagya, and Mutabaq. For spoonfuls of the cold tangy Shafuut. For bowlfuls of piping hot Shurbah— oatmeal cooked with lamb chunks and garnished with browned onions and Yemeni clarified butter. For Attar—hard peas cooked in a savory tomato and tamarind sauce. With that the first day of fasting is over, and so it will continue for 29-30 days with slight differences in the last ten days when night prayers intensify as does shopping for Eid-Ul-Fitr. Souqs are crowded. Homes get makeovers with new curtains, fresh paint, and even new furniture. Children brag to their playmates about their Eid clothes, giving away just enough to keep the actual outfit a surprise.Finally the morning of Eid arrives. All are up for Fajr prayer, and this time stay up. Men, young boys and children head to Eid prayers while the women stay at home and make a grand Eid breakfast of sheep’s liver and kidneys in a savory sauce. Neighbors exchange Eid dishes. After prayer male relatives stop by with their young kids, handing out Eidiyyah (Eid gifts of money). Then the children make the much awaited Eid rounds, visiting family and close family friends. They squirm impatiently in their seats waiting for the Eidiyyah. Once the Eidiyyah’s are handed out they bolt for the door, in anticipation of another at another home. Close to noon, with their pockets full of money, they head home for lunch where Zurbiyan is served with picked lemon in a hot red chilly sauce. While the adults take a nap after lunch, the children count their money and discuss their plans for spending it after Asr Prayer on ice cream, candy, cotton candy and merry-go-rounds. These are my memories of Ramadans past in Aden.
1st Step: For the dough you will need:
2 cups of flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tablespoon of oil [I used sunflower oil]
water as kneaded to make a soft and smooth dough
- Add the salt to the dough and run the flour through your fingers and mix well.
- Then add the oil and mix in as well.
- Then gradually add water and knead until it is transformed into a smooth and soft dough.
- Soft means that when you poke it it does not bounce back (see pic). Cover the dough and let rest for 30 minutes.
- When the dough has rested for 30 minutes, divide it into small balls. This amount should be enough for 12 small balls (so 6 servings of Mutabaqiah).
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the balls into small circles. Try to roll them out into approximately the same size. Place each one aside, on a well floured surface. Once you have done this, then you are going to stack four on top of each other.
- But before you stack them on top of each other, take one of the rolled out circle of dough and add one tsp of oil onto it. Smear it well with a spoon. Then sprinkle a little dough, just a sprinkle–not too much. Then place another circle of dough on top of it. Continue until you have four on top of each other. DO NOT OIL AND SPRINKLE FLOUR ON TOP OF THE LAST ONE. Cover with a cloth and keep aside, and continue with the rest of the circles of dough you have. Once you are done you should have three stacks.
- Now to start cooking these. Start by placing a flat pan on high heat. The pan has to be very hot.
- Take one of the 4 tiered stacks, and press down gently on it with your fingers. Especially around the edges so that they all line up evenly, or else you will end up have ones that are shorter than the others. (As shown in above picture)
- Once you have it all rolled out beautifully, place it carefully on the hot pan. It will start puffing up in a few seconds. Flip on the other side and watch it puff up some more.
- The layers will start coming apart. That’s when you know it is ready. Pull the layers apart with your hands. BE CAREFUL IT IS PIPING HOT. THE ESCAPED STEAM CAN BURN. Continue until you are done with all the stacks you have prepared.
2nd Step: Egg mixture to put in between the thin layers that you just made with the dough.
4 green onions, finely chopped
a handful of cilantro finely chopped
green chilly pepper finely chopped –to taste. This will make it a little spicy.
salt to taste
- Mix all these ingredients well together
- Now oil the pan with about a tsp of oil, then take one of the layers of the prepared dough and place it on top. Then oil the top of the layer and spread some of the omelette-like mixture on top
- Place a second layer on top
- Cook on both sides until well browned. [If you would like to use more eggs in between you may, but just make sure you cook it well. If you would like to make sure the egg is cooked, you can pierce the dough with a fork and if egg does not ooze out then it is cooked.
- Serve hot with Adeni tea tea. Enjoy!