Text and images by Catherine Ling @ Makansutra
The most blessed month of the Muslim calendar year Ramadan sees great feasting when believers break their fast at sunset, traditionally in the company of family and friends.
The Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore has brought in traditional food from land closer to Mecca to complement its regular buffet line-up for the duration of this holy month.
Two guest chefs Sam Alam and Amro Omar and a host (interestingly named Mr Ramadan) from Grand Hyatt Doha in Qatar are presenting appetisers, soups, a hot and cold mezze selection, as well as a shawarma station complemented by grilled meat and seafood from the charcoal grill.
Priced at S$68++ (adult) and S$38++ (child), the Ramadan dinner buffet includes free-flowing juices, tea tarik and coffee tarik. The buffet is available from 20 July to 18 August 2012, from 6.30pm to 10.30pm daily. The hotel offers prayer rooms for diners to perform Maghrib prayers.
Here are some of the unique and delightful highlights of the lavish Iftar offerings.
Beetroot Mutable or Moutabal – Beetroot with smoked eggplant, tahini, onions, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper, topped with feta cheese. Earthy, tangy, sweet and smoky…you’ll be reaching out for a second scoop to re-savour its complex flavours.
Mutable – This is the regular version, but is no less formidable. It’s smoked eggplant with tahini paste, lemon juice, salt and feta cheese. They use a certain eggplant from Australia for its more moist texture and stronger flavour.
Looking somewhat similar but tastes totally different is the Hummus Beruity – Chickpea mash with tahini paste, lemon juice, yoghurt, salt, pepper and parsley. This hummus is so buttery smooth and creamy. It also has more depth and boldness than the normal one-dimensional hummus you find locally.
You must mop up all those appetisers with the freshly baked Arabic bread, as is customary in the Middle East. They also taste a little bit different with bread.
From the grill, we have Shish Taouk Bil Labhne – Charcoal-grilled skewers of marinated chicken cubes, black pepper, yoghurt and lemon juice – BBQ chicken never smelt or tasted so good!
Turkish Adana Kebab – Minced lamb, chilli paste and baby eggplant. This is almost like a firm sausage.
From the mains, we have Seafood Tagine, which you can enjoy with cous cous, rice or breads. Fish, mussels, shrimp and squid swim about in a light gravy. Normally in the Middle East, they feature hammour for the fish, but here they have used seabass here, which has a similar texture.
Beef Shakria – Sliced beef, yoghurt sauce, dry mint leaves, garlic. Fairly unusual combination of savoury beef browned with onions placed atop a yoghurt sauce.
Fried chicken with potato and lemon – something the kids will love. The potatoes have been sprinkled with minced garlic and lemon juice, so the tart and spicy mix will really surprise the tastebuds.
Dawood Basha- Beef meatballs with tomato gravy. This one will look and taste familiar, like meatballs in tomato sauce. Best eaten with rice or some carb, as it’s fairly salty.
It’s customary to end the meal with Moroccan mint tea. The guys from Qatar have brought over special trays, teapots and glasses along with authentic tea that they use. Mr Ramadan will go around in traditional costume pouring tea (or coffee) for guests.
But wait, we’re not done yet. There’s dessert! This is Umar Ali – or liquid bread, as we likened it to. Made from flour, nuts and milk make this a most fragrant baked pudding.
Passion Fruit Mohalabia – Passion fruit and milk. Now this was really fun to eat – the cold pudding is slightly sticky and chewy like molten marshmallows.
Rice pudding with fresh berries – less like a pudding and more like a sweet risotto. A sweet porridge with berries and nuts.
Mr Ramadan (left) will host and serve diners, while guest chefs Sam Alam (centre) and Amro Omar (right) will churn out the Middle Eastern delicacies at Straits Kitchen for the fasting month.
“Bel Hanna Shifa” or Bon Appetit in Arabic, they say!