Updated: May 23, 2020
While the global Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things about Ramadan this year, many things haven't changed, including the breaking of the fast. The formal name for this meal is iftar (appropriately, "breakfast") and in Morocco we typically refer to it as ftour.
Moroccans value setting a varied and beautiful table, and Ramadan is a time to go all out as the pictures below show. Around the world Muslims spend more money during Ramadan, especially on food since night-time meals are a key aspect of the celebration. If you've been fasting all day, it's important to replenish your blood-sugar and fluid levels so a good iftar is key to keeping you healthy during your fast.
What do Moroccans eat for iftar?
A Moroccan ftour consists of dishes optimized for rehydration, heartiness, and all around deliciousness. Typically the elements of the meal are eaten in the following order based on tradition and firmly-held beliefs about what's best for digestion:
Muslims all over the world break their fast by first eating a date, because that's what the prophet did. It's also recommended to eat dates in odd numbers for the same reason.
Right after eating their first date, most take a big drink of water and then reach for the juice. In Morocco, the juice game is strong, especially since so many fruits are grown here.
"Juice" can refer to:
fresh-squeezed orange juice (always a winner)
other fruit juices, either fresh or from a carton
what we call "smoothies" in English: blends of mixed fruits (and avocadoes), sometimes with milk and maybe nuts
The juice we made the first night of Ramadan was fresh-squeezed orange juice blended with peaches, some boiled beets, and a little bit of lemon and ginger. It was pretty delicious if I do say so myself.
Other ftour beverages include milk and Moroccan Mint tea (of course!) although tea is typically drunk towards the middle or end of ftour.
3. Hardboiled eggs
Hardboiled eggs are also an essential part of ftour. Hardboiled eggs can be boring, but Moroccans serve them with cumin and salt which has been a game-changer for me. For some added pizazz, you can peel the eggs and soak them in beet water.
Harira is the most essential Ramadan dish in Morocco; it's a warm hearty soup that's definitely one of the national comfort foods since typically it's eaten every night during the month of Ramadan. (However, it is acceptable to occasionally switch things up by substituting another soup.)
Harira consists of tomato, celery, parsley & cilantro, sometimes a little beef for taste, mixed legumes (typically chickpeas and/or lentils), and sh3ria noodles.
When harira is good, it’s really good and, as you might imagine, by the end of the first week of Ramadan in Morocco, you can become a very good judge of harira, based on the major categories of:
Consistency: It should be light, but not too light. How much flour was added?
Texture: Is it silky? How many of the ingredients were blended?
Bonus ingredients: Does it have beef, chickpeas, lentils, ful beans, egg...?
Did they substitute barley for the noodles? (Points for health and style)
Taste: Is it salty enough? Too salty? Is there smen (aged butter)?
Since it's full of so many heavy ingredients, harira has to be kept at a rolling boil and/or faithfully stirred to keep things from sinking to the bottom and burning. Because of this, you are guaranteed to eat burnt harira at least once during Ramadan.
Despite eating it almost every day of the month, deep into Ramadan the smell of harira cooking still makes my mouth water.
5. Chebakia, sfouf and other sweets
Another major culinary breakthrough for me was that when I realized Moroccans eat harira with sweets like dates and chebakia because the syrupy sweetness pairs balances the tomatoey saltiness.
Chebakia is a traditional Ramadan sweet which is fried and coated with honey. Too sweet! you say? Pair with harira, and think again. Learn how to make chebakia.
Sfouf is a ground mixture of flour, seeds and nuts. Each ingredient is roasted separately before being mixed and ground. It's hearty and often eaten with milk for sahour. Get sfouf recipes.
Coquillage: I'm not sure of the official name for this fried, honey-coated, anise-seed dough, but my roommate calls it coquillage ("seashells") because of the shape.
6. Side dishes!
It's important to have a full and varied table, so other goodies typically served at ftour include:
Fried fish with a chermoula rub
Salads, for example vegetables like carrots, green beans, corn and potatoes which are boiled separately and then mixed together with or without rice and sometimes tuna
Briwat (fried pastry with chicken or fish inside)
Msemen (a layered bread also known as rghaif)
A light dessert, like flan
How to eat Moroccan ftour:
Get all the food ready and try to build in some buffer before sunset.
Set the table and turn on the TV.
Gather the family around the table and wait for sunset.
When the call to prayer starts on the TV, make sure that the call to prayer has also started outside and the day's fast has officially ended.
Bsa7a! (Bon appetit!)
*ftour: breakfast meal, during Ramadan eaten at sunset (Iftar in standard Arabic)
*ful: fava beans
*l3xa: evening prayer / dinne4
*maghreb: sunset / sunset prayer
*sh3ria noodles: I forgot the English word for this one. Vermicelli? The short kind, that are only an inch or two long
*sahour: morning meal before sunrise
Thanks to all my Moroccan friends who have shared ftour with me over the years and given me enough knowledge to write this post. I love you and wish we could be spending Ramadan 2020 together! Allah i9abbl assiamkom! (May God accept your fast!)