A shared meal

Be it in Paris or London or down south in Alappuzha “or anywhere in the world” members of the Bohra community savour the Faize-il-Mawaid-ul-Burhania (FMB), or the common meal, daily, prepared at the local masjid. The custom initiated by the religious leader, the Syedna, FMB has been successfully in place for the past two years.

Generally a lunch, the meal is simple and wholesome. It is prepared with care and supervision as it caters to large numbers often running into several thousands. In cities like Mumbai and Chennai where the community is large there are several different cooking and distributing centres. The lunch is distributed to homes and offices using the precise ‘dabbawallah’ system.

The meal is simple, comprising roti, rice, dal and vegetables. A non-vegetarian dish is usually served three times a week. In different countries the menu undergoes change according to the availability of provisions. A selected committee is in-charge of the FMB, where women draw out the menu and the men purchase the provisions. The meals are often sponsored by the affluent members of the sect and done in complete anonymity. “There is a desire to sponsor the meals, a willingness to feed others,” says Shireen Fakrudhin, a senior member of the community on Kochi, adding that it is all done in the name of the Syedna who introduced the custom.

The lunch menu is consciously kept basic and wholesome because Bohra cuisine otherwise is rich and sumptuous.

“We have many snacks but our samosas are special and made very differently from the ones commonly available,” says Shireen winner of a cookery competition where she presented Bohra specialities. The samosa encasement is made from wheat flour and not refined flour as is generally done. The filling consists of smoked spicy mutton mince. Smoking of the meat with burning charcoal doused with ghee imparts a unique flavour. A vegetarian filling of finely ground dal (pulses), mixed with spring onions, mint and cilantro is smoked too.

The dal chawal paleeda, another speciality, is a pulao and soup combination. The rice is made with mutton and served with paleeda or soup made from lentils with vegetables like gourd and drumstick. “The paleeda is like our sambar,” says Shireen adding that this dish is unique to the community. The khicida, made during Muharram, is another staple dish unique to them. A combination of wheat, mixed pulses, and mutton it is cooked along with spices till soft. It is then finely pulverised and served garnished richly with fried onions, mint and clarified butter.

If sheer kuruma is renowned as a sweetmeat of the community, Shireen feels that it is the variety of halwas made by them that’s special to the community. Gajar halwa is the better known one but doodhi or l auki( gourd) halwa is another of their staple. “Most other puddings are made by other Muslim communities too but we are halwa specialists,” says Shireen. Sev ka zarda made from vermicelli cooked in pineapple juice and sweetened with jaggery or sugar and garnished with dry fruits is another dessert served at the end of a rich Bohra meal.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 7:33:47 PM |

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