Assala mo alykum, & welcome to Chapter 3 of Ramadan An Event to share. This post was scheduled for yesterday but due to some severe health issues , I was unable to log in my space & push the publish button. In the entire series, this is the first time it has happened because whatever the circumstances, I try to keep my word , promise & commitments. Because for me that’s important of who I am and my religion.
For today’s post we have Anum from Abbie Adventure Diaries. I totally love the way she writes with a great sense of humor and sensitivity. She is a Pakistani residing in USA and shares with us the social fabric & community celebration of Ramadan in America with a delicious pakistani Sooji Ka halwa. Anum , I apologise again for not posting on the said date. Thanks a lot for keeping patience with me. Over to you Anum
The social fabric of the USA is woven with so many colors. Numerous faiths, races, ethnicities, and nationalities come together under one big canopy. I am a Pakistani American living here on the East Coast in Maryland, close to the capital – Washington D.C. and Ramadan here is very eventful. You get to see a rich mix of Islamic education, worship, and entertainment come alive as the holy month draws near. Pakistanis are abundant and they are a lively race that likes to celebrate the sacred month with food, festivities, and congregational religious practices.The best way to experience Ramadan is to visit the local mosques. No matter how big or small, Pakistani or mixed, the masjids serve as community centers where people gather to socialize, learn, and worship. Unlike in Pakistan, it is common practice for women to pray and socialize at masjids here. While Ramadan days are scheduled to provide courses/lectures on the Quran, hadith, and Arabic for the youth and adults, night activities include Iftar dinners and Taraweeh prayers. The idea is to unify various cultures of the Muslim Ummah and participate in Ramadan as a congregation. Larger mosques like the Diyanet Center of America; a socio-political venture between the governments of Turkey and the USA, brings together a diverse mix of Muslims from areas all around the capital.
Major mosques of the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) region get together to host a mass scale Taraweeh event at an indoor sports facility of the University of Maryland. It is covered by media channels and is a huge display of Muslim solidarity to the world. The President of the US and the First Lady host an annual Iftar dinner at the White House and it is attended by prominent figures from the American Muslim world. The embassy of Pakistan in Washington D.C. also hosts similar social events bridging the gaps on socio-religious levels.
The Iftar dinner spreads at such gatherings, whether at mosques or at the White House, are heart warming to look at. There are contributions from so many cuisines of the world. You can expect to find desserts like Baklava from Turkey and Kunafa from Egypt. Main course contributions such as Harees from Saudi Arabia (similar to Haleem), Jollof rice from Indonesia, and Shawarma from Lebanon are common finds. And boasting proudly of the flavorful Pakistani cuisine, you can expect to find Samosay, Pakoray, Dahi Bhallay, Biryani, Kheer, and Halwa in the multicultural buffet.
Iftar dinners are a thing here in the US just like Pakistan. Halal catering has become easier as more and more Pakistani food businesses have flourished. Last year I attended a fancy Iftar dinner party at a country and golf club that has a Pakistani chef! The result was a delicious Halal buffet serving fine Chicken Biryani, Mutton Qourma, Fried Bhindi, Palak Paneer, and Kulfi for dessert! Aside from the fancy, potlucks are common among friends of the same or different Muslim cultures. Basically, the Iftar dinner spread becomes as eclectic as your gathering.
We miss the sights and sounds of Ramadan in Pakistan. There is no Suhoor and Iftar siren blaring from masjids; instead, you have to listen to the Adhaan from your iPhone Adhaan App. You do n’t get to see fresh, hot Jalebis piled at the sweet mart but there is always the local Desi store that sells Mithai for the Pakistani sweet tooth. Rooh Afza is on the shelves, and if you’re lucky to have a Pakistani-dominated masjid you can expect to find Rooh Afza sharbat at Iftar. Halwas are common finds at home or community parties because bulk volumes can be cooked up. Here is a little takeaway Sooji Halwa recipe I use and my family is quite fond of it Alhamdulillah. It is a must have in our household for Iftar.
- Sooji (fine semolina) 2 cups
- Oil (preferably vegetable), 1 cup (or more)
- Milk, 2 cups
- Water, 2 cups
- Ilaichi (cardamom) powder, 1 teaspoon
- Sugar, 2 cups
- Golden raisins, 1 cup (or more if you like)
- Sliced almonds or pistachios (pre-boiled), 1 cup
- Yellow food color (as needed to make a strong yellow)
- In a large cooking pot add Sooji and oil and mix well.
- Note: Sooji soaks all the oil, you may need more to fry the flour well. Make sure oil is enough to wet the quantity of flour.
- Set on medium heat and keep tossing sooji around to avoid burning. There should be a slight sizzle sound of sooji frying. If not add a few more tablespoons of oil.
- Keep frying until sooji changes color from white to brown. Brown color should be like golden raisins brown. Once well-fried, set the cooking pot aside.
- In another pot add 2 cups milk, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon cardamom (ilaichi powder), 2 cups sugar, 1 cup kishmish, yellow food color, and mix well. Set on high heat and bring close to boil.
- Very carefully and off the stove, add milk solution to the pot containing the fried sooji. It will start to sizzle and splutter immediately. Set it on the stove on low heat.
- Carefully taste a little bit of the mixture and if you want it more sweet add more sugar with half cup water. The halwas will fluff up in volume. Mix well and set on medium heat and continue stirring.
- It will leave the pan and stick to the spoon as you stir. Keep cooking until all liquid is gone, and beyond. Keep tossing it, cutting through it with the cooking spoon, mashing it, churning it. If you have added generous oil, it will separate.
- When it is perfectly dry- still dough-like – take it off the stove. Garnish with more raisins (even sliced almonds and pistachios if you like).