Health Care Sexuality Health Love + Sex

Sex positivity is impossible in South Asia with hypocritical OBGYNs

OBGYNs (Obstetricians and Gynecologists) in South Asian countries are notoriously known for being judgmental. Not entirely stereotyped however, most