An hour and a half before the sun rises, there is no eating or drinking until the sun sets for the hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the month in observance of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting
"[It's] to cleanse the mind and body," said Javad Nehranfar, part owner of .
Nehranfar explained that at the end of the approximately 16-hour fast, Muslims break the fast with sweet food, such as a rice pudding. The Castro Street market carries halal meat products as well as sweet pastries and foods such as the rice pudding or cookies.
Crime incidents seem to go down in Muslim communities during Ramadan according to Nehranfar, mostly due to the fact that "good behavior" is a common goal during this month.
Siraj Ahmed, one of the founders of the Peninsula Muslim Association (PMA), which runs the Mountain View Masjid (mosque) located on Villa Street and where Friday congregational prayers take place.
During Ramadan as well as any time, Muslims must adhere to an halal diet. Ahmed explained that halal mostly pertains to how animals are slaughtered which cleanses the carcass of impurities and is believed to be good for the animal as well.
At sunset, ending the daily fast, the community gathers to break the fast–this is called Iftaar. First, they drink water, then a prayer is recited and each person eats a date. There may also be other fruits eaten along with the date.
After the the sweet bite, they tend to move on to salty dishes such as samosas.
At the end of the month-long fast, Eid Al Fitr is celebrated. It's a day of thanksgiving for the Muslims. This is a time when, "everybody is happy," said Nehranfar because they are happy to have gotten through a time where they showed self-restraint, did good deeds, and started anew for the year.
Along with samosas, pakoras, pakodas and just about anything that is halal, they enjoy a special type of milk called rooh afhza. It is a traditional beverage for the end of the month-long Ramadan.
"I like to recommend milk with rose water and dates," says Chef Jay Essadki for the end of Ramadan.
Another important aspect to the conclusion of Ramadan, is the act of doing good deeds. Helping other families or individuals who are poor and deserving in the form of money or the equivalent in things such as food, are goals shared by everyone.
Here's a recipe courtesy of Ahmed for a popular Ramadan dish– vegetable pakoda.
1 cup Chickpea Flour (Besan)
1/2 cup Water
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1-2 Chopped Green Chillies (Jalapeno)
1 small Cauliflower
5 leaves Spinach sliced
1 1/2 cup Sliced Onion
2 tsp Oil
- Boil the potato until just tender, peel and chop finely.
- Finely chop cauliflower and onion. Shred the cabbage and spinach.
- Mix first set of ingredients well. Beat in a blender for 4-5 minutes to incorporate air (this will make the batter fluffier).
- Let batter rest 1/2 hour in a warm place
- Add the vegetables and mix in evenly.
- Deep fry in oil that is heated to 375°.
- Drain pakoda on paper towels and serve immediately.
Serve hot with your favorite chutney or sauce.
In town and nearby, you can find Halal products or prepared-food at these restaurants and stores.
- Shalimar Restaurant in Sunnyvale
- Shah Restaurant in Sunnyvale
- Shan in Cupertino
- Kabob & Curry in Santa Clara
- Fatimah in Cupertino
- Darda in Milpitas
*Vegan food, if prepared without alcohol, is by definition halal, but does not usually come to mind as such, according to Alam Kasenally, spokesperson for .