Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |  Volume 6, Issue 32, Tuesday, August 09, 2011



R is for Ramadan Rules

I. Thou shall not spit on thy neighbour's path.

II. Thou shall not excuse thy lack of motivation at work as the lack of sugary tea and calorific snacks.

III. Thou shall labour and do all of thy work as required.

IV. Do unto thyself for this month, only that which thou are willing to do unto thyself for the other eleven months.

V. Thou shall walk away from boiling tempers. Feel free, however to be sidelined by brewing pots of haleem.

VI. Thou shall pray silently for the traffic to miraculously lighten up rather than add to the cacophony of honking incessantly.

VII. Thou shall not elbow frail old women nor cut line while queuing to pay for your 'exclusive' iftar items.

VIII. Thou may make mountains out of muri on thy plate.

IX. Thou must not underestimate the power of Rooh-afza.

X. Thou shall not ply jilebis upon the best Tailor in town to get thy clothes made first.

XI. Neither shall thee covet thy neighbour's Tailor.

XII. In fact, while on the holy Tailor subject, thou shall not cause the poor man to have a nervous breakdown by giving him five outfits on 27th Ramadan and expect him to deliver by Chand Raat.

XIII. Thou shall realise 'tis more important to pay thy factory workers their due bonuses than to throw lavish iftar parties at Westin.

XIV. Thou shall not invite people to iftar and compel them to part an endless sea of traffic to get there.

XV. Thou shall not make wrongful use of the name of thy God by judging thy fast to be holier than others' because thy kurta is whiter than theirs.

XVI. If thou are unable or unwilling to fast, house thy tongue in cheek. Refrain from insensitive remarks, public smoking or snapping thy bubble gum.

XVII. If thou are fasting and perchance upon those who do not, house thy tongue in cheek, period. Neither preachy nor condescending be.

XVIII. Remember: thy fast is only as pure as what thee dost not put in thy mouth and what thee utters out.
XIX. Caution thy children to tread gently on thy nerves.

XX. Thou shall not make thyself a permanent fixture at any given boutique or shopping mall in pursuit of the perfect Eid outfit. Such a thing does not exist.

XXI. When giving Zakat to the poor, remember to be discreet. Thou needst not have press releases or Page 3 pictures on this matter.

XXII. Thou shall not hoard sugar. For, diabetes can kill thee eventually. And then, hell's fury may break upon thee for said sugar hoarding.

XXIII. 'Tis not needed to burp loudly to indicate the satisfaction of thine iftar. Silence can be a golden prayer.

XXIV. Thou shall not bear false witness on where thy khejur is from. A date is a date is a date.

XXV. Be not surprised on the stacking of kilograms if thou hast been snarfing a kilogram of deep fried piyajus per day. What thy eats, so shall thy carry.

XXVI. Teach thy children there is joy in sharing and giving just as much as there is joy in receiving.

XXVII. Celebrate Chand Raat with thy loved ones, not the beauty parlour vestal virgins. Thou will feel far prettier layered in love instead of plastered with peroxide.

XXVIII. Thou should age gracefully and pass on the baton of Eidi-receiving. If thy knees dost creak and protest upon bending, 'tis time for thee to reach into thy coffers for the new generation of chirpy chubby-cheeks.

XXIX. Thou shall observe Eid day as per all technology available in this millennium instead of subjecting it to the shortsightedness of a cross-eyed, orange dyed kind.

XXX. And after a month of fasting, thy God has favoured thee with the holy day of Eid. A time of celebration, not extravagance. Refrain from eating non-stop to make up for lost time. Thou shall not mistake thyself for a camel.

XXXI. There is no more. Thirty shall suffice. Unlike the once-in-a- blue-moon committee, be ye not dubious on this matter.

By Munize Manzur


Sweet as heaven

As the siren goes off, countless millions quickly and busily gulp a couple of dates or two, the first food in\\of the whole day.

Our beloved Prophet recommended us to break the fast with dates. Indeed, dates have secured a very special place in the religion of Islam. In fact, dates are mentioned about twenty times in the Holy Qur'an.

Therefore, it is of no surprise that the demand for dates skyrockets during Ramadan. It is customary to start iftar by eating dates, just like our Prophet (S.A.W.) did.

But not just for that, the fact that this is a yummy fruit is by itself reason enough to munch some dates. “Khejur is the chocolate of Ramadan,” says an enthusiast. “When I was little, my dad bought me dates but told me they were chocolates so that I develop a liking for the fruit. Even now, I eat dates just the way I eat chocolates!”

