Iftar: An avenue for people to appreciate each other’s food

She pounded heavily on the wok in front of her not minding the busy to and fro movement of the people around her. The air was filled with the delicious smell of cooked meat and spices. Whenever she has the time, she glanced our way explaining what she was doing. Her hands never stopped working — grabbing salt or pepper here and there or pouring in a few new ingredients that will make the dish she was preparing perfect. “Nasi Goreng is a popular household dish in Malaysia. It’s a staple to almost every family’s meal,” she said. “This Ramadhan, you can definitely expect this dish to be served in every iftar gathering not only in homes but also restaurants and hotels,” she added.
Chef Hazeffa Abdullah is just one of the dozens of chefs that make Al Bustan Palace one of the country’s pride when it comes to luxury. Weeks before Ramadhan came, Executive Chef Eric Meloche worked tirelessly with Chef Hazeffa and all the other chefs who came from different countries to create a unique experience for their guests — an effort that is echoed all throughout the Sultanate particularly for this holy month.
Granting Oman Daily Observer access to their kitchen, the chefs coming from different countries demonstrated what dish best represent their countries.
While there are definite favourites, only those that met the strict requirements and high standards of The Palace make it into the daily offerings. Of these offerings, they change every day to give everyone an opportunity to try something new to the palate.
Oman, usually overshadowed by the unrestrained opulence and excesses of the neighbouring UAE in recent years has been stepping up its game especially in the food department.
With major efforts being made to promote tourism, establishments in Oman also have to level up their game pulling all the stops to make the experience memorable for everyone not only from tourists who come and stay for a few days but the residents as well.
On the official launching day of the hotel’s iftar menu, live stations representing a number of countries were kept busy. Cold mezza and salads from Lebanon sat side by side with Merguez from Tunisia, traditional Mansaf from Jordan and Koshari from Egypt.
Iranian kebabs such as Juje and Kebab Koobideh were also presented in the same long table as the spicy curries and tandoor specialities and bread from India and Pakistan. Everywhere one looks is a wide array of delicious food — couscous from Morocco, savoury Nasi Goring, satay and beef rending from Indonesia and Malaysia, shuwa, harees and lamb mishkak from Oman and many more.
“Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place that embraces diversity. This Ramadhan we are paying homage to the multiculturalism of the Muslim world,” said Katrin Herz, General Manager of the hotel.
“Each culinary dish is designed to tell a story and to transport our guests to a wonderful place of time-honoured traditions. During this blessed season, we hope to craft unforgettable and memorable experiences with friends and family,” she added.
Chef Hazeffa is glad that her country’s favourite dish is present in an iftar menu. For her, having it served is tantamount to paying respect to what her culture has to offer to the world.
When the nasi goreng she prepared was served on our table comprised of Omani, Indian, Filipino, and European diners, it became an instant favourite. The taste is well-balanced and can definitely charm even the pickiest critics of Asian dishes.
While iftar is originally intended to renourish the body after a whole day of fasting, it can transcend this purpose by making iftar gatherings a centre where culture can meet and be discussed. It can be an avenue where people from different background can appreciate each other’s food because with every dish is a story of a particular people — their life journey filled not only with pain but of joy and triumph.