Eid al-Fitr is about eating as much as Ramadan is about fasting.
Eid (pronounced EED) marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long observance for Muslims to appreciate what God has given them, and to worship their faith collectively.
Most observers will celebrate the holiday this weekend (on Saturday or Sunday), and that got me thinking about my first Eid food memory.
I was 8 when I first contributed a dish for Eid. I was obsessed with “Too Hot Tamales,” a show on Food Network. I drew inspiration from a frittata recipe of chefs Mary Sue Miliken and Susan Feniger. But even back then, I knew how to draw on my Bengali roots as well, adding threads of fiery green Thai chili peppers and unrelenting chunks of white onion suspended in the well-cooked egg. (My parents like their eggs cooked to a deep, crispy brown. None of that fluffy stuff.)
I was proud of that culinary accomplishment. Consequently, for Eid I have always found room to dice the garlic for nan, fry pakoras to a perfect golden color and stir rice pudding to keep it from congealing in the kitchen. I explain to folks less familiar with the holiday that the day is not as solemn as Ramadan. It’s lovely, meant to be shared with people who are dear to you. It’s full of fancy clothes, presents, and, yes, food.
Now that I live in Washington and most of my family still lives in Queens, N.Y., I can’t always make it home for the holiday. It’s especially tricky when Eid falls midweek and I can’t properly plan ahead to travel. In an attempt to make sure I get to celebrate the day and share the flavors I grew up, I’ll make a meal for whomever I’m with — family or friends. It’s the perfect excuse to wake up the palate and try something new.
I found recipes in The Post’s Recipe Finder database that evoke familiar flavors and tastes I grew up eating on Eid. Some are more traditional, others not so much. But any of them can work for a day that’s as cultural as it is religious.
Dates are an integral part of Ramadan and Eid. My mom taught us to break our fast with a date first because the prophet Mohammed used to break his that way as well. So when I spied this preparation that combines dates with sweet vermicelli, I was sold. It reminds me of exactly what I used to love to eat hot or cold, for breakfast and dessert. The recipe is also a perfect secret weapon to have at your disposal; you can add golden raisins for extra tang or sweetness, or slivered almonds for a contrasting crunch.
Another classic is chai, or cha, as I grew up calling it. While you can find chai at Starbucks and in prepackaged syrups at grocery stores, making your own will yield a chai with much deeper flavor. This recipe calls for the usual suspects: cardamom and ginger. I like to bump up the flavor with cinnamon and clove to bring out the flavors of the upcoming fall season.
One of my mom’s (and much of the world’s) go-to dishes is chicken, which she dresses with a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, garlic, clove, cumin, bay leaf, chili powder, yogurt, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. She sears the seasoned, skin-on chicken legs and thighs over medium-high heat on the stove.
When she’s busy (read: feeling lazy), she’ll use a premixed blend of seasoning purchased at the Patel Brothers supermarket or any ethnic market in their Queens neighborhood. After browning the chicken for 30 minutes, she pops it in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
The result: comfort food we all know, yet it’s unique and bright. The tangy yogurt balances the chicken’s spicy heat and keeps the meat moist. She serves it with pulau, our version of a fried rice cooked in ghee or nan.
Haque is a Web producer for the Style section.