RIYADH: Ramadan iftars in Saudi Arabia are no longer limited to traditional food and drink and are expanding to include cuisines from around the world.
While one home-based business cook said the high demand for global dishes compelled her to perfect their preparation, another believed that preparing these dishes helped people recognize the cultures of diverse communities.
Haifa Thayed, a home-based business cook in Khafji, told Arab News: “Pizza is my favorite dish. This is one of the (most) important dishes I look forward to eating at Ramadan iftar. It is a must during Ramadan, whether the pizza is round, triangle-shaped or in the shape of a small circle.
“There are some non-traditional dishes that I cook perfectly, especially Adjaruli, a Georgian dish that I learned to cook while working with my nephew who runs a travel agency in Tbilisi.”
When I was in the United States to study, I lived with a Japanese roommate for over two years and she taught me everything I needed to know about culture and food. Lots of seafood which I associate with summer.
Najd AlruwailiResident of Riyadh
The dish is made of dough in the shape of an oval. It is hollow in the middle and contains various cheese fillings, including salty cheese. It is baked until the dough resembles a pie.
She said that after the adjaruli are fully cooked, an egg yolk and a piece of butter can also be placed on the cheese in the center.
This dish is eaten by taking a piece of pie and mixing the cheese with raw egg yolk. But it is not suitable for sahour because it is salty and makes you thirsty during fasting.
So her favorite suhoor dish is pasta with vegetables and mushrooms, vegetables and chicken, or chicken caesar salad because it’s a rich dish that fills her up.
Thayed mastered many dishes while studying in the US city of San Diego several years ago, including apple pie, roast chicken and quesadillas.
“Each dish has a distinct flavor that differs from our traditional dishes. My family loves the way I prepare these dishes and always asks me to prepare these dishes for them. I became more inventive with my preparation methods.
Normally, Norah Hamid prefers tacos, burgers and cookies. But, during Ramadan, she prefers spaghetti, Lebanese kibbeh and Indian biryani. She also makes brownies from time to time.
Abdullah Alradadi, 23, from Medina, said the Saudi dish of kabsa was an important part of the Ramadan food he and his friends ate during the month of fasting. But Italian was his favorite cuisine when he wasn’t eating traditional dishes.
“My favorite international dishes to eat during the month of Ramadan are pizza and pasta. They are very easy and quick to make for sahour. I first learned how to make these dishes in Riyadh. There were so many international restaurants that were opening that I fell in love with the dishes and learned how to prepare them.
With so many international restaurants opening and growing across the Kingdom, Saudis are integrating diverse cuisines into their daily meals.
“I know that pizza and pasta, especially fettuccine Alfredo, are very popular dishes in Italy,” he said.
Hamid learned to make Chinese noodles. A meal for four calls for a large sliced onion, two cubed chicken breasts, carrots, chopped garlic and ginger, soy sauce, noodles and bell peppers.
She cooks the noodles for 10 minutes, or according to package directions. The chicken is cooked in another pan, removed once done, and she adds the onion, garlic, ginger, butter and tomato paste.
The remaining ingredients are then added, along with a mixture of starch and cold water to thicken.
“After that, add the boiled pasta and a dash of soy sauce. Cook for 10 minutes.”
Her favorite suhoor meal is biryani, and her favorite iftar meal is Egyptian koshary. She tried koshary for the first time after an Egyptian friend recommended it to her, and she tasted biryani for the first time in an Indian restaurant. She learned how to cook these meals by practicing and watching videos online.
Those who live in Riyadh describe her preparation of international dishes as very good, and she thinks that preparing them allows her to experience the cultures of various communities around the world.
Najd Alruwaili, who is 27 and lives in Riyadh, said she was first exposed to international cuisines when she was completing her studies abroad.
“When I was in the United States to study, I lived with a Japanese roommate for over two years and she taught me everything I needed to know about culture and food,” said Alruwaili. “My desires have no seasons.”
During the month of Ramadan, as the weather begins to warm up and summer approaches, Alruwaili begins to crave seafood.
“A lot of seafood which I associate with summer. During this time, I crave sushi and seafood rather than traditional dishes. I have become very keen on eating Japanese food and I I became a fan.