KHARTOUM (Sudanow)—An appropriate and balanced food in the fasting month of Ramadan is quite important for averting several health problems and achieving the purpose for which the fasting has been decreed by Almighty God as an obligatory duty upon Muslims as well as non-Muslims before the advent of the Islamic faith.
The Ramadan meals in Sudan since ancient times have been healthy and complementary both nutritionally and medicinally, displaying the wisdom and experience of the Sudanese woman and her instinctive knowledge of preparing a meal containing all important nutritional elements from the local materials. She has acquired this skill through experience and observation and by adding something new every time until she developed a sort of food that is healthy, integral, safe and free of any substance that may cause any health hazard. For reaching this formula of a healthy and balanced food the Sudanese woman made use of the abundance of the agricultural and animal products in Sudan.
The medical nourishment expert, Dr. Manal Hassan al-Gabbany, Director of Nourishment Section of Soba University Hospital, told SUDANOW that the Sudanese woman, through experience and native culture, realized the importance of fermentation of numerous kinds of food. Modern science has proved that fermented foods are more nutrient than the manufactured and preserved ones and for this reason most of the Ramadan drinks, such as hilu-mur (sweet-bitter) that is made of sorghum mixed with a variety of spices, and cooked foods, such as aseedah (porridge) that is also made of sorghum, neaimiyya stew obtained by cooking dried meat and onion with the addition of yoghurt and dried okra, kisrah (a thin bread made of sorghum flour) are fermented, Dr. Gabbany said.
Speaking about the three meals of Ramadan, Dr. Gabbany said the first one is the Iftar (breakfast) which ends the fasting that lasts from dawn to sunset, which starts with dates and a little water as stated by Prophet Mohammad. The dates contain vitamins and minerals that enhance the digestive system and enable the stomach to deal with the next items of food while the water compensates the fluids lost during the daytime. It is recommended that after having dates and water, the Muslim performs the sunset prayers before resuming the main meal which contains boiled Adasy (Sudanese lentils) and cowpeas which, unlike other peoples, the Sudanese prefer to chick-peas because the former contain ferric substances and vitamins that are required during the whole day. Then comes, as part of the first meal, the aseedah (or kisrah), which is made of sorghum or millets, or gurrasah (disk-shaped) made of wheat flour. Both kisrah and gurrasah are softened with a cooked mixture (mullah tagaliyah) of hashed or dried beef, reddened onion and dried okra or a mullah made of milk derivatives, including a mixture of milk or cowpea and dried okra known as waikab, consistent with the culture of the region as for instance, the gurrasah is originally an indigenous culture in north Sudan, sorghum kisrah in central Sudan and millet kisrah in west Sudan.
This meal, according to Dr. Gabbany, is light, fast to digest and is rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and salts.
As for the liquids and juices, the hilu-mur is the master of the Ramadan table and the way in which it is prepared months before Ramadan adds to its nutritional value, considering the process of fermentation, cultivation of the sorghum seeds and addition of spices, fenugreek and cumin and sugar make it delicious and nutrient and, moreover, it contains everything that the body needs and makes it do away with the other manufactured juices and drinks.
The main Ramadan meal also includes delicious, sweet, refreshing indigenous drinks of natural fruits of tabaldy, aradaib and karkedy that satiate the thirsty person.
The Iftar meal is thus satisfactory, nutrient and economically wholly made of entirely local Ingredients, said Dr. Gabbany.
The second meal is supper which is served well after the Iftar when the stomach is prepared for getting additional food. This meal consists of meat either roasted or cooked with vegetables (Sudanese traditional stews), fish or chicken, faba beans, falafel (made of chick-peas or faba beans) and salads of fresh green components.
The third and last meal is the sahoor which is served just before dawn, mainly consisting of sugared milk poured on 'rugag' (dried sheets of cooked wheat flour with a few spices), rice, dates or ordinary loaves of bread, according to the choice of the consumer.
The food expert says the milk contains several nourishing components, easy to digest and is resistant to thirst.
Dr. Gabbany said the three meals of Ramadan are easy to prepare, economical and contain elements that are digested smoothly as the served food is healthy and complementary and is prepared scientifically and carefully studied and is developed well ahead of its time.
