Last week, millions of Muslims around the world embarked on the month-long cycle of fasting, prayer and reflection that is Ramadan – the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Despite the day’s length and the sun’s summer strength, no morsel of food or drop of liquid will pass their lips from dawn until nightfall, when they may finally break their fast.
But the spirit of Ramadan goes beyond the ritual of fasting and purifying oneself. The essence of this sacred month – during which the first chapters of the holy Qur’an were first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him – truly lies in the spirit of sharing and giving. This warmth of spirit is seen every evening in families coming together to joyfully break their fasts at nightfall, and in the many acts of compassion towards the less fortunate, from donations to charity to gifts of food to the poor.
During Ramadan, an early, hearty breakfast prepares the body for the challenging day ahead. The day passes, and towards nightfall, anticipation builds. As the sun sinks beneath the skyline, the family gathers around the dining table, recounting the day’s events, sharing jokes and complimenting the women in the household for their skilful preparation of the iftar meal. Or perhaps a visit to the mosque, to join with one’s Muslim brothers and sisters for a communal banquet, shared between tens or even hundreds. After dark, no-one goes hungry.
Ramadan culminates with Eid al-Fitr, this year in mid-August, following the sighting of the moon which marks the advent of a new Islamic month. The evening before Eid, which is known as Chaand Raat (night of the moon) is a celebration filled with joy and excitement. It signifies the end of a period of self-discipline and the beginning of great festivities – and of course, the copious amounts of delicious food that comes with them. The evening is filled with last-minute visits to tailors, adding the finishing touches to the brand-new outfits customarily worn at Eid; a trip to the barber’s may also be in order. The atmosphere buzzes with the chatter of cousins and friends decorating one another’s hands with intricate henna patterns; the air is scented with seductive aromas emanating from the kitchen, as the Eid feast is prepared.
At last, the morning of Eid al-Fitr dawns. Families wake, prepare, visit the mosque to perform the communal morning prayers. Dressed in their new clothes, they spend the day visiting relatives to pay their respects and receive their blessings. Feasting continues throughout the day, as every household invariably serves their guests a dizzying array of festive dishes, from hearty haleem garnished with ginger, green chillies and caramelized onions, to seviyan and Sheer Khurma, a signature Eid dish in Asian Muslim households.
But although the feasts are fondly recalled after the event, at its heart, Eid is truly a time for families to forgive past grievances, create treasured memories, and come together to rejoice in each other’s company.
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So, in the spirit of the celebration, we’re serving a special Eid feast from Sunday 19th August (when Eid is likely to begin – depending on the moon’s sighting, of course). We’ll also have a paan-walla and mehndi-walli on hand for all to enjoy – so we really hope you can join in the festivities with us!
In the meantime, we wish Ramadan Kareem to all our Muslim friends. May your prayers and fasts be accepted.
(Oh, and we’ll have some dates available every day to break your fast – just ask!)
All chicken and lamb served at Dishoom is always sourced from HFA-certified suppliers.
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.