Celebrating Eid in Pakistan with Family Feasts

We spoke to Pakistani Cookaway Chef Sumayya Usmani to get some inspiration for Eid feasting and find out more about how the holiday is celebrated across Pakistan.

Festive Eid Lantern

When is eid al-fitr in 2022?

The three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr, also known as Meethi Eid due to the number of sweet dishes prepared on the day, is one of two major holidays on the Muslim calendar. This year celebrations for Eid fall on the 2 and 3 of May. At the core of Eid festivities is the cooking, feasting, and indulging, uniting Muslims around the globe as they observe the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting period of Ramadan.

For Sumayya, some of her most treasured memories are the hours she spent in her family kitchen preparing traditional dishes steeped in Muslim heritage for Eid with the women in her family. The cooking techniques Sumayya learned from her relatives were passed down from generation to generation and can be traced back to Muslim Nawabs (or rulers) of Oudh, Hyperbad, and Delhi, whose chefs could elevate even the humblest of dishes. According to Sumayya, to this day, many Pakistanis cook not by rules but by estimation, or andaza, taught to them by their elders in the family kitchen.

Sumayya remembers having hot cardammon chai for breakfast during Eid
Traditional Pakistani Chai

Food takes centre stage

Eid will always remind Sumayya of her childhood in Pakistan. Starting with seviyan, hot cardammon chai and jalebis (fried sweet sugar syrup doughnuts) and dahi baras (lentil fritters with yoghurt) made by Sumayya’s mother for breakfast. Then deliciously sweet sheer khurma (hot sweet vermicelli saffron milk drink) at her Nani’s (grandmother) house for elevenses, food was only central to the Eid celebrations with her family.

Whilst, for Eid al-Adha, which falls in the tenth month of the Muslim calendar, there is a focus on meat dishes, Eid al-Fitr is all about sweet dishes. It’s likely this custom started when early Muslims in Medina, Saudi Arabia used local ingredients such as dates and honey for their festivities. According to Sumayya, desserts in Pakistan are always very sweet and often inspired by Persian ingredients such as saffron and pistachios which can be noted in dishes such as shahi tukra (saffron bread pudding).  Another Eid favourite is Halwa which literally means sweet and is prepared to be shared with family and friends. Interestingly halwa is famous in Pakistan for being made with obscure vegetables such as Peetha (white pumpkin), gourds, and lentils. One of the most unusual desserts in Pakistan is Rasyaval, a combination of pure sugar cane juice with rice.

unmissable recipes for your eid feast

Although sweet treats feature heavily during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, this special occasion would not be complete without a lavish spread of barbecued meats followed by mithai (sweet meats). In Northern Pakistan, chargrilled beef kebabs are often prepared as well as slow-cooked curries like chicken handi. Rich aromatic biryanis are a staple dish for such occasions. At home Sumayya always makes her infamous carrot and coriander biryani which she pairs with an Afghan recipe: spiced yoghurt with caramelised aubergine and softened tomatoes called aubergine borani. All celebratory dishes are adorned with saffron, pistachios, mint rose, or screw pine water to create a beautiful spread for everyone to share. In coastal and riverside towns, fragrant fish dishes are also part of the feast prepared with fresh herbs, cumin, and carom seeds.

sumayya’s Celebratory Pakistani feast

Sumayya’s fond memories of Eid are full of family visits, sitting and laughing with loved ones and thankfulness for beautiful food after a month of abstinence and contemplation. You can celebrate Eid with Sumayya and learn more about Pakistani cooking, culture and customers at her upcoming Cookalong on May 5 at 6pm where she’ll be cooking up a delicious Chicken Handi feast with Saffron Nutty Pulao. Learn more here.

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