Friday, August 12, 2011

Breaking Fast at Home

Yesterday we hosted iftar.  I was so pleased that our guest said that my pakoras were "true Pakistani". I think that would make my father proud...

The menu: 
  • Juice
Fresh Dates from our favorite veg guys
Eggplant Pakora (also made potato and onion & spinach)

Lentil Soup, a bit runny but still tasty
Mint Chutney (a delicious one made by the Bronx Falcon!)
Jalebi from Baba Sweets
Fruit Chaat from Baba Sweet

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Breaking Fast

While breaking fast is often a family affair done at home, many people enjoy iftar at a restaurant.  Many high-end hotels offer pricy, all-you-can-eat buffets that are gut busting. I often wonder if people truly are fasting – how is it physically possible to eat so much food when you have been fasting all day? Maybe because of my eating habits, metabolism, and dislike for waste, I have a hard time going to these gluttonous affairs.  Note to fans: if you want to prove me wrong and show me a fancy night out at a 4 star hotel iftar, please contact me.

What I like about breaking fast at a restaurant is the anticipation that fills the room.  The tables tend to be already set with the iftar.  However, no one takes a bite until it is sunset, which is usually announced by the wait staff.  There is something about having food sitting in front of you and not digging right in. Torture for some, appreciation for others.

This Ramadan I’ve been to 4 iftars at restaurants.  Here are my experiences:

Noodle House:  offers a 95sr set-menu iftar. 4 courses – appetizer, soup, main course, desert, and choice of soda or fresh fruit juice. This does not include the fresh dates and kawa that are served right at sunset. The best part of this set is the fresh dates and the fresh juice. While not all of the choices are vegetarian, everything is fresh and cooked to order and they gladly accommodate various dietary restricions.

Red Chilli: offers a 10sr iftar.  Note: this is only iftar and does not include a full dinner or buffet afterwards.  The iftar is modest, but just enough for breaking fast.  We had chaana chaat, fruit chaat, samosa (with cashews inside – nice touch!), pakora, and mint chutney. Dates and an artificial type juice (Tang?) were also served.  Best part of this set: it’s 100% vegetarian, the fruit chaat was delicious, and the spice level of all of the food was perfectly spicy. The worst: Tang? - Please. [please note that they are currently closed for renovations and will re-open after Ramadan]

Marhaba: not sure of the price, but their iftar includes a buffet.  The iftar set out on the table had dates, rose water drink, pakora, samosa, 2 types of chaana chaat (one with yogurt, one sweet + sour one with a lot of onions), and mint chutney.  Perfect amount for 3 people.  The buffet included veg and non-veg Pakistani dishes, Pakistani and Arabic salads, and both Pakistani and Arabic desserts.  Best part of this set: the spice level of all of the food was perfectly spicy, the um ali was delicious, as was all of the desserts that I sampled.  While Marhaba is not my favorite Paki restaurant in Riyadh, I definitely recommend their iftar.

La Sani: not sure of the price, but their iftar includes a buffet.  The iftar set out on the table had dates, rose water drink, pakora, samosa, chaana chaat, and mint chutney.  Pampadums with dipping sauces were also present.  This was way too much for only 2 people and pampadums are the kiss of death – so delicious and tasty, but I swear they expand in your stomach.  The buffet included veg and non-veg Pakistani dishes, both Pakistani and Arabic salads, and all Pakistani deserts.  Best part of this set: the buffet was not overwhelming – a good amount of choices, but not too many; desserts were fantastic.  Worst part: spice level was not as good as other spots and I felt like there was too much waste at iftar.  While I like this restaurant for regular dining, I wouldn’t recommend it as a top iftar location.

What's your favorite restaurant for iftar? Hungry people want to know.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Falafel Revolution

To all the Hungry Pakipina fans out there, I am sorry if I have let you down with my lack of postings. I’ve had my share of Arab and non-Arab foods these past few months.  More restaurant reviews are to come, along with my first attempt at bitter melon and a demonstration on making the perfect aloo paratha.

Today, on March 11, 2011, I write to you with an important update. As you already know from previous posts, some eating establishments do not allow women to enter.  This usually includes falafel and shwarma spots, including one of my favorites, Mama Noura.  To my delight, the other day I was allowed entry into the shiny, chromed, famed establishment.    

Ok, let’s back up a minute.  Several weeks ago, The Bronx Falcon noticed two niquabed (fully veiled) women ordering inside. Plus, when we went to another favorite falafel spot, Abu Jabara, we also saw a woman inside.  Is this some type of falafel revolution inspired by recent events in the Middle East? I decided to roll the dice and press my luck. Not only did I venture inside, but I did so without a male guardian.  I was not greeted at the door and not asked to order from the outside as previously experienced.  Being allowed entry I walked right up to the register and placed my order (one falafel sandwich, and two juices – one for myself and one for the fellow driving me about).  After shelling out 10 riyals (the equivalent of $2.66 USD), I took my receipt to the juice counter.  I received one small fresh orange juice (for the driver) and one small orange juice and pomegranate cocktail for myself.  After receiving my juices, I made my way to the falafel station.  I wish you could all see the way the falafel assembler works – he first grabs 3 falafel balls and places them inside thin khubz.  He then squishes the bread so the falafel gets mashed up a bit.  Then come the tomatoes, which he slices at an alarming rate while holding the tomato in the air.  Afterwards, comes hot sauce (optional for some), pickles, tahini, and pickled hot peppers (now, are those really optional?)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy New Year!

January 1st marked the New Year for those who use the Gregorian calendar.  Saudi Arabia uses the Hijiri calendar, and the corresponding date for Hijiri 1432 was on December 7, 2010.   February 3rd was celebrated as the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit for the Chinese (Lunar) New Year.  Another birthday passed for me on January 7th.  And the 14th of February marked my one-year anniversary for being in the Kingdom. 

In many Asian cultures, noodles are a significant way of marking the New Year, whether it is a calendar new year of a birth new year.  Noodles symbolize long life in the Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino culture.  In 2011, I have eaten my fair share of noodles!  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a store that sells soba noodles, so I was unable to have my Japanese new year’s noodles (toshikoshi soba).  I did make pancit (Filipino birthday noodles) for several occasions that recently passed and had lo mein (Chinese style noodles) on February 3rd.  My vegetarian pancit specialties are pancit bihon (they are the thin, glass noodles also known as bean thread noodles or rice vermicelli) and pancit canton (the thicker flour noodles, often a yellowish color).  I often fry up some tofu or put in seitan to supplement the usual cabbage, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, onions, chilies, soy sauce, some veggie stock, garlic and garnished with scallions and lemon or calamansi juice.

To the Asian brothers and sisters out there, what is your background and what foods do you celebrate with? To the non-Asians, what types of foods do you enjoy for new years and birthdays?
And in the tradition of making a New Year’s resolution, I resolve to be a better blogger and keep you all posted in this year's adventures in food.