From Kahk to Shalawlaw: 8 of Egypt’s Favorite Holiday Foods
Gathering together with family and friends for a holiday is rarely complete without food. Here are eight celebrations dear to the hearts of Egyptians and the foods associated with them.
Eid al-Fitr is the three-day festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
It is an occasion of peace and joy. People gather at mosques for Eid prayers, visit relatives, indulge in delicious festive meals, and contribute to charity.
For a better understanding of what Eid al-Fitr celebration means for Muslims, it is important to know more about the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.
Vanilla sponge cake with almond syrup, almond pastry cream, caramelized almonds and topped with whipped cream and sugar almonds
PISTACCHIO E DATTERI CHEESECAKE
Sicilian pistachio cheesecake with date pieces
Creamy and smooth with Sicilian flavors for the holiday torrone and pistachio
Our traditional sorbetti (sharāb) are created using only real fruit, sugar and water: lemon, orange, and mixed berry
One of the most ancient Arab-Sicilian frozen desserts: lemon and almond
SICILIAN RICOTTA GELATO CANNOLIFrozen version of the classic cannoli originated from the city of Qal’at al-nisā’ (Caltanissetta) near Palermo. decadent, crispy pastry tubes, filled with luscious Sicilian ricotta gelato and toasted pistachios
PISTACCHIO SEMIFREDDO POPS
Semi-frozen pistachio dessert dipped in white chocolate with toasted pistachios
GELATO DI CAMPAGNA Frozen Arabic Sicilian semifreddo with mixed nuts
PISTACCHIETTI SICILIANISicilian cookies baked with almond and pistachio flour and rolled in chopped pistachios
RICCIARELLI DI SIENA
Traditional Tuscan meringues with candied oranges and almond flour
Tiramisù in the shape of “Love” with a velvet spray of red chocolate
Whether you have or haven’t observed the Ramadan fast, these desserts will be a delightful treat. Check out some of the most commonly prepared recipes.
Speaking of Eid-Ul-Fitr, this festival of breaking the fast is also called ‘sugar feast’, ‘Sweet Eid’, and ‘Festival of Sweets’, owing to the variety of desserts prepared and offered during this time.
This tradition was started by Muslims in Medina, Saudi Arabia and dates and honey were their preferred sweeteners. The scientific reason is that these sweeteners are great sources of energy, especially after a month of fasting.
Honoring this festival, here are some of the best Eid-Ul-Fitr sweet treats curated by different Muslim cultures.
Heartwarming and the food equivalent of warm hugs, Sheer Khurma or Sevaiyaan is a popular dessert among South Asian Muslims. This recipe uses milk, vermicelli, nuts and dried fruits, with some ghee, dates, and aromatic spices like cardamom.
Dates are rightly called nature’s candies. While these taste great by themselves, some prefer taking them up a notch with stuffings. Not only does it make the dates more filling but, but 10 times more delicious. Some add nut butter, crushed nuts, rose petals, melted chocolate, cream cheese, honey, among other commonly used toppings.
Caramel-like sweetness with the crunch of nuts.
Originally renowned as a Greek delicacy, Baklava is quite common among North Americans and in Turkey. In the earlier years, cities in Istanbul used to host Baklava Parades on the 15th of Ramadan. While now most families go for store-bought Baklava, traditionally they prepared this delicacy in their kitchens. A big tray was made from scratch with a personal touch, each family added.
Soft and crisp exterior with a nutty filling.
Kuih Lapis (Kue Lapis) is essentially a steamed cake. But preparing this is so time and effort-consuming that it is prepared and consumed only during special occasions like Eid.
The main ingredients are rice flour, sago, coconut milk, eggs, and sugar. Once ready, this looks like a multicolor cake and develops a jelly-like texture, owing to the ingredients used. Lapis is just one variety, but there are several other types of Kuih.
This has a jelly-like texture.
Sweet rice is a dish when rice is cooked with saffron and sugar. It results in a dessert called shole zard. Sometimes, during occasions or special holidays, nuts and dried fruits may also be added to enhance the richness and festive feel.
