Eid 2024: Celebrating A Feast Of Sweet Food Memories

The aroma is wafting through the air already, it's Meethi Eid also known as Eid Ul Fitr. What a lovely time to hug everyone, say "Eid Mubarak," and eat delicious treats! As is typical of many celebrations, Muslims all across the world associate Eid with extravagant feasts, With the month-long fasting, the holy month of Ramadan comes to a close. On the other hand, the aromatic, flavourful, and texturally different meal experiences that celebrate Eid vary from one place to another. These recipes, many of which have been handed down through many generations, are rich in complexity and originality and have their roots in antiquity. Over time, these culinary traditions have become ingrained in the palates of local communities, blending heritage with contemporary tastes to create a rich Eid cuisine.  

If you ask any Muslim, they will tell you that meethi sevaiyan, Sheer Khurma, has always been the hallmark of Eid for them. A large number of people visit the houses of their Muslim friends and consume many bowls of it. The celebrations would not be complete without Sheer Khurma. We talked to some Indian food experts who come from different Muslim communities. This is what Eid means to them.  

Reminiscing about Eid, the beloved childhood treats of Sadaf—a food expert and cookbook author—brings back a warm and sweet feeling. his mother's reluctance due to its sugar content, he fondly recalls her version, holding onto memories even after her passing. In his hometown of Bihar, Eid was celebrated with an array of sevaiyan variations, including the regular seviyan, sheer khurma, sevaiyan ka muzzafar (a dry version), qiwami sevaiyan, and flavoured versions. However, his migration to Delhi a decade ago ushered in a new Eid tradition, marked by visits to his cousin's house in Mayur Vihar for the quintessential old Delhi experience of khasta kachori with aloo ki sabzi, alongside his favourite sheer khurma prepared by his sister. 

He says, “one of my favourite memories of Eid is eating street food in Jharkhand after getting an Eidi, which is a gift from elders in the form of money.” Sadaf remembers his best treat, Aloo Cut, which is made of boiled potatoes mixed with spices and sour tamarind water. Sadaf mentions that the number of serves of Sheer Khurma has gone down a lot over time.  

With a difference in menu all over the country, pancakes with a lattice pattern known as jaalar vada, while wattalapam is a coconut custard pudding that is composed of coconut or condensed milk, jaggery, cashew nuts, eggs, and a few spices such as cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. Both of these dishes are popular among Muslims in South India. 

"Our family comes from a Shia background, and it is worth noting that the Nawabs of Awadh were also Shia rulers. Therefore, our traditional Eid dishes are more closely associated with the Shia community," explains Manzilat Fatima, who runs Manzilat's in Kolkata and carries on the legacy of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Lucknow. Indeed, Fatima is the great-great-granddaughter of the Nawab, and her prestigious family heritage is deeply connected to both Lucknow and Calcutta. "In addition to Sewai and Sheer Khurma, Biryanis, Kebabs, and Kormas are commonly consumed during all celebrations, including Eid," she states. "However, our family has a special dish that we make for Eid lunch, which is Khadi Masoor Ki Dal." 

"The masoor dal commonly used to prepare dals has a pink colour, whereas Khadi Masoor is the variety with the skin intact, which is black," she clarifies. As members of the Shia community, we stick to the teachings of Imam Hussain and commemorate his death. During the observance of Muharram and Eid, we prepare a simple meal known as Khadi Masoor Ki Dal. Irrespective of our level of happiness, we never fail to remember the sorrowful demise of Imam Hussain. Given that Eid is the most joyous day for Muslims following a month of Ramazan fasting, we prepare this meal for lunch as a means to commemorate the martyrdom and sacrifice of Imam Hussain. "In the evening, we indulge in Biryani, Kebabs, and various other culinary delights," she adds. The Biryani served is the traditional Kolkata Biryani, which includes potatoes, rather than the more common Awadhi biryani. We produce several varieties of Sewai, including Qiwam Ki Sewai, Sewai Ka Muzaffar, and Doodh Ki Sewai. Sheer Khurma is an essential dish to be enjoyed during Eid. Prior to consumption, we immerse the dehydrated dates in milk overnight. "It is the first thing we engage in on Eid prior to performing our morning prayers." 

As a way to nourish the spirit after the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslim households in Maharashtra also prepare khichda, a thick and hearty stew similar to haleem, which is slow-cooked to perfection with lentils, wheat, and delicate meat, during Eid. 

“Essentially, Eid spans three days of celebration”, says Kadir CTO (Chief Tasting Officer), The Bohri Kitchen in Mumbai. On the first day, we offer Eid Namaz and indulge in Sheer Khurma, sharing these moments exclusively with our immediate family. The second day, known as Baasi Eid, is spent with both close friends and family. The third day often involves outings. This traditional celebration typically begins with the morning prayer, followed by a joyous gathering at home, relishing Sheer Khurma. The main feast includes a seven-course meal, starting with two starters and two desserts, proceeding to dishes like raan or chicken pie, and concluding with the quintessential Biryani, an indispensable part of Eid. Throughout the years, Mutton Biryani and Sheer Khurma have remained steadfast favourites. Additionally, our culinary preferences adapt to the seasons; for instance, we might savour hearty paya soup in winter, replaced by a lighter clear soup in summer, and opt for a lighter pulao with gravy instead of the usual heavy biryani. He recalls his Eid memory and shares, "In the time of his grandfather, big batches were made to welcome guests, and the whole family ate the sweet dish like there was no tomorrow. But these days, smaller amounts are common because of nuclear families and health concerns. This shows how Eid practices and eating habits have changed over time."

In India, Eid is a time for sharing bowls of Sheer Khurma with a thin layer of varq and nuts and enjoying around the house, talking and laughing while eating sweets and hearty meals.