Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important holidays – or Eid – in the Muslim calendar. It marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan when all able-bodied Muslims are required to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid al-Fitr is celebrated differently around the world, and since it marks the end of a period of fasting, food plays a big role in the observance of this holiday. Here are some signature dishes from around the Muslim world that are mainstays at Eid al-Fitr feasts.
Sheer Khurma is a rich, creamy pudding from South Asia made with a special type of extra fine semolina noodle called sevayan (often mistakenly referred to as vermicelli, which is actually much thicker). It is perfumed with spices like cardamom and saffron and sometimes scented with floral essences, like rose water. This dessert is a must for Eid al-Fitir in South Asia and always finished with nuts and dried fruits.
Rendang is one of the most iconic dishes from Indonesia and is very popular among Malay people in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and other countries in Southeast Asia. It consists of beef slow-cooked in coconut milk and an aromatic blend of spices until the liquid reduces and the beef becomes fork tender and caramelized. It is a staple on Eid al-Fitr, or Lebaran, as it is popularly referred to in Indonesia.
If you’ve ever read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, you probably remember how Edmund went crazy over the White Witch’s promise of endless Turkish delight. This wasn’t a magical treat, though. Turkish delight is the common English name for lokum, an ancient sweet from what is now modern-day Turkey. Consisting of rice flour and liquid cooked until it forms a jelly, these little cubes of sweetness have a marshmallowy consistency, often studded with nuts and sometimes flavored with floral essences.
This dessert is often associated with Greek cuisine in the U.S., but its origins are said to lie in the Ottoman Empire, which was based in modern-day Turkey. Regardless of where you believe baklava originated, the contemporary version is enjoyed throughout the Levant, Middle East and Balkans. Thin layers of pastry called phyllo in Greek and yufka in Turkish are layered with butter, nuts, syrup and sometimes honey. The resulting pastry is crisp, crunchy, rich and oozing with sweetness.
All the Buttery Cookies
Many cultures throughout the Muslim world prepare cookies to mark the end of Ramadan. While there are dozens of varieties (even within the same cuisines), they all share a similar characteristic: a rich, buttery dough that just melts in your mouth. In Syria and Lebanon, they’re known as maamoul and filled with walnuts or date paste. Further south in Palestine, locals wax poetic about graybeh, which features pine nuts or almonds. Iraqi Muslims nibble on klaicha during Eid al-Fitr, while Egyptians relish their honey-filled kahk. We can’t choose just one variety to love!
The morning of Eid al-Fitr in Morocco begins with a hearty bowl of L'Assida. This sweet breakfast porridge features one of this North African country’s most famous staples: couscous. However, instead of getting simply steamed, it’s combined with butter, honey, nuts and spices to make a simple yet satisfying start to the day before the feast of tajines and other delicacies. L'Assida is often layered and arranged beautifully to be a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Bolani are a favorite snack in Afghanistan where they are just one of many components to a celebratory Eid al-Fitr meal. These are made by rolling out very thin sheets of dough and filling them with vegetables like leeks or chives, pumpkin or potatoes. Some versions also contain meat. The pastry pockets are shallow fried in oil and served with refreshing yogurt dipping sauces.
This is a very important dish of the Hui Muslim community in China. It consists of deep-fried rounds of dough that are often served with saucy or soupy dishes. While simple, there are a lot of rituals involved in its preparation, making you xiang a very spiritual food. For instance, only the family elder can make you xiang and must recite the Tasmiyah, a sacred Islamic phrase, prior to frying the dough. Because of its connection with faith, these rich breads are a mainstay during Eid al-Fitr.
These little dumplings have many variations across a pretty wide stretch of terrain. Manti are typically associated with Central Asian cultures, but their popularity extends to places like Turkey and Russia. The best manti are made by hand, although many urban families may opt to buy them frozen. Toppings can vary from household to household but usually include yogurt or sour cream, herbs and other aromatics, as well as savory sauces.