She added that some peoples and states around the Sudan do not observe the health aspects in preparing their Ramadan meals; one of these countries, for instance, mainly serve pastries and pancakes which contain large quantities of sugar, starches, fats and ghee swallowed in an empty stomach causing indigestion and negatively affecting the liver and threatening the health and weight of the consumer. Moreover, they eat meat, fish, fool and falafel in the sahoor meal inflicting indigestion problems, the expert said. Another country, she said, devours in the three meals of Ramadan the Kubsah which is made up of rice cooked with meat or chicken which is a fatty meal that should not be swallowed in an empty stomach or during the late-time sahoor meal which also causes indigestion and a feeling of laziness, exhaustion, hunger, thirst and tendency to falling asleep for a long time.
The expert advises the fasting persons that they do not need large quantities of food, especially the energy ones such as the starches, sugars and fats due to their little movement and effort.
Following around 14 hours of fasting, the person should not surprise his stomach with large quantities of food during the Iftar in a way that causes problems of indigestion, Dr. Gabbany said.
SUDANOW interviewed a number of persons on the Sudanese meals and on what has attracted them in Sudan during Ramadan. The first interview was on telephone in Madagascar with Abdulla Abu Mohamed, the security director of Tumtaf Port who has converted to Islam before last Ramadan. The contact was made possible by Sudanese Hassan Jame ' who works with the Islamic Call Organization there.
Abu Mohamed said that after converting to Islam and during the first day of Ramadan had a strange feeling that he was active and neither hungry nor thirsty and feeling quite comfortable, contrary to what he felt before taking up Islam as his faith when he was feeling distress and boredom as well as indigestion.
He added that he is now extremely glad and happy, something that helped him convert all members of his family to Islam and is trying to convince some of his relatives and friends into joining the Islamic faith so as to win this great blessing.
He said the food of the Sudanese is highly tasty and delicious, adding that in Madagascar they begin the Iftar with milk before eating the food, while the Sudanese, he went on, begin with juices and hot soups before having a variety of foods that include meat and aseedah that is softened with a cooked mixture of hashed or dried beef and dried okra, known as tagaliyah which he said was liked by his people and he remarked that the Sudanese food is delicious.
Sital Nisa'a Mohamed Abu Bakr, a student from Comoro Islands and resident in Sudan, said the Sudanese food in general, and the Ramadan meals in particular are light, nutritious, healthy, tasty and delicious. She added that she enjoys the Sudanese meals, especially the kisrah with tagaliyah or with any green vegetable, and that she also likes hilu-mur, adding that Ramadan is characterized by solidarity and compassion among the people who offer a lot of alms and they have the Iftar in the streets for any passer-by to join.
Miss. Sital Nisa'a said she learned how to prepare the kisrah with tagaliyah stew and transferred it to her friends in Comoro Islands.
Another person who talked to SUDANOW was American Mohamed Osman al-Bedawe, who, following several visits admired Sudan and its people, decided to settle for good in the country, left his homeland and married a Sudanese woman.
Speaking about the Sudanese meals in Ramadan, Bedawe said they are very nice, particularly the aseedah with niaimiyah. He said he admired the collective Iftar and the cooperation amongst the people. What distinguishes the country is the veneration of the Azan (prayers call) for each prayer from numerous mosques, in addition to the collective Iftar in the streets where all passers-by can just sit down and join the meal even without introducing themselves and without having any previous relationship with anyone of the residents of the neighborhood who bring their food trays out into the street. Bedawe said such practices are not found in America where the Azan can be heard only if one lives near a mosque and where everybody has Iftar at home alone.
Hassna'a Mohamed, a Moroccan living in America and married to a Sudanese, said the Sudanese meals are splendid, palatable and unique. She said she has learnt the preparation of those meals either from her husband's sisters or from the internet and now she has become skillful in preparing the aseedah with niaimiyah stew and gurrasah with okra and she shares the meals with her husband. She noted that Ramadan in the Sudan is quite different from Morocco and America and has its own temperament.
Om Ahmed, a Saudi woman, said the Sudanese food in general and particularly that of Ramadan is well-cooked and tasteful and is diverse, reflecting the high skills and experience of the Sudanese woman. She remarked that the Sudanese man does not like eating in restaurants and hurries back home to have the savory home-made food, unlike men in other countries who move around from one restaurant to another.
Om Ahmed said she attempted to learn cooking from her Sudanese friends but she failed despite encouragement by her husband.
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