This is popular in Senegal and better known as lakh. This sweet porridge is made by using curdled milk and millets. Consumed right after performing the prayer, this is topped with baobab fruit.
Fatira and Cambaabur Bread
Another traditional specialty, fatira and cambaabur bread are an African staple. These are thin, crepe-like pancakes that are topped with honey and served with fatira. A variation of this is pancake sprinkled with sugar and yogurt.
By its name, you’d think it has its origins in Turkey. But Turkish Delights are said to have been originated in Iran. These are bite-sized desserts that are sprinkled with sugar and have a jelly or marshmallow-like softness in the bite.
Sambusa Hilwa or Briouat are relished in the Arabian Gulf. These are triangle-shaped fried doughs stuffed with a sweet filling. The crust is not flavored, but the filling balances it out really well.
The filling generally consists of fruits like pears or apples with some sugar syrup-soaked nuts.
Crispy and nutty with a balanced sweetness- this is a great dessert.
Easily the quickest and easiest dessert recipe, Nishallo needs just three ingredients. It is made with egg whites, sugar, and plant roots like licorice. Egg whites are whipped until soft peaks are formed. Sugar and licorice are added during the process and it achieves a soft, marshmallow-like fluffiness. This is served with naan which makes it a complete meal or a sweet end to the meal.
That’s all, these were some of the most popular Eid-Ul-Fitr desserts that made us drool too. While some require tons of ingredients and elaborate processes, there are a few that call for just three ingredients and take less than five minutes to whip up. Which of these delish recipes would you try?
The Oxford Companion of Food states that although North Americans typically know phyllo pastry by its Greek name, the dough is traced back to Turkic origins. In Ottoman Istanbul, the city would host a Baklava Parade on the 15th of Ramadan. Today, the dish still remains a big part of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Many families opt for store-bought baklava nowadays; but some families, particularly those with Turkic and Balkan origins, make a big tray of baklava from scratch for Eid al-Fitr, passing down family recipes generation to generation.
In Morocco, these are known as briouat, whereas in the Arabian Gulf, the name sambusa hilwa is more common. In each version, phyllo dough is shaped into triangular pockets and then stuffed with a sweet filling. Fruits such as pears and apples or syrup-soaked nuts are popular stuffings. Alternatively, phyllo might be rolled into a cigar shape (instead of a triangle) and stuffed with a sweet cream, similar to a cannoli.
A favorite at Middle Eastern restaurants, this dessert is a top pick for Eid al-Fitr in Levant cultures. For this dessert, shredded phyllo dough is paired with a white cheese, such as Nabulsi or Akkawi cheese. It’s served with a drizzle of fragrant sugar syrup, usually as a rectangular slab of cake.
Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Saviya is a popular dessert with South Asian Muslims on Eid al-Fitr. It is made by stir frying vermicelli, ghee, sugar, and aromatic spices such as cardamom. Many families enjoy saviya right after Eid prayer for brunch or breakfast. A similar counterpart, sheer khurma, is equally popular. It also uses vermicelli as a primary ingredient, but the vermicelli is cooked in a milk base (often overnight). The dessert is akin to a sweet noodle soup; based on personal preference, some serve it cold and others serve it hot.
In Egypt, kahk — a crumbly butter cookie stuffed with a date paste ball and sprinkled with icing sugar — is a family favorite for Eid al-Fitr. In other countries, such as Palestine, a date stuffed cookie called maamoul takes precedence on the Eid table. Yet still in Indonesia, cookies stuffed with pineapple jam are the popular choice for Eid.
Vanilla, chocolate, lemon, cardamom, and almond are just a sampling of butter cookie flavors enjoyed on Eid al-Fitr. Names and offerings differ from region to region. For example, you might find ghraybeh in the Middle East, naan khatai in South Asia, or crescent-shaped sable cookies in North Africa.
In Southeast Asia, kuih lapis, or kue lapis, is a steamed cake so labor-intensive it’s saved just for special occasions like Eid al-Fitr (natively called Hari Raya or Lebaron). Made of rice flour, sago, coconut milk, eggs and sugar, it’s a colorful cake with a jelly-like texture, similar to custard. Lapis is just one type of kuih (traditional snack) enjoyed for Eid; many more kuih varieties exist.
