Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Failing to Fast (and Panda Exposed)

It's been known for years, and mentioned more recently in BBC News, that fasting, or going without food for short periods of time, is actually good for you.  Not only does calorie restriction help you lose weight, but it has been shown to extend your life expectancy.  Researchers are now looking into the benefits of an Alternate Day Fasting diet, in which you eat whatever you like for one day, but have a very restricted diet the next, 500 - 600 calories a day depending on whether you are a woman or a man.

It doesn't actually sound too terrible.  Muslims around the world are currently fasting daily between sunrise and sunset, and they are not even drinking water in that time.  I had forgotten this fact until I returned to Holy Land Foods last evening, and saw the restaurant transformed.  There were bowls of dates on every table, and at the front of the room there was a veritable feast, with an assortment of Middle Eastern desserts on multiple platters.  "It's Ramadan," explained chef-owner Abrahim, as he smiled at the surprised look on my face.

An unbelievable amount and variety of desserts for Ramadan.

Now, I'd only meant to have a light salad for dinner, but I just couldn't resist trying all the new and unusual items on offer.  And so, in addition to the fattoush (فتوش), I ordered a selection of sweet treats: basbousa (بسبوسة), a warm semolina cake; qatayef (قطايف), a semi-circular dumpling filled with cream and sprinkled with nuts; and awwamat or awamat (عوامات), fried dough balls drizzled with sugar syrup.

Fattoush is a salad topped with crispy bread.  This one included cucumber, tomato, radish (I love radish!) and onion.

Basbousa, qatayef, and awwamat.
Apparently the latter literally means "buoys" in reference to the way in which these balls float to the top of the hot oil while cooking, and this is the term used in the Arabian Gulf.  In Egypt, they are called lokmet el adi or luqmat al-qadi (لقمه القاضى), meaning "judge's snack" (a light meal rather than the literal translation of "mouthful", according to blogger Coptic Dad and Mom.  It is a metaphor for judges being rich people who didn't eat the commoners' bread, adds the Naked Plate Blog.)  Despite the stories behind the name, my favourite dessert here is still the konafa (كنافة) which I praised in my previous post.

Holy Land also had a special menu for the month of Ramadan (today is day 19 already, and it only goes to day 30, so hurry if you want to try it!), with a set menu for each day of the week, three courses for $25 (choice of chicken or lamb for the main dish).  Abrahim saw me taking a picture of this menu, and asked if that was really what I was doing.
Me (guiltily): Yes.  Is that okay?
Abrahim: Are you the person who took pictures of our food and put it on the internet?
Me: Yes.  Uh-oh, busted.  Is that okay?
Abrahim (smiling): Of course. Thank you.  Thank you for doing that.
Phew!  With that blessing, I hereby present the Ramadan Menu at Holy Land.  Although I did not manage to have it last night, I can highly recommend the lentil soup they make.  There are a few other things I would love to try too.  And you can still order off their normal menu.  Just be aware that their opening hours are 3pm - 1am for this special month (maybe subtract an hour or so on each end to be on the safe side), before going back to 9am - 9pm after the end of Ramadan.

Ramadan menu at Holy Land Foods.


  1. I can't say I have much experience with Middle Eastern cuisine, but I do enjoy it when I have it.

    I don't doubt that fasting can be good for you in today's society and food culture. We over eat on rich foods most days. How can our bodies possibly catch up? I'm doing a poverty challenge next month which isn't fasting, but 5 days living on $11.25NZ. It will definitly be a dip in calories. I would love for you to join me. I'll post more information on it on my blog tomorrow.

  2. Ah, that must be the one that Jonah Lomu is promoting:

    That sounds really challenging to do, especially if you don't want to eat the same thing every day, and still want incorporate a healthy 5+ a day serving of vegies. I guess you would have to shop around for discounts, but that might be cheating because you might be spending quite a bit on petrol.

  3. welcome to NZFBA, we have added you to the members list!


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