Those who know me knows my craving and passion for sweets specially chocolates, cakes and ice cream. If my wife and two girls can go through a grueling day bargain-hunting in signature shops with empty stomachs :-( , I’d rather not go with them but would prefer to look for a nice coffee shop nearby that serves ‘authentic’ coffee, moist cakes and smooth desserts… then wait for them. The longer they can’t discover their find, the more cups of coffee and cake slices I can take.
But this is not the case now. After learning recently that I had high blood sugar that’s bordering into diabetes if not controlled, I totally made a 180 degree turn in shunning anything that had high amount of sugar. Gone were the days when my grocery cart would have chocolates and sweets more than anything else.
Ramadan is a sweet time of the year not just for the Muslims but also for those non-Muslims who live in Islamic countries. It is during Ramadan that some of the finest and most delicious sweets are made. One of the unique pleasures of Ramadan is the tradition of specially prepared Ramadan sweets. So how can a non-Muslim like me, who tries my best to minimize my sugar-intake, go through this sweet month when everything you see around you is saccharine-stuffed and coated?
Before the start of Ramadan, I self-imposed a resolution not to eat any sweet that is not ‘worth’ the increase in my blood sugar . For the first 3 days since Ramadan started, I made it. I was able to control myself from eating sweets despite all the Ramadan juices and sweets being served during iftar (and breakfast) in our Company’s restaurant where I frequently take my meals. I steadily had my healthy diet of no rice, only protein, a little pasta and veggie salads (up to when? )
This afternoon, I drove to Jeddah together with my Malaysian friend and bro Sani (with Mar and Jun) for our supposedly regular weekend dinner (ooops breakfast at this time) and coffee. As it is not advisable to travel just before iftar and at night due to the heavy traffic (the most dangerous time in the desert during Ramadan :-) (I wrote about this in my earlier post), we decided to travel early in the afternoon. We had to catch up with the bank for his monthly remittance to his family and to be able to go to Magrabi to pick up his genuine Oakley reading glasses. Well, he needs to have a new look in preparation for his new career. (Am I allowed to divulge it here? )
From Balad Center on our way to Magrabi, we were already discussing on what to eat for iftar. Passing through Bagdadiyah (Madinah Road) near the City Max, I spotted a Pastry Shop in a new building that was likely opened only recently. This led us to switch our topic from the more serious issues in work to our favorite blueberry cheesecake. We agreed to drop by the shop on our return. We both see eye to eye that the best blueberry cheesecake we tasted in Jeddah were the ones from Starbucks, TGIF and Casper and Gambini’s and the ones we had last week from Marhaba and Kudu’s were not as good, same as Al Andalus Panda Bakeshop’s. Sani didn’t ask me but I contended that my wife’s blueberry cheese cake was still the best. I was not sure if he agreed with me but I guess, he did! LoL
It was almost 5 when we reached Magrabi and the Optical Shop was already closed but there were still some few sales assistants preparing to get out of the shop. Sani begged them to accommodate his request with our memorized excuse line – “We travelled almost 200 km and we’re going home after this. We cannot afford to wait till 9pm when you open again, please!” His charms worked and he was able to convince the Magrabi guys.
On our way back to Balad to pick up Mar and Jun (Sani was sporadically fitting his Oakley spectacles and enjoying his doctor-like look), we dropped by the newly opened pastry shop that we spotted earlier - the Saadeddin Pastry. Saadeddin Pastry and Restaurants have 51 chains of shops in Jeddah, Riyadh, Makkah, Al Khobar, Dammam, Al Ehas, Hafof, Qatif, Ras Tannora, Yanbu, Bahrain, and Kuwait. It started its business in 1935 at Akka City in Palestine and moved through the years in Saudi Arabia. The shops specialize in Arabic pastries, Western pastries, ice cream and have expanded into the Diet and low sugar ice cream and pastries . (Whoaaah… a new find!)
Our eyes feasted at all the sweets displayed that were all ready for iftar. But since it was still an hour and a half before iftar, we had it safari (Arabic for ‘packed to go’. ) Sani got a kilo of the famous Arabic cheese kunafa and 3 slices of blueberry cheese cake. I got two slices of cheesecake and a slice of their diet Rocher Cake for my taste test evaluation. As I’m writing this post tonight, I’m savoring a slice of the blueberry cheese cake. It’s good but I swear the blueberry cheesecake of my wife is still better! I’m going to bring them to the pastry shop when they’ll be here again within the next 6 months. That time, I can give a sweet for my sweet and sugar for my honey!
Some Ramadan Sweets Trivia* |
During the month of Ramadan people tend to eat more desserts than usual. Beside the usual sweets that are available on regular days, there are many desserts that are prepared only in Ramadan.
Qatayef is considered the king of sweets in Ramadan and associated with this holy month. The pancake like dough is filled with all kinds of goodies including cheese nuts, pudding, creams , even with apples. The Qatayef is served hot, fried or baked after its drenched with sugar syrup. There are couple of sizes for these pancakes, regular size and small size that is knows as Asafeeri Qatayief that is filled with cream and pistachios and eaten without baking the dough, but it will be already cooked on a pan.
Awwameh, or Sweet Delight, Is doughnut like dough that is formed into little balls , fried and drenched with sugar syrup.
Kunafah: Easy to prepare dessert at home, filled with cheese, cream or nuts. baked to perfection and served hot.
Bread Cream Sweet (Aysh El Saraya): Toast bread with cream and pistachios.
Basbooseh: Semolina cake with butter and sugar. easy to prepare and delicious.
Baklava: Widely available dessert at sweet stores throughout the Middle East but can be prepared at home if all the ingredients are available.
Sugar Syrup: Is used in almost all Middle Eastern Sweets, which gives it the shine and the sweet taste.