In Uzbekistan and neighboring Central Asian cultures, the month of Ramadan brings with it the good news of nisholda or nishallo. Egg whites are whipped and combined with sugar and plant roots, usually licorice root. Almost like a marshmallow fluff, it’s served with naan for a sweet finish to a meal.
Similar to licorice, the Oxford Companion of Food traces nougat’s roots back to Central Asia and Iran. Later spreading to Arabia and Andalusian Spain, nougat has been a favorite treat for Eid al-Fitr from at least the 10th century.
Although its name might suggest origins in Turkey, Turkish delight is said to have originated in Iran. Called lokum in Persian, these tiny bites come in a variety of flavors and textures, from jelly-like to marshmallow soft.
There are endless ways semolina makes its way into Eid al-Fitr desserts. In some cultures, semolina is stir fried with eggs, ghee, and sugar to make a sweet dish called halwa. In others, cooked semolina is combined with date pastes and set into molds to make a type of fudge. Semolina is also used as a base for traditional puddings — or when mixed with olive oil and honey, it’s semolina cake for Eid!
In Africa, thin, crepe-like pancakes take centre stage for Eid al-Fitr. In Ethiopia, fatira is a pancake enjoyed with honey for breakfast on Eid. In neighbouring Somalia, cambaabur is a pancake sprinkled with sugar and yogurt.
In Yemen, khaliat nahal are beautiful buns glazed with honey and baked in a honeycomb pattern for Ramadan and Eid. In Iraq, kleicha are buns rolled with a date jam for a sweet Eid breakfast.
Fried foods are popular throughout Ramadan, and on Eid al-Fitr, fried sweets are a crowd pleaser! Churro-like donuts with various names are found throughout Muslim cultures. In Libya, they go by the name sfinz and are topped with date molasses and sprinkled sugar.
In Senegal, lakh is a type of sweet porridge made from curdled milk and millet. It’s traditionally consumed right after returning home from Eid prayer. Adding baobab fruit is a common way the porridge is dressed up for the occasion. Other West African cultures similarly enjoy a sweet porridge, also known as thiakry or degue, on Eid.
Common to South Asian cultures, mithai is an umbrella term for traditional sweets. A box of assorted mithai is a go-to hostess gift for Eid parties in these cultures.
In Iran, rice is cooked with saffron and sugar to make a dessert called shole zard. Dried fruits and dates added to the rice provide an extra touch of sweetness for the religious holiday.
Halawet el Mouled. Photo credit unknown.
The birth of the Prophet Mohamed is a beloved occasion in Egypt, and one that always comes with fairs and joy. Capturing it as effectively as if one were attending mawlid el- nabi (Prophet’s birthday) themselves, is the iconic puppet show, El-Leila El-Kebira (The Big Night, 1961), with lyrics written by Egyptian poet Salah Jahin and music by Egyptian composer Sayyed Mekkawy.
During this celebration, Egyptians eat an assortment of sweets: candied nuts such as hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, chickpeas, and sesame, Turkish delight, nougat, and more. Though the tradition has nearly faded, children were once gifted these sweets shaped as dolls for girls, and horses for boys.
Ashoura’. Photo credit: Daily Sabah.
Ashoura’ which takes place on 10 Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, commemorates two different events in Islamic tradition. Firstly, and primarily amongst Sunni Muslims – which make up the vast majority of Egyptian Muslims – it celebrates the day Moses parted the Red Sea.
Secondly, it commemorates the death of Al-Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohamed, in the Battle of Karbala, making it a day of mourning, primarily amongst Shi’a Muslims.
In Egypt and elsewhere in Muslim-majority countries, the dish of ashoura’ (also known as Noah’s pudding) is served on that day, made up of wheat, milk, sugar, starch, often topped with nuts and raisins.
