A-N-A-T-O-M-I-Z-E Food

The Bahraini breakfast

A traditional Bahraini breakfast spread.

A traditional Bahraini breakfast spread.   | Photo Credit: Raul Dias


Centuries of trade ties with India are reflected in the food influences here

I’m greeted with an emphatic ‘namaste!’ at the first place I stop at, while ‘kaise ho?’ is what I’m asked next. It’s a mere three hours into my first visit to the 33-island archipelago in the Persian Gulf known as Bahrain. I can see India referenced almost everywhere I go. But then, the Manama Souq —which is where I am — is no stranger to Indian culture and in this case, food.

Fronted by the impressive Bab Al Bahrain or ‘Gateway to Bahrain’, this heaving marketplace is the nation’s capital Manama’s nerve centre. It is also where centuries of trade ties with India — mainly involving pearls and spices — have been fostered and nurtured. It’s early in the morning and a traditional Bahraini breakfast is what I’m craving for.

Settling down at a local coffee house with our tall, frosted mugs of saffron sherbet in front of us, I wait in anticipation for the promised breakfast bonanza to unfold. And what a feast it turns out to be! We begin with the breads, where an unusually fishy taste in one of them intrigues my palate. It is the mihyawa, a roomali roti-like folded bread that’s sprinkled with fish sauce. Next, I tear into the khubooz, which is a Persian bread very popular in Bahrain. I use this to scoop up the spicy, tangy bayd — a dead ringer for the Parsi scrambled eggs dish we know as akuri.

With the unusual twinning of salty cheese and apricot jam at its core, the triangular shaped, donut-like stuffed zinjubari maintains a fine balance between its sweet and savoury components. It’s the perfect foil to the two kinds of luba I try next. Essentially a tangy beans’ stew, the first iteration is made with broad beans and cheese, while the other with red beans and tomato sauce was not at all dissimilar to a spice-bereft rajma back home.

Simply called aloo, the cumin-redolent sautéed potato dish, I am told, is an out-and-out knock-off of our ubiquitous zeera aloo. Another bread, the pau, is a fusion of a classic Bambaiyya vada pav and a Kutchi dabeli.

The last dish in my Bahraini breakfast procession is balaleet which is another sweet-savoury aberration. This one sees saffron-saturated vermicelli noodles cooked in ghee and sugar, crowned with a fluffy, savoury egg omelette that adds not just a contrasting texture, but an unusually yummy flavour when mixed with the sweet noodles.

—The bread basket is an assortment of breads like mihyawa, khubooz, the triangular zinjubari and even an Indian-inspired hybrid of the vada pav-meets-dabeli called pau!

—A duo of luba which has red beans in one and broad beans in the other to which tomato paste, spices and cheese are added

—Balaleet is made from saffron mixed with sweet noodles with an egg omelette covering

—A mixture of scrambled eggs and tomatoes jazzed up with spices and parsley is what makes up the bayd

—Simply called aloo, these cumin marinated potatoes are another desi import

The Mumbai-based writer is passionate about food, travel and luxury, not necessarily in that order.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:07:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-bahraini-breakfast/article19697500.ece

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