Fasting Fare!

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Across the world holy month of Ramadan brings with it some specific delicacies that keep the faithful in good spirits and health. Apart from traditional beverages like Kateer and Babri Boel, markets in Kashmir this year were flooded with delicacies from across the world, Bilal Handoo reports.

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As the holy month of Ramadan is bidding adieu, markets across Kashmir which remained abuzz with shoppers looking for different varieties of dates and other eatables for iftaar (fast-breaking), will apparently miss the shopping spree of 30 days of fasting.

The month is typically celebrated with large evening banquets, where families gather to break their day-long fast with dates, sweet beverages and traditional desserts.

On the streets of Srinagar and elsewhere, varieties of dates, dry fruits, fried delicacies make their appearance on shops and makeshift stalls during the month. The markets across the city including Jamia Market, Maharaj Gunj, Maharaj Bazaar, Saraibala, Lalchowk, Batamaloo and Koker Bazaar remain abuzz with shoppers who could be seen buying dates and other palatable for iftaar.

Among the many eatables, the sales of pickles remained ticking during Ramadan. “Almost everyone in Kashmir likes pickles, especially during Ramadan, the demand surges,” Nisar Panzoo, who sells variety of pickles in large copper cauldrons on roadside in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, says. “The chicken pickle sells for Rs 300/kg, fish pickle for Rs 250/kg and other varieties of pickle for Rs 100/ kg.”

Hundreds of makeshift stalls selling eatables had sprung up at many places. Some at intersections and lanes, while most in crowded markets.

Kateer, though all seasoned beverage ingredient in local markets, soar in demand during Ramadan. “As compared to rest of months, Kateer sales pick up better during Ramadan,” Imtiyaz Wani, a grocer from Srinagar’s Hawal area, says. “And since, people fast in summers, Kateer beverage is known to cut down body temperature, besides it reduces thirst.”

IMG_1782In bustling Koker Bazaar of Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area, Ghulam Ahmad and Sons, a 50-year-old wholesale grocery shop received customers ever since Ramadan began this year. Mohammad Yaseen, 45, a second generation proprietor of this wooden shop – stuffed with open ended sacks displaying variety of spices and eatables – says the wholesale price of Kateer in local market is around Rs 720, while retailers sold it as high as Rs 1000.

Sweet basil or Babri beol is another commonly consumed commodity during Ramadan. “This year, like in every Ramadhan, Babri boul was in demand,” Yaseen, while registering sales on ledger, says. “The wholesale price of basil is Rs 130/kg, while the retailer price is 160/kg.”

One of reason people sought both these beverage items during fasting period is their medical benefits. Medicos term both Kateer as well as Babri beol beneficial for health, besides they say both have multiple health benefits.

“Both these beverages keep bowl movement perfect. They prevent accumulation of fat in the body,” Dr Idrees Wani, a Srinagar based physiologist, informs. “They also help in digestion, reduce frequent thirst, improve appetite, lower body temperature and keep skin in good condition.”

During the month of Ramadan the demand of dates is exponentially high as people purchase different varieties of dates.

Ramadan and dates are synonyms to each other. Trade pundits say it is a multi-million-market in Kashmir alone. “This year 8 truck loaded with dates reached Koker Bazaar only,” Yaseen says, “the cost of per truck is around Rs 15 lack.”

Bashir Ahmad, General Secretary Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Association, claims the consumption of dates is 90 per cent more during Ramadan in comparison to the rest of the year.

“As people consider it as Prophet Mohammad’s (SAW) Sunnah, dates remain in demand in the month of Ramadan,” Ahmad says.

Different varieties of dates are imported from various countries in large quantities in valley.

“Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran provide several different varieties of dates,” Mushtaq Khan, a local retailer, says. “There are at least 4 to 5 different varieties that are consumed in bulk in Kashmir.”

IMG_1762This year varieties of dates have increased in the market as compare to last year due to the demand of superior quality of dates like Ajwa from Saudi Arabia which is Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 per kilogram compare to Indian dates that are selling at Rs 200 to Rs 300 per kilogram.

Apart from being a very palatable fruit, the date contains a powerful nutritional value. Although the exact proportions vary across varieties, the typical composition of a date is: moisture, 23 percent; protein 2.2 percent; energy 274Kcal; carbohydrates 73 percent (sugars); fiber 2.3 percent; ash 1.9 percent; and a significant spread of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, phosphorous, sodium, calcium, potassium and, unique in fruits, lactin which is normally only found in milk.

In Srinagar’s rush pouring Hari Singh High Streets, Dilbahaar Ice cream, a known ice cream shop was also selling eatables in Ramadan. Ingredients of firni – a dessert prepared from milk – mostly consumed during Ramadan had been put on sale. Apart from semolina or sooji, Khoa (a milk food) and other dry fruits were apparently selling in fair amount.

“Khoa remained in demand this month,” Nadeem Khan, owner of Dilbahaar ice cream shop, says. “In local markets, Shopian supplies major quantity of khoa, besides Rajouri and Poonch districts. It is being sold at 240/kg.”

And then, there are non locals who had chipped in the local markets with their fried delicacies. “During Ramadan, we earn Rs 10,000 more on daily basis as compare to rest of the year, excluding festivals,” Mohammad Anees, a fried snack shop owner in Khanyar, candidly asserts.

As the curtain over this year’s Ramadan is about to descend, markets have to wait for another year to try delicacies that are in the offering.

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