The Fast of the Virgin Mary
A priest preparing ShalawlawPhoto via Watani net
The cold sister of traditional molokhia, shalawlaw is a savoury and entirely plant-based dish often served during the Fast of the Virgin Mary, which many Coptic Christians observe between 7 and 21 August.
It is believed that the dish, which is made up of dried molokhia leaves, water, garlic, onion, and lemon, was introduced to the Holy Family by Egyptians during their trip through Egypt.
Despite possibly having been around since ancient times, the dish recently gained renown due to a widely circulated, false belief that it could cure COVID-19 due to its immunity-boosting ingredients.
Ramadan at the Library
Halifax Public Libraries believes in building a strong, supportive and healthy community engagement with diverse cultures. We mark the start of Ramadan with a popular event at Keshen Goodman Public Library for the whole community, including crafts and snacks.
As the month of Ramadan comes to a close, pastry shops take down their billboards of these popular bastardisations of traditional desserts to replace them with advertisements for the unchanged –
and unchangeable – Eid classic, kahk.
Celebrating the end of fasting for the month of Ramadan, Egyptians have long since baked these sweet, crumbly biscuits, either plain or filled with walnuts, agameya (a paste made of ghee, honey, and sesame), or malban (Turkish delight). Alongside this iconic biscuit, Egyptians also have a breakfast of melt-in-the-mouth ghorayeba biscuits and the crisp nashader biscuits, usually alongside a cup of steaming tea with milk.
Though now it is more common for Egyptians, especially urban working Egyptians, to purchase their kahk, ghorayeba, and nashader biscuits from pastry shops, the process of preparing at home was a communal task that women undertook together, renting a sag (large baking sheet) from local bakeries to complete the baking process there, as home ovens were rarely large enough to accommodate the amounts prepared.
On the occasion of Eid-al-Adha, here are five sugar-free desserts for the people with diabetes or are just health conscious:
1. Faldhari Badam Ki Barfi
Faldhari Badam ki Barfi is for all those who wish to keep sugar at bay but don’t wish to miss out on indulging in the festival. The dessert is packed with different kinds of nuts along with mawa, cardamom, and dehydrated fruits.
2. Oats Kheer
As the name suggests, oats kheer is a perfect blend of healthy and tasty and does not require sugar. Roasted oats are cooked along with milk, dry fruits and nuts, along with cardamom and is then topped with fruits.
3. Grilled Almond Barfi
One of the easiest and quickest sugar-free desserts, grilled almond barfi can be made with only three ingredients and that even in less than 30 minutes. All you need is khoya, roasted crushed almonds and caramelised sugar-free substitute.
4. Khaas Malpoi
Khaas Malpoi is a fusion dessert, where carrot halwa is stuffed in crepes and served on rabri topped with pista and almonds. Khaas Malpoi has the goodness of three desserts into one and the best part is that all of them are sugar-free.
5. Sugar-free phirni
A traditional dessert that has been associated with the festival of Eid, one can never miss out on phirni. This dessert is made with rice, milk, nuts and rosewater. You can add stevia to it if you want.
July 10, 2022 07:32:53 IST
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and it’s the most religiously significant time of year for Muslims throughout the world. It marks the month in which the Quran—the holy text of Islam—was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
The naming of Ramadan originated from the Arabic word “ar-ramad,” which means scorching heat.
Each day during Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. They are also supposed to avoid impure thoughts and bad behaviour. Muslims break their daily fasts by sharing meals with family and friends.
The first pre-dawn meal of the day during Ramadan is called “suhoor.” Each day’s fast is broken with a meal known as “iftar.” Traditionally, a date is eaten to break the fast. The types of foods served vary according to culture.
More information about Ramadan can be found in the video here., opens a new window
Eid al-Fitr cookies recipe
Eid cookies are sweet biscuits which are enjoyed in most Muslim households celebrating the end of Ramadan.
(Recipe from amiraspantry.com)
- 3 cups flour
- A dash of salt – approximately 1/8 teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional but highly recommended)
- 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1 cup ghee, room temperature and not melted
- 1/3 cup warm water
For the pistachios and honey filling:
- 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup pistachios coarsely ground
- In your mixing bowl, add flour, salt, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and sesame seeds.