Some are so into this fruit that they are not satisfied with just having them during iftar. “I have seheri with rice, milk and dates. If you can have banana this way, why not dates?” another lover of the sweet fruit opines.

And then of course, we all buy various kinds of dates for our loved ones when we go for Hajj. Saudi Arabia, after all, has the reputation of producing the world's finest dates.

But there are also logical reasons why we should include dates in our menu. Dates have a lot of health benefits. For starters, dates are energy boosters: they contain large amounts of carbohydrates, fructose, glucose and lactose. Thus, if someone eats a few dates after a long day of fasting, he/she is likely to quickly replenish the energy that has been lost.

Moreover, dates are rich in minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, sulphur and phosphorus. They contain a range of vitamins as well.

Dates are also highly beneficial for pregnant women. It is believed that eating dates strengthens the uterine wall during pregnancy.

Cultivation of date palm trees has been going on since time immemorial. As a matter of fact, it is argued that these trees are one of the oldest ones to be cultivated. Another factor that hugely contributed to the need for cultivating date palm trees is that the entire plant and not just its fruits are used by mankind. Each and every portion of the tree, be it the leaves or the trunk or the flowers, are used by people for various functions.

Interestingly, date palm trees grow throughout their lifetime some even grow to about 100 feet tall! Eventually, with age, when the height is unbearable, they simply fall over.

But producers typically keep the palm trees to a certain height for their convenience.

In Bangladesh, of course, we do not have our own dates. The dates that are produced nevertheless are not very tasty or sometimes not even edible. But we too, like people all over, share a passion for this fruit.

And importers and retailers ensure our hunger is satisfied. “Our country mainly imports from Dubai, Iran, Tunisia, to some extent from Saudi Arabia, and in rare cases from Pakistan,” informs a shop owner in Karwan Bazaar.

To get hold of some quality dates, pay a visit to one of the superstores like Agora and Nandan. With Ramadan in focus, such shops have quite a good variety of dates in store for you.

Maryam dates are one of the most popular and widely available. A packet of these dates cost about Tk. 465. But if you want to buy one of those Maryam dates where the seeds are replaced by other edibles such as almonds or other nuts, it will cost you about Tk. 615.

This is indeed a fantastic innovation that reinforces the taste of dates and adds to their zest. In many countries, they have chocolate coated dates too. This is very rare in our country, unfortunately.

But we do have some delicacies here. Tunisian dates have gained immense popularity over the years. A pack of these sweet treats can cost you around Tk. 550.

These stores also feature some premium dates you might want to gift to someone.

Ajwa is another date immensely famous among Muslims due to its reference in the Hadith. However, this date is also very uncommon in Bangladesh. A shopkeeper in Gulshan-1 says, “Last year we didn't have this kind of dates. Rarely an importer brings in this particular breed.”

At the lower end of the market, you'll find dates with a price tag of about Tk. 55 per kg.

No matter what kind of dates you bought, few things can be more satisfying than putting a very sweet little fruit in your mouth after a daylong regime of fasting.

By Zane


Mint and fennel drink

By Tommy Miah

It's a very different drink and hardly anyone knows about it. Healthy and nutritious because of mint and fennel, it is also good for those who have gastric and heart burning problems.

1 bunch of mint leaves
½ cup fennel seeds
3-4 green cardamom
Sugar to taste

Blend all of the above ingredients in the blender.

Using drainer or soft cotton piece, drain out all the blended liquid so that no particles are in the liquid. Mix 1 glass of water in it and sugar (if required). Sprinkle icing sugar and serve in glass with mint leaves for garnish.


Tommy Miah's Original Mango Juice

Mango juice is no doubt everyone's favourite but raw or fresh mango juice is hardly known in most of the western countries. It originates from South Asia where mangoes are found in vast quantities and in different varieties.

Some people boil raw mango but its actual taste develops when roasted on an iron skillet and then the pulp taken out to make juice. It's very healthy and also prevents illness during extremely hot climatic conditions.

1 kg raw mango
½ kg sugar or more
Water as required

On an iron skillet put all the mangoes on it; cover it to cook on low heat. Turn the side of the fruits after 15 minutes or its colour changes to black. Don't cook it on a high flame, otherwise it will not tenderise.

After 30 minutes when the mango is completely cooked, remove it from the heat and let it cool. Remove the skin from each mango and separate all the pulp from the seed.

Now in a blender, whisk the pulp of mango with little water (2-3 cups) so that a smooth paste is formed. Pour the paste in the deep pan and cook it with sugar until it boils (15 min. approx).

