Street Food

I miss street food back home during Ramadan: Pakistani expat

Hasnain, a mother of three children in Dubai, hails from Gulistan-e-Johar.

Even though Pakistani expat Sobia Hasnain has been away from her home country since 2008, she can never forget the tranquility of celebrating the holy month of Ramadan back home.

Hasnain, a mother of three children in Dubai, hails from Gulistan-e-Johar, one of the many areas in Karachi with a decades-long tradition of providing roadside Iftar to the needy. There are many other traditions that make the place unforgettable for Hasnain.

“Ever since I was a child, I have seen my mother do all of the Eid preparation before Ramadan so that we can have more time for reading and understanding the Quran.

Starting with the sighting of the moon and greeting others to making traditional food, efforts are taken to keep the traditions alive. My mother would also arrange a small gathering of women to read and understand the Quran in a group at our home. These sweet ladies would also work together to help the less fortunate families with their expenses during the holy month.

“One more thing I miss the most about Ramadan in Pakistan is the street food. I come from Karachi, which is the hub of street food in Pakistan. During Ramadan, special arrangements are made by the bakers and confectioners. They set up special tents where we can buy all kinds of delicacies, including samosa, pakora, rolls, chaat, meat sticks, special parathas, dahi baray, jalebi, haleem, fruit chaat … to name a few.”

Hasnain’s grandparents migrated from Bihar, India, so they have their own special recipes that they make during Ramadan, such as mangochi, ghugni, moong and masoor daal ki pakori and raw mango sherbet.

These specially prepared meals were often shared with neighbours back home as part of another tradition in Karachi.

“Young children are seen carrying trays of food which are brought to neighbours and nearby mosques. Most of all, I miss the chaand raat (night before Eid Al Fitr), when we gather at someone’s house to get henna done,” Hasnain said.

“I do try to keep the traditions alive here as much I can by following in my mother’s footsteps, starting by encouraging children to understand the Quran and help others in need. Food is definitely a big part of our tradition, and I try making traditional food during Ramadan and Eid. I bring bangles for my daughters from Pakistan and put henna on their hands. “The good thing about Ramadan in the UAE is that we live in a multicultural society where we learn so much from others. I have learned to cook many Arabic and continental dishes. My children are big fans of mandi, falafel, shawarma and kunafa, so we also make these during Ramadan.”