Taste of home: Punjabi iftar in Dubai

The Tanvirs have foodstuff flown in from family farm in Pakistan

13:38 June 21, 2017

Dubai: Dubai resident Chaudhary Noor Ul Hassan Tanvir has foodstuff flown in from his farm in Pakistan so the family can enjoy a taste of home in Ramadan.

Tanvir, who runs a construction company and heavy equipment rental business in Dubai, hails from Multan in the Punjab province of Pakistan. He said there are a few “musts” for the family in Ramadan.

“I have wheat flown in from our family farm in our village back home, by the grace of Allah. We send it to a grinder here and then we make the whole wheat bread fresh at home. There’s something special about the taste of home,” Tanvir said.

At the family villa in Arabian Ranches in Dubai, Tanvir lives with his wife and six children — three boys and three girls. “Being together for iftar is also a must. Every other day, my brothers come over or we visit them. My sisters, nephews and nieces are also here. The whole Ramadan passes like this, with family and friends spending time and dining together.”

The typical iftar at a Punjabi home includes fried snacks like pakodas and samosas, fruit chaat, juice, dates and water — all as starters.

“The centrepiece of the daily spread is a mutton or chicken curry, as the main dish. We get the meat fresh from desi (Pakistani or Indian) cattle or desi chicken from the animal market in Sharjah,” Tanvir said.

The family gets together at a long dining table at a gazebo in the villa’s compound for the iftar and dinner. “Even outside Ramadan, we have dinner around sunset. So we have a nice breakfast and an early dinner; we rarely do lunch. This is a tradition that my father inspired us to follow.”

In Ramadan, iftar is followed by the sunset prayer — another must — led by Tanvir or his elder brother. Tanvir said: “After we have finished eating at iftar and feel satisfied, we pray. This is the way it should be, that you feel content, before you pray.”

The sense of contentment is heightened by strong tea and a light rest before the time for night prayers, which in Ramadan are followed by optional long prayers called Taraweeh.


Picture: Chaudhary Noor Ul Hassan Tanvir and his sons Nael, Nabeel and Naumaan (the youngest) offering prayers after iftar. (Virendra Saklani/Gulf News)

Tanvir said: “The Ramadan routine for us hasn’t changed, be it the 12 years I have spent so far in Dubai, my 19 years in Saudi Arabia, or the time in Pakistan. It’s about family, friends and sharing happiness.”

Tanvir also works as the regional administrator and HR manager for a Saudi construction company in Dubai.

“When people ask me where I am from, I like to say I’m from Dubai. My family, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces are all here. I live and work here. When we go to Pakistan, it’s only for a few days.”

Tanvir is also a member of the board of governors of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation and president of international affairs of the Pakistan Muslim League-N.

The couple has three sons (Nael, 21; Nabeel, 17; Naumaan, 6) and three daughters (Nabiha, 19; Nawal 14; Nageene, 8).


Star dish: Karela Ghost (Bitter Gourd and Mutton)


Method: You will need equal quantities of mutton and karela (bitter gourd to prepare this dish).

- Wash and slice the bitter ground (1kg) into thin discs.

- Slice 3-4 large onions and in a deep dish, heat oil and fry the onions and sliced karela for 20 minutes till the bitter gourd and onions are well browned.

- In a seperate pan, heat oil and add the mutton pieces (1kg), adding some whole garlic and ginger pieces and fry until the mutton is nearly done and the garlic and ginger soften to a paste. This will take around 40 minutes or so.

- Now add the karela and onion mix to the mutton and gently mix it all in, adding salt and pepper to taste.

- Let the dish cook on very low heat for 5 minutes to come together in flavours.

- Garnish with chopped fresh coriander before serving.