Cool it by stirring continuously otherwise a white layer is formed on the top and it's very difficult to drain.


Iftar High Energy Drink

Thick and creamy; you can also use chocolate or strawberry ice cream if you prefer.

1 banana, peeled and chopped
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 cup milk
2 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a blender, combine banana, ice cream, milk, egg white and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.


Leaf Love

Tea has always been my object of fascination. Black or green; steaming hot or ice cold, served in fancy cups or terra cotta pots or in tall glasses by the roadside; with milk, honey, lemon or sugar, mint or masala or our traditional malai chai, there is something in tea that never fails to perk me up.

For that matter when you find latte chai at Starbucks or Teh Tarik in Malaysia it is as close to home you can get in a cup. Because for us Bengalis nothing is more special than a cup of sugary tea with thick milk and a pack of Energy Plus biscuit on the side.

What we miss in our buzzing metropolis is a tea salon or bar; chocolate-coated cookies with tea or dunking a slice of plain cake in a steaming cup; nothing beats the pleasure. And now with Ramadan my mornings begin after sunset when I get to take the first sip of my tea.

However that's not the reason why I am rambling today; recently I just came across this article that I happened to stumble upon while netsurfing and thought I would share it with my readers. I just took the liberty to tweak it a little because obviously a lot of it isn't meant for our country.

But anyway, I love tea and I know there are many like me and thought that it might add to their knowledge bank, so read on.

Here are a few Q/A tips from tea consultant Alexis Siemons, from the lovely blog 'Teaspoon and Petals', to give us some guidelines on good equipment, tasty teas, food that pairs well, and her favourite tea spots, so that if you ever visit the places she mentioned maybe you can check them out.

Here are her answers:

If you want to go a little further than just a tea bag and a cup of hot water, what kind of equipment do you need to make good tea at home?
There is a simple art to steeping loose tea. While travelling, I often bring a box of individual paper filters. Just fill them with tea, fold over the paper flap to seal, add water, and steep. Although, if you prefer to treat your eyes to the visual delight of the steeping process, I adore using large or small glass teapots and an infuser. It is truly wonderful to watch the tea leaves dance about as they paint the water. Beyond the paper filter, teapot and infuser, you'll need a tea kettle to warm the water (I have a standard kettle on my stove, but am looking intro electric versions that differentiate temperatures for different types of tea).

Can you recommend five teas that we always should keep at home?
Tea selection is so very personal, but if I were to give a friend 5 teas this is what I would send her at this very moment: Sencha Japanese Green Tea, Masala Chai Tea, Wen Shan Bao Zhong Oolong Tea, Bai Mu Dan White Tea or White Rose, Moroccan Mint.

What is your favourite tea right now?
In Philadelphia, we are in seasonal limbo as winter is waving goodbye and spring is skipping in. On the chillier days, I'm still reaching for a lightly roasted oolong tea (Wen Shan Bao Zhong) that is smooth and subtly sweet with floral/nutty notes. It's truly comforting. Although, I'm looking forward to welcoming a warmer season with a cup of Sencha, a Japanese green tea with a bright, vegetal flavour that reminds me of spring.

What do you prefer to eat with your tea?
It truly depends on the tea, as I recently started to explore food and tea pairings. I love to nibble on cookies and sweeter treats with malty, rich black teas (Chinese Golden Monkey). While I like to sip lighter, refreshing teas (like a Moroccan Mint Green Tea) after a hearty, spicy meal. White teas are lovely when paired with crackers, as the flavour is often delicate. I even recommend cooking with your tea. I whisked Matcha Japanese green tea powder into grapeseed oil, freshly squeezed orange juice, honey, sea salt and water for a lovely salad dressing served over mixed greens, orange slices and goat cheese. I even steeped thin slices of a sweet potato in oolong tea, and then baked them for a tasty snack with a subtle hint of smoky flavour from the roasted oolong. In fact, my love of tea and food inspired me to create a series on my blog, teaspoons at the table.

Where is your favourite place to go to for good tea?
Even though I often purchase teas online from around the world to steep at home, I enjoy stepping into a local tea shop to see and smell their selection. I've learned so much about tea just by talking with shop owners and fellow tea lovers. While in Philadelphia, I can be found at Tbar or Cups & Chairs. Although, when I am visiting my home away from home, New York City, I escape to Radiance Tea House (I love their menu of Wellness Teas).

I end my note today on a sugary tea high and keeping my fingers crossed for an elegant tea bar in our tea crazy city.

-Raffat Binte Rashid



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2011 The Daily Star