- Add unmelted ghee – at room temperature – and mix until completely incorporated.
- Add water and continue mixing until you get a nice consistent dough.
- Cover and let it rest for an hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small pot over medium heat add ghee or butter then add the flour and mix until the flour turns golden brown.
- Remove from heat, add sesame and honey, mixing well, then return the mixture to a low heat until it thickens.
- Remove from heat, add pistachios and mix well. Let it cool down for 10 minutes then form it into 20 small balls.
- After an hour has passed, divide the dough equally into 20 balls of 40g each approximately.
- Place dough balls in a plate and cover with plastic wrapping.
- Now start filling and shaping the kahk.
- Take one of the balls of dough, put one portion of the pistachio filling in the centre, and close the dough to form a ball around it.
- Press lightly into a Mamoul tool or make an engraving using a fork.
- Place the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, bake in a 350ºF oven for 20-25 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown.
- Let the cookies cool down on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.
- When ready to enjoy, sprinkle top with powdered sugar.
Eid food around the world
This shortbread cookie is primarily eaten in Levantine countries like Syria and Lebanon. There are different variations of stuffing, usually dates, pistachios, or walnuts, and they are often covered in powdered sugar. Kleicha is a very similar cookie enjoyed in Iraq as well as kahk in Egypt and Sudan.
This is a Somali Eid bread similar to Injera (a white leavened Ethiopian bread made from teff flour, similar to a crêpe) in texture but has different spices added to it. On Eid, it’s typically served sweet with sprinkled sugar and topped with yogurt for a tangy contrast. This recipe is also very popular in Djibouti and may have originated there.
Literally translated as “milk with dates,” sheer khurma is also known as semai in Bangladesh. This sweet vermicelli dessert is an Eid favourite in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It’s prepared with vermicelli, milk, sugar, dates and, depending on the country, pistachios, almonds, and/or raisins.
Tajine is often served in North African countries like Morocco and Algeria. It is a slow-cooked stew prepared with some sort of meat (often lamb or beef), with vegetables and/or fruits like plums and apricots.
This is a hearty Ethiopian stew or curry prepared with chicken and is typically eaten with the classic sourdough-tasting bread, injera. It is typically served on a communal dish allowing everyone to dig in and enjoy both the food and the company.
What we know in English as “Turkish delight,” lokum is a favourite for holidays like Eid in Turkey. This gel-like dessert is a combination of starch, sugar, and other fillings like dates, pistachios, and walnuts. It tastes good and is also one of the most beautiful Eid desserts as it can come in many different colours.
Tufahija is a dessert enjoyed by several Bosnians on Eid. It’s poached apple drenched in sugar and stuffed with walnut. It is often served elaborately in a large individual glass filled with syrup and topped with whipped cream.
These dumplings are a traditional Russian Eid al-Fitr food, though they can be found all over the world. They are thought to originate in what we now know as China and are part of Afghan, Armenian, Turkish, Bosnian, and central Asian cuisine. They’re usually stuffed with spiced lamb or beef and their size and shape varies across regions.
Bolani is one of those dishes enjoyed throughout Ramadan and still eaten on Eid al-Fitr and throughout other special occasions year-round. Found in Afghanistan, it is a thin-crusted bread with a vegetable filling, stuffed with foods like potatoes, lentils, or pumpkin and can be served with yogurt. It’s typically served as a side or appetizer, though it can be eaten as a main dish.
This is an Indonesian take on traditional Dutch layer cakes that was developed during colonial times. It’s made like a typical cake with flour, butter, and eggs, but contains Indonesian spices like cardamom and clove. It takes a lot of effort to prepare this cake, so it is seen as a delicacy to eat on special occasions.
This spicy main course is an Eid classic in Malaysia. It originated with the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia that saw the dish as an embodiment of their society’s culture with the meat symbolizing the leaders/royalty/elders, coconut milk the teachers and writers, chilli the religious leaders, and the spice mixture the rest of society.
On this day, Muslims after offering prayer at the mosque, celebrate the festival with their loved ones and enjoy delectable spreads
Representational image. News18
On this day, Muslims across the world sacrifice an animal (sheep or goat or camel) as a way to prove their devotion to Allah. The day aims to commemorate and honour Prophet Ibrahim for his willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail to prove his devotion to the mighty Allah.
Eid-al-Adha is celebrated in the holy month of Zul Hijjah, which is also one of the important months according to the Islamic calendar. After offering prayer at the mosque, Muslims come together to celebrate the festival with their loved ones and enjoy delectable spreads.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Photo credit: Dyna’s Egyptian Cooking.
On 19 January, Egypt celebrates Eid Al-Ghetas, or Epiphany. On this holiday, Coptic Christians gather for a feast of qolqas or taro root soup after a short fast.
Epiphany is a holiday celebrated to commemorate the baptism of Christ. The word ghetas itself is derived from the Arabic word meaning immersion. Though the connection between the holiday and the taro root vegetable is not confirmed, Coptic historian Atif Naguib said that the choice of a root vegetable is associated with the Biblical verse, “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead”.
Trending social media fights about its popularity notwithstanding, qolqas is an Egyptian staple that is enjoyed across the country. Made up of cubed taro root swimming in a rich, herby broth, this dish is as warming as it is nutritious.
Even those who do not enjoy qolqas often eat just one spoonful of it on Epiphany, as there is an almost superstitious belief in the necessity of it. And as it is often said to children, “If you don’t eat qolqas, you’ll wake up without a head.”
A popular social tradition for Muslims is Eidiyah, gifts of cash, given to children by their parents and older relatives within a family. It is considered a reward for successfully completing a month of fasting in Ramadan.
Believers in Abrahamic religions are familiar with the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son upon God’s request. In the nick of time, God sends him a ram to slaughter in place of his son, as his willingness alone proves his loyalty.
The world over, Muslims slaughter a sheep or sometimes other animals such as cows, to commemorate this event, known as Eid Al-Adha. As a result, foods served on this holiday are meat-heavy. Most famously, Egyptians serve fattah, a dish made up of toasted bread soaked in beef stock, topped with rice, meat, and often a garlicky tomato sauce.
However, the meat dishes do not end there. It is also highly common for people to gather for a breakfast of hearty grilled liver, a dish not usually eaten early in the day.
After a long day of fasting, Muslims in Egypt feast on a variety of savoury foods to get their energy back, but the most iconic dishes of Ramadan are the ones on the dessert table. While there are many Middle Eastern desserts associated with the month, the two staples that are rarely served outside of it are qatayef and kunafa.
Qatayef, which are essentially yeasted pancakes, are usually stuffed with nuts and raisins, crimped shut, deep fried, and drenched in simple syrup. Though the raisin and nut filling is the most traditional, some people enjoy these pastries filled with chocolate, unfilled, or even stuffed with savoury fillings such as cheese or meat.
Both qatayef and kunafa have in recent years been bastardised in pastry and dessert shops to include and be combined with the least traditional ingredients imaginable. Starting from the innocuous mango kunafa, all the way down to Biscoff Lotus filled kunafa and qatayef, the two desserts have been rendered almost unrecognisable to cater to modern palates.
Easter and Sham El-Nessim
A traditional Egyptian fessikh (fermented fish) dish, most widely eaten during Sham El-Nessim. Image credit unknown.
Two separate holidays that always coincide, Orthodox Easter and Sham El-Nessim, are associated with eating seasonal spring onions, also known as green onions or scallions, as well as eggs, ringa (smoked herring), and fessikh (salt-cured mullet fish).
The phrase Sham El-Nessim itself, which translates to ‘smelling the breeze’ in Arabic, is an Arabization of the words tshom ni sime, meaning something along the lines of ‘gardens and meadows’. It is one of the oldest celebrations in Egypt, believed to date back to ancient Egypt.
Sham El-Nessim, which falls on Easter Monday every year, is an occasion for families to get together and picnic in the springtime weather to enjoy the fish an onions, with children painting eggs, a tradition that is believed to have started in ancient Egypt as well.