What’s festivals without a food spread to look out for? Especially when it is something rather celebratory, like the occasion of a birthday of the venerated Prophet Muhammad then the food frenzy is guaranteed to be even more pronounced. Celebrated as Eid-e-Milad an-Nabi or Mawlid and boasting its own namesake category of foods to offer diverse smacks of taste, this day of a more definite feasting basis sure delights with a cornucopia of traditional dishes. Here’s how different countries and cultures around the world feed into the festivities with their respective recipes-
Praised by the Prophet Muhammad himself as a dish that surpasses all other, Tharida is a must feature in every menu of Mawlid foods. A simple but hearty soup prepared by crumbing bread into the broth, this is essentially a meat based preparation. Numerous variations exist for the dish that is regarded as having been a symbol of Arab identity during the “early years of Islam”. An ancient food and one that is a staple of the Eid-e-milad celebrations, tharida makes for a serving of sumptuousness.
Tamina is a traditional delicacy of Algeria with definite celebratory connotations. Generally prepared to celebrate the birth of a baby and as part of the Malwid feast, this semolina based ‘cake’ though isn’t exactly a cake. It can be more appropriately called a semolina pudding but the texture and consistency of tamina is what makes it taste and look deliciously different. A three ingredient make of semolina, butter and honey that is set and garnished before it is indulged in, tamina is also one of the easiest and quickest of Mawlid foods and recipes.
A sugary delight that titillates the taste buds and delights the eyes, the curiously captivating candy called the Mawlid Bride makes for a standout presence amidst the many sweet offerings specially curated as part of the prophet’s birthday celebrations. It though isn’t just the name of this sweetmeat that incites such curiosity. This doll shaped edible that is decked up like a bride stems as a thousand year old Egyptian tradition that is honored on every Eid e milad un nabi as Arouset al-Malwid.
Sugary pastes shape out the ‘bride’ in all prettiness even as paper skirts, sparkles and fabric flowers adorn her further in all finery for young men to gift their betrothed. The festive unfurling is evident indeed in this melange of colorful brides dotting the numerous stalls and shops lining up the streets of Egypt during this particular time of the year. Alongside their existence as confectioner, plastic Mawlid brides also do the rounds in colorful continuation of a curious custom. There also would be an accompanying ‘knight doll’ in many cases- precisely Housan Al-Mawlid depicted as a sultan riding a horse, either as edible or plastic figurines speaking a different tale of love every Eid e Milad.
From the African nation of Tunisia emerges a sweet offering that dominates Eid e Milad celebrations there. Literally translating as pine nut porridge/cream, Assidat Zgougou though can also be culinarily claimed as a custard served as a bowlful of decadence no matter what its character. A rich dessert originally made out of Aleppo pine or Zgougou, flour, nuts, milk and cream, the preparation is a rather intensive process. Thus it is usually prepared the evening before Mawlid as a dish that Tunisians also tastefully decorate to exchange with relatives and neighbours and friends to celebrate the occasion.
Kaab al ghazal
Figurines and shapes seem to hold a special place upon the Malwid festive platter, this time substantiated by the Moroccan sweetmeat Kaab al ghazal. Gazelle horns is what they depict in standing true to their popularity- an identity that is steeped also in specific importance in Moroccan cuisine. An almond based sweet and the origin of all such preparations that Morocco loves to indulge in, kaab al ghazal would however be more accurate in its literal representation as gazelle’s heel. What’s in a name though as they say and true indeed, since the taste of these pastries are on a different level altogether.
Almond paste filling inside a wheat flour dough that is baked to perfection but only after they have been skillfully rested and moulded and shaped to attain that characteristic look, this is one of the most uniquely aesthetic pieces to bite into this Eid.
There’s no denying indeed the specialness of an immaculate kheer or phirni serving or the luscious coming together of flavors in the many sewaiyan preparations occurring centerstage every Eid. But come this specific occasion of the Muhammad’s birth anniversary and it is a certain Bohra Kalamro that interests our senses. A Bohra specialty as evident from its name, Kalamro is almost a kheer that can also be interpreted though as some version of a sweetened curd rice. Yes you read that right- curd indeed is the unexpected element curating this dish of a very festive feel.
This yogurt based rice pudding is also cooked somewhat differently than the regular kheer. Boiled rice serves as the base of the recipe with sour yogurt and sugar being the other primary ingredients. Additional elements commonly find their way with everything from mawa and condensed milk to the definite dominance of dried fruits as quintessential aspects of dessertiness. It also is the fact that Kalamro is served as a starter rather than an end of course sweet something that makes it even more distinctive a feature of Mawlid foods celebrating Eid e Milad.
Like we already said, kheer is a must on every celebratory occasion and every culture and religion of the world that has a similar something recipe to gorge on would never miss out on this opportunity. And while a plain serving of kheer is absolutely lip smacking in and by itself, the gastronomic experience availed out of what would perhaps be one of the most versatile sweet preparations ever gets even impeccable when savoured alongside some specific tastes. Thus emerges out of what would be the most exceptional fore of culinary brilliance in pairing sweet and savoury flavors is a combination that makes a kheer bowl all the more irresistible.
A Pakistani favorite, this calls for flaky and crisp piping hot puris that would perfectly lap up the sweet creaminess of a chilled kheer for a profusion of flavors that would beat even the most gourmand preparations. Adding yet another layer of taste to this match made in heaven is an Indian iteration of the recipe. Originating in the city of Hyderabad is a certain recipe for Choubey ki puri or puris stuffed with coconout sweetend coconut that is relished with warm kheer. The flaky texture of the puris perfecty complements the creamy nature of the kheer even as the coconut stuffing introduces a different dimension to this Mawlid foods pairing truly worth indulging in.
A dish so versatile that is indulged in as celebratory while occurring also as regular breakfast fare, Aseeda or Asida is another staple of the prophet’s birthday celebrations in the Arab world. The dish holds significance as being the meal that the prophet’s mother Halima ate before giving birth and one that is supposed to be frugal. It also is immensely simplistic a preparation of boiled wheat flour served with date syrup and ghee that instantly elevates its entire taste and experience. So wholesome in fact is Asida that it is eaten without any other dishes or sides complementing it.