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Friday, 2 August 2013

Al Musaherati Tradition المسحراتي & Pakodas recipe (stuffed Chili peppers)

المسحراتي - Al Musaherati
Ottoman Times

"My parents reminisce about their childhood days in Hyderabad, where a man holding a lantern would come around in the wee hours before dawn calling ‘Uthoooooo, Sahre Karoooooo!’ (meaning, Wake up, do Suhoor!). "
-Arva Ahmed, Author of the blog I Live In a Frying Pan 
and owner of the food tours company Frying Pan Adventures 

Musaherati Tradition المسحراتي
Musaherati is the person known as the Ramadan Drummer, who is assigned with waking people up to have their suhoor (predawn meal) throughout the holy month of Ramadan. 

Back in the day, the Ramadan drummers were one of the most important markers of the holy month of Ramadan. Every year, during the Holy month, these drummers would roam the streets an hour before dawn, drumming and calling out to people to wake up and have their Suhour meals. And usually people would wake up, greet the drummers, give them food and money in return for their service. This tradition is perhaps one of the oldest Ramadan Traditions, said to have existed back since the first years of Islam.

Turkish Ramadan Drummer

While during those days the Musaherati did not necessarily roam the streets drumming, a few assigned people did roam the streets calling out "time for the predawn meal". In both the Ottoman Empire and Andalusia, Musaheratis would drum and recite poems created specifically for the occasion. In both cultures, the drummers used to compete against other drummers to assign the best Ramadan drummer, usually the one who says the best poems, drums the best, wakes the most people and therefore earns the most. These competitions used to be taken very seriously as the best drummer, would usually be assigned the best streets, and even assigned the job of teaching the trade to new drummers. Of course, that is besides the fact that these earned the most money for their service.

Due to the hardship of the job, drummers have always been limited to a few and being a special tradition was usually a passed down job in the family. In most cities, drummers were usually the night guards who back in the day used to roam the streets to ensure all is peaceful while everyone is asleep, so it made sense for them to become Musaheratis and earn extra income.  

Musaherati is yet another tradition that progressively disappeared in most cities. While there are continuous efforts to keep the tradition alive in some cities, such efforts are not always successful. People no longer need a Musaherati as they have their alarm clocks, mobile apps and all sorts of other means to wake up for Suhour, and have therefore stopped paying Musaheratis for their services, making more and more of them disappear. Despite the fact, some drummers continue to carry out this tradition, regardless of not being paid, as they believe this is a tradition that needs to be kept alive and is one of the things that give Ramadan its unique flavour.

Pakodas - Photo by Arva Ahmed

Arva's Mum's Secret
Pakodas Recipe 
(Tamarind & Sesame-Stuffed Chili Peppers)

Arva and her mother were very generous to share with us Arva's mum's zealously guarded secret Pakodas recipe.

Pakodas refers to any kind of vegetable - onion slices, spinach leaves, potatoes - coated in a spiced gram flour batter and deep-fried until golden brown. Arva's favourite kind that they only see emerge from her mum’s kitchen during Ramadan is the stuffed chilly pakoda - de-seeded chillies that have a poofy batter-coat and are bursting at the seams with a spicy-salty sesame paste (til ki chutney) that has been stuffed inside.

You Need
Sesame Seeds - ½ Cup
Coriander - To taste
Mint - To taste
Dried Tamarind - 1 heaped tbsp
Green Chillies - To taste
Salt - To taste

Chilli PakodasGreen Chili Peppers - 8 large peppers, each of which should be about 2 inches long
Gram flour (besan) - 1 cup
Red Chilli powder - ½ tsp
Ajwain - ½ tsp
Turmeric - A pinch
Salt - To taste

Make the Filling Leave tamarind to soak in 4 tbsp of water.

Roast the sesame seeds and grind them to a powder. Continue grinding after adding in the coriander, mint leaves and green chillies. Add the tamarind water and pulse the mixture. Add more water if needed to form a smooth but thick chutney (do not allow it to become runny or watery)

Make the Chilli Pakodas Start heating vegetable oil in a deep pot or wok.
Slit and de-seed the green chilli peppers (or leave the seeds in if you prefer to go down the extra fiery route!) Stuff the peppers with the sesame-tamarind filling.
Mix the gram flour with the rest of the spices and water until it becomes a thick, sludgy batter.
Dip each pepper into the batter and make sure it is well-coated on all sides - and especially the slit of the pepper - with the batter. Then deep-fry the chillies until golden brown. 

Pakodas recipe and photograph, are provided by Arva Ahmed and are her property. They are published on this blog with her permission. Please do not copy or use them without her permission.

Food For Thought
Come, let's escape cleverness!

one of my favourite Rumi poems

Hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about the Musaherati Tradition and learning Arva's mother's secret Pakodas recipe. 

Ramadan is about to be over soon, I would love to hear your thoughts about this year's Ramadan Special, what you think of it so far, how you like or dislike its topics and if you found the information useful and interesting. Share your thoughts with me as they help me see these posts from your perspective and help me better plan next year's Ramadan posts :) So do please leave a comment giving me your feedback...

Come back tomorrow for
Ramadan in Pakistan :)

The world is beautiful, all its people are beautiful, all cultures equally important, and all the same in the end - all out there for us to explore...

Ramadan Kareem