Everybody knows Eid Ul-Fitr is all about eating Sewai, but did you know that India’s many Muslim communities have a huge diversity of cuisines and dishes that are eaten traditionally on this holy festival? Slurrp talked to Indian food experts representing different Muslim culinary cultures from across India. From Lucknow’s dastarkhwan to Bhopal’s royal legacy, from Kolkata’s Shia community to Mumbai-Pune's Bohri community to Kerala’s Moplah community, our experts revealed the heritage dishes their families have followed for generations and cooked up to celebrate Eid.
The festival of Eid Ul-Fitr, which is the culmination of the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan, is an occasion that unites communities across the Indian subcontinent. Also known as Meethi Eid, this day—as everyone knows—is all about eating Sewai and a feast of delicious dishes. But what most people may not know is that the Muslim community in the Indian subcontinent doesn’t lack diversity in its cuisines. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Sure, Eid is all about festive dishes, but which festive dishes do these varying Muslim communities hailing from very different regions and culinary cultures love to indulge in the most?
We at Slurrp caught up with Indian food experts representing very different Muslim culinary cultures from across India. From Lucknow’s dastarkhwan to Bhopal’s royal legacy, from Kolkata’s Shia community to Mumbai-Pune's Bohri community to Kerala’s Moplah community, our experts revealed the heritage dishes their families have followed for generations and cooked up to celebrate Eid. Read on and discover the diversity of India’s Muslim culinary legacies.
Rana Safvi: Lucknow’s Nawabi Dastarkhwan During Eid
“This Eid is all about celebrating the completion of a month of fasting, that is Ramadan. Most people associate this Meethi Eid with Sewai,” explains Rana Safvi, a renowned food historian who grew up in Awadh. “I grew up in Lucknow, so the traditional Sewai made there is called Qiwam Ki Sewai. Qiwam means sugar syrup. So, this Sewai dessert is made in sugar syrup. The other Sewai dish is Doodh Ki Kheer, but you’ll find that traditionally in Lucknow, Qiwam Ki Sewai is more popular for Meethi Eid celebrations. It is served with cream or malai.”
Video courtesy: YouTube/Rana Safvi
But the celebrations aren’t limited to Sewai. “We also enjoy eating Lucknowi Yakhni Pulao during this Eid instead of Lucknowi Biryani. The Yakhni Pulao can be made of mutton or chicken. You basically make a soup out of the meat and spices, and then you put the rice in it to make the pulao. Then there are Shami Kebabs, the recipe for which, I think, everybody is familiar with,” she says. “So, Qiwam Ki Sewai, Yakhni Pulao and Shami Kebabs are the three staples we love eating and serving during Eid Ul-Fitr. Many families also indulge in Korma with Sheermal and Rumali Roti. These dishes will be there on every table.”
“I am very particular about conforming to the exact traditional recipes on Eid, even though I’m usually more open to experimenting and innovating,” she adds. “These Eid recipes I follow exactly to the T because this is how my mother, my grandmother, everybody has been making for generations.” She also explains that these traditional recipes rarely vary across what was previously Awadh and the United Provinces, so chances are that you will find people indulging in the same trifecta of dishes during Eid in both Lucknow and Aligarh.
Manzilat Fatima: Celebrating Awadh And Calcutta’s Eid Heritage
“We hail from a Shia family and in fact, the Nawabs of Awadh were Shia rulers—so our Eid heritage dishes have more to do with the Shia community,” explains Manzilat Fatima, who runs Manzilat’s in Kolkata and represents the legacy of Lucknow’s last Nawab, Wajid Ali Shah. Fatima is, in fact, the Nawab’s great-great-granddaughter and her khandani legacy is rooted both in Lucknow and Calcutta. “Apart from the Sewai and Sheer Khurma, Biryanis, Kebabs and Kormas are regularly eaten during all festivities including Eid,” she says. “But there is something unique that our family prepares for Eid lunch, which is Khadi Masoor Ki Dal Gosht.”
The heritage of Kolkata Biryani is tied generationally to Manzilat Fatima's family. Image courtesy: diasporaco
“The masoor dal people usually use to make dals is pink in colour, but Khadi Masoor is the one with the skin on, the black one,” she explains. “Since we are from the Shia community, we follow Imam Hussain and his martyrdom. So, during Muharram as well as Eid, we make this simple dish called Khadi Masoor Ki Dal Gosht. No matter how happy we are, we never forget the loss of Imam Hussain. Since Eid is the ultimate joyous occasion among Muslims after a month of fasting, we make this dish for lunch so that we remember Imam Hussain’s martyrdom and sacrifice. This Eid lunch does not include any other dish—just this dal and plain rice and paratha.”
“In the evening, of course, we have the Biryani and Kebabs and other dishes,” she adds. “The Biryani is the typical Kolkata Biryani with potatoes, not the regular Awadhi biryani. We make two-three types of Sewai including Qiwam Ki Sewai, Sewai Ka Muzaffar and Doodh Ki Sewai. Sheer Khurma is also a must-have during Eid. We soak the dry dates the night before in milk. It’s the first thing we have on Eid before we say our morning prayers.”
Moiz Nalwala: The Uniqueness Of Bohri Eid Dishes
“For us Bohris, Eid is primarily all about Sheer Korma,” says Moiz Nalwala, a home chef and food entrepreneur who runs Bohri Kitchen 53 and Salad Story in Pune with his wife, Mariya. “Not only do we eat Sheer Korma, but we also sell nearly 70 litres of this sweet dish during Eid. We follow my maternal grandmother’s Sheer Korma recipe down to the last details. She was an excellent cook and represented the legacy of Mumbai’s Bohri community. The creamy texture of this dish is unforgettable.”
Kabsa Rice is a Bohri specialty dish. Image courtesy: Moiz Nalwala
“Other dishes that are never missed on Eid include Bohri Mutton Biryani, which is completely different from Hyderabadi Biryani. Bohri Biryani is never as spicy as Hyderabadi Biryani, but you get all the flavours,” he says, adding that this Biryani of theirs is made in pure ghee. “The third must-have is Kepsa or Kabsa Rice, which has a flavoured rice base garnished with Seekh Kebabs, Tikkas and fried onions. This dish is very famous with Bohris. We also make Bohri Khurdi with Khichdi and Kari Chawal for those who want to have a lighter meal during Eid, especially after having eaten excessive fried foods during Ramadan.”
“Other favourites we love eating and serving on Eid include Mutton Raan and Shami Kebabs. We all want to eat shahi food on Eid, we want to enjoy it, savour every bite,” he adds. “Bohri Haleem, which is again very different from Hyderabadi Haleem, is also eaten during both Ramadan and Eid. Our version is made with cream and milk instead of water, which lowers the spice level more. These Bohri dishes are eaten not only in Pune but also in Mumbai, which is a great hub among Bohris.”
Shehnaz Siddiqui: Bhopal’s Outstanding Royal Legacy
“Eid is a time of celebration, so Sewai dishes are a must on every Bhopali Muslim table,” says Shehnaz Siddiqui, who runs Begum’s Legacy in Delhi, a food business steeped in the khandani royal culture of Bhopal. “Sheer Korma is a staple, and I follow the recipe handed down to me by my grandmother and mother. This vermicelli dish is cooked in milk with plenty of dry fruits and cream. Another specialty from Bhopal that I love is Dahi Vada—but our version has huge Vadas instead of the small, and a single Dahi Vada can be shared by two people. We also cook up a special dates chutney which is packed with seeds or sabz, which is also served with the Dahi Vada.”
Shehnaz Siddiqui shares a whole spread of Bhopali dishes. Image courtesy: Facebook/Begum's Legacy
“What people don’t understand about Bhopal’s Muslim cuisine is that it is more influenced by Persian food rather Mughlai food,” Siddiqui explains. “We make thick, tea-soaked Chole, which is eaten with Khamiri Roti. And one signature dish that is always a part of our Eid feast is Bhopali Korma. Made with chicken, some curd, plenty of onions and no tomatoes. The Mughal Korma popular in Delhi and Nawabi Korma in Lucknow taste very different from this Bhopali Korma, which relies on onions rather than curd.”
Eid dishes served in Bhopal’s families, she further explains, are usually prepared beforehand so that they can be easily served to guests. “So, apart from the Sheer Korma, Dahi Vada, Chole and Korma, we also make Keema Samosas, Meethe Khurma, Khagina Ka Samosa, Shami Kebabs and Yakhni Pulao. We usually serve this curd-based dish called Burhani with the Yakhni Pulao,” she explains. “I must also add that Bhopalis love Rooh Afza, and in my family, my mother used to prepare it with milk, watermelon chunks and basil seeds. Another drink that my grandmother used to make was Gulkand Doodh, to prepare which she would cook sugary rose petals in milk.”
Abida Rasheed: Representing Kerala’s Moplah Legacy
“For us, the lunch on Eid after we come back from the mosque is the most important meal,” says Abida Rasheed, a renowned home chef who represents the legacy of North Kerala’s Malabari Muslim community, popularly known as Moplahs. “And for this lunch, the most important dish is the Malabari Dum Biryani. We are basically from two sectors and have Thalassery Biryani and Kozhikoden Biryani.” She explains that she is from the Kozhikode district, so that’s the one she has learnt to cook from her grandmother and mother. Her husband, however, is from Thalassery—and so she learnt how to cook Thalassery Biryani from her in-laws' side.
Video courtesy: YouTube/Abida Rasheed's Cooking Recipes
“Everywhere else, they make Biryani with long-grain rice, but Malabari Biryanis are made with short-grain rice. That is how our legacy differs from that of Lucknow and Hyderabad,” she explains. When it comes to sweet dishes, Rasheed explains that Sewai is never on the menu. “With Biryani we also have Aleesa, which is a sweeter version of Hyderabadi Haleem,” she says. “This is actually a non-vegetarian dessert for the Biryani. We also have Muttamala, which literally translates to ‘egg chain’. So, this is a sweet noodle made with egg yolks which is served with a steamed pudding made of egg whites.”
Rasheed also mentions that while Eid dinners aren’t the most important meal of the festivities, they do have a tradition of eating a sumptuous non-vegetarian breakfast. “We have a goat’s head curry that is a must-have during breakfast, along with chicken curry and snacks like meat-stuffed spicy samosa and Unnakai,” she adds. “We normally cook all of these dishes in bulk, because we expect guests as well as nuclear family members to come back to the family home for Eid.