Ramadan 2014 – Pakoras, Then and Now

Ramadan 2014 – Pakoras, Then and Now July 3, 2014

This article comes on Day Six of our special Altmuslim/Patheos Muslim Ramadan #30Days30Writers blog project, in which we are showcasing the voices of 30 Muslim leaders, activists, scholars, writers, youth and more (one on each day of Ramadan) as part of our commitment to own our own narratives and show how we are one Ummah, many voices. To demonstrate how our Ramadan experiences are shared yet unique to each of us.

By Sabina Khan-Ibarra

It was in the way she measured the gram flour with her fistful that made her food sweet.  Half an hour before iftar, Mama began preparing, unhurriedly but with purpose.

“One cup of flour,” I say to myself preparing for iftar, still an hour and a half away.  The lentils on the burner require my attention, so I walk away from the flour in the bowl and stir the pot.  While away, I wash the dishes in the sink, wipe the countertop before coming back to my mixing bowl.

She put a pinch of salt and a dash of cumin.  She cut the onions in long strips and chopped the rest of the vegetables and mixed it in as she whispered her prayers, trying to make the most of the blessings that are offered during the sacred time after Asr and right before Maghreb.

“Mama, I need you,” my son, Musa, calls out to me from the dining room.  I look at my masaladaani, the masala holder my Mama brought back with her from Pakistan, trying to remember which ingredient I was forgetting.

“Upsey Daisy now don’t be lazy, it’s time to go to the masjid …, ” I sing out, off key, remembering the teaspoonful of cumin just in time.

 The water is mixed in with her hands making a soft mixture that resembled a yellow cake batter.  Oil, which was always the perfect temperature, sat waiting for the delectable fusion of ingredients.

I yelp as the hot oil splashes all over the stove top and almost burns my fingers.  The fan does nothing to stop the smoke and the smoke detector goes off.  My husband and Musa, with Anabiya crawling closely behind, use a towel to fan the smoke away from the detector.  I wait for the oil to cool down before starting all over.  The lumpy mixture awaits.

In her singsong voice, Mama called out to all of us to set the sheet on the family room floor.  We set eight places for the six kids, Mama and Baba.  The smell of fresh citrus fills the air as Baba cuts the yellow lemons he picked from our tree outside.  We all sit around the food and wait in anticipation as the tantalizing aroma fills the air.

My husband, Mohammad, buckles Anabiya, who is screaming, into her highchair.  Musa tries to appease his sister by giving her one of his crayons, which she immediately puts in her mouth.  Mohammad pours water in all four of our drinking glasses, puts a date in each of our plates, and puts the lentils, bread, and salad on the table. 

The smell of smoke makes it difficult to smell anything else.  I crack open a window.

 “Bismillahi Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem…Allahuma inni laka sumtu wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu – O Allah! for thy sake I have fasted and now I break the fast with the food that comes from thee”

 Baba’s voice was deep and rich; it soothed me, like the first sip of water after fasting all day.

“Bismillahi Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem… Allahuma inni laka sumtu wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu – O Allah! for thy sake I have fasted and now I break the fast with the food that comes from thee”

My husband’s voice cuts through the chaos and forces me to focus; I feel serenity because I found my perfect, Alhamdulillah.

Pakora Recipe:

Cauliflower 1 (finely chopped)

Potatoes 2 medium (thinly sliced)

Onion (thinly sliced)

Green chilies 2 (finely cut)

Gram flour 1 cup

Cilantro ½ bunch (chopped)

Red chili 1 tsp (crushed)

Cumin 1 tsp (crushed)


Salt to taste


  1. In a bowl add the gram flour, cilantro, red chili powder, green chilies, cumin and salt.
  2. Add water and form a smooth paste.
  3. Mix the vegetables into mixture.
  4. Heat oil.
  5. Deep fry the pakoras till they turn golden brown.

Sabina Khan-Ibarra is a freelance writer and editor; she regularly contributes to her blog, Ibrahim’s Tree which focuses on dealing with loss–created after the loss of her infant son in 2011 and Muslimah Montage website created as a platform for women to share their stories and inspire others. She also blogs at “Iamthepoppyflower.”

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