Today is the 27th day of fasting. There are only three days left to go before we leave this holy month of Ramadhan and end our compulsory fasting for this year.
There are many from amongst us who would be sad with the passing of this month. We would miss the bountiful rewards that the Almighty reserves for His faithful servants only in this month. Perhaps there are some who rue the missed opportunity to do good deeds on Lailatul Qadr, the Night of Power that is better than a thousand months. Others would miss the state of being calm and patient that the ritual of fasting is meant to inculcate.
At the same time, I guess there would be many people who would not be missing Ramadhan. They need not worry anymore about sneaking a bite, sipping a drink or puffing a cigarette behind closed doors. May Allah have pity on these type of people.
So how was my Ramadhan for this year? Alhamdulillah, praise be to the Almighty... it has been a very fulfilling so far. I have been relatively healthy... the gastric problems that I experienced earlier in the year did not resurface. Things at work, although busy, were all under control. I had to travel to the Head Office only twice this month so most times iftar and sahur were together with my family.
And yes, I would missing Ramadhan very much. Apart from the religious rituals, I would miss one of the most lively event that happens only during the fasting month, the Ramadhan Bazaar. For a food aficionado like me, the enormous range and variety of food and drinks that you can find at these bazaars are mind-boggling. Dishes from other regions that are not normally available at other times, can now be found at the bazaars. For example, the east-coast dish of nasi kerabu and nasi dagang can be found sold at many stalls here in Johor Bahru. There is this one stall at the bazaar near my home that sells Penang Char Kuetiaw (the Bukit Mertajam version). There are of course, the normal Johor favourites such as lontong kering, nasi beriani, nasi ambang, asma rojak, mee rebus, sup tulang merah, murtabak etc. etc. etc. It is very tempting to try all at once.
The range that's available is so huge that I can choose one dish for each day of breaking fast, and when the whole 30 days of fasting is up, there would still be many dishes that I have not tasted. But of course, that was not what I did. In the first week, I sort of experimented by trying the options available and once I found a few stalls that sold tasty food that I liked, I just stick to those few.
In our house, the drink that is more or less compulsory to have at iftar is Air Kathira. This particular drink only surfaces during Ramadhan (well actually, some drink stalls sell so-called air kathira throughout the year but these are tasteless). The most famous air kathira in Johor Bahru is called Kathira Abu Bakar. Many news articles have been written about it. However, a new contender has emerged since last Ramadhan to challenge Abu Bakar's top position. It's called Kathira Urip, and I have been a loyal customer since last year.
Air kathira (also spelled khatira or katira) is a cool drink made with evaporated milk, pandan-flavoured syrup, kathira gum, biji selasih and buah kembang semangkuk. Some versions of this drink also include grass jelly (cincau), raisins and shredded dates. The kathira gum is a tree-extract and comes in powder form. It is mainly produced in India. You probably know that biji selasih are called basil seeds in English. I found out from a friend of a friend in Facebook that buah semangkuk is called malva nuts in English. Malva nuts (see pic below) come mainly from Thailand.
Air kathira is a delicious drink. I cannot describe the taste. What puzzles me is why Abu Bakar and Urip only sell their drink during the fasting month? I have googled and found a recipe for this drink so that I can try make one myself.
In a few days, I bid farewell to the holy month that is full of trials, temptations and rewards. May Allah be graceful enough to grant me the time to meet the next Ramadhan.