Sweet treats from Palestine and its India connection
From childhood treats to a grandparent's signature recipes, foods are deeply personal. This seems especially true of desserts, which often take pride of place at celebrations and traditional holidays.
Soft spongy cakes, crisp sweet pastries, fragrant creamy custards and much more – the desserts of Palestine will never fail to bring out the dessert freak in you.
Nablus city is considered to be the capital of sweets in Palestine, where the industry of the most delicious and famous Arab sweets has managed to prove itself not only in Palestine but also in the Arab world.
When the Ottoman Empire occupied the world, along with the unification, the empire spread its culture to the whole world. It is also because of this why we can find that many Indian traditional sweet dishes are quite similar to the ones in Palestine and the Arab countries.
Qatayef is one of the most delicious sweets which I prefer during the Ramadan month. We often eat during Ramadan after el-Iftar. It is a small pancake-shaped dessert filled with cheese or sugar and nuts, then fried with oil, and served with sugar syrup.
It is an easy-to-make, delicious, and full of energy sweet made during the winter season. It is quite famous in Palestine, especially in Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus cities. In Jordan, this sweet treat is called "Harisa"; in Egypt, it's called "Basbousa"; in Palestine, it is called "Nammoura."
A dish that is usually prepared on the occasions of birthdays, wedding parties, graduations, and every special ceremony in Nablus city. It is a piece of sweet full of cheese and ghee/butter, and after baking it on the stove, we pour honey or sugar syrup, and nuts. It is usually made from vermicelli or semolina to take its usual shape. This dish is considered the most-loved dish in Palestine in which one is bound to saturate from its aroma before eating it. Indians too enjoy this dish as it is quite popular in this nation as well.
This dish is stuffed with rice and milk lots of nuts, quite similar to India's all-time favourite dessert -- Kheer. It was discovered in the Ottoman Empire and considered a healthy dish because some doctors described it as a treatment for stomach ailments.
This sweet dish contains a dough that is fried in oil and has distinctive circular shapes, then it is placed in sugar syrup. It has a shiny colour and tasty flavor, and is very similar to the popular Indian sweet dish -- Jalebi. However, In Palestine, the colour is brown, while in India, the colour is orange. One bite of it will leave you craving for more!
Look wise, this dish bears resemblance to the Chinese moon cake, which is shaped in two forms, either soft or sticky. Loaded with dates and nuts from the inside, it is an easy-to-make recipe. I love the homemade ones. We always wait for those special occasions such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and New Year, when our mother prepares this sweet at home.
It is one of the sweets that Palestine has been famous for since ancient times. Here a dough rolled onto marble and cut in a square shape with lots of cheese or walnuts mixed with ghee (clarified butter) in the centre of the dough. It is then fried in oil. You can eat it hot with a lot of honey, and you can feel that the smell alone narrates a story of the young woman who makes this type of sweet to their children and neighbours in winter to make them feel warm.
In the Palestinian culture, a unique tradition is followed wherein after having a main dish, whether with a family, at a private party, or dinner parties, one must eat something sweet. This is why you can find most of the Palestinian sweet dishes all over the world.
Besides, there is a special friend to all the sweet dishes in Palestine which is black coffee. With its bitter taste, it complements the sweetness of desserts.
(The author is an international intern for EastMojo, from Gaza, Palestine. She is currently pursuing master's in Mass Communication and Journalism from Tezpur University. She is on the mission to sensitize the people of Northeast of the situation and the grim reality of the happenings in Palestine.)