The holy month of Ramadan has started and as one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam, Muslims are fasting (oruç) for the whole month, meaning; stop eating and drinking from dawn (sahur) to sunset (iftar). These two meals of sahur and iftar are not only ritualistic part of fasting, but they are also a chance get together for family pleasures.
And now listening to an old track from the album “Istanbul 1925”, I’m thinking of the old Ramadans that I’ve heard from older people or read about… Unlike today, the foods were bought or prepared ahead in large quantities, called as “ramazanlık” or “ramazaniyelik” back then. These foods included pastırma (beef that has been smoked or dried in the sun after being treated with spice), sucuk (Turkish sausage), dried green beans, eggplant, red peppers, various pickles, cheese and oils, soup ingredients, marmalades and fruit jams, ingredients for compotes such as sour cherries, apricots, plums etc., bulgur, noodles, rice and pasta, tomato and pepper pastes, and of course breads. The famous special bread for Ramadan is called “pide” which has a great smell and taste and can be eaten during sahur or iftar times. Also gözleme (a savory pancake) and börek (pie) are some of most popular pastries of Ramadan from old times. It’s important to choose the right foods before going back to sleep after sahur. For instance, salty foods can cause dehydration. When the evening comes for iftar time, the feast begins. After thanking prayers to God, most popular starters are olive and date (hurma) while the most common drinks are ayran (yoghurt mixed with water and salt), fruit drinks, tea and compotes. As for desserts traditional “güllaç” is my favourite! Dating back to Ottoman period, it was named after its key ingredient, rosewater (gül suyu). This milky dessert is made of cornstarch, flour and water and usually served with walnuts on the top.
When the month ends, there’s a celebration called as the “Feast of Ramadan” also known as the “Sugar Feast”. This three day long feasting time involves lots of sweets consumption. People visit each other with respect and mostly home made sweets like baklava, kadayıf, hurma tatlısı etc. are offered besides candies. As a sweet loving person, it’s the sweetest time of the year for me! Another sweet side is the traditional puppet theater of Karagöz & Hacıvat. When these two passions of mine; sweets and arts come together, Ramadan activities become delicious!
If you happen to visit Turkey during Ramadan, make sure you taste the special foods of this month. Sure Turkish cuisine is rich and tasty, but sometimes hunger can create more tastes! And trust me on this one; Ramadan in Turkey makes the menus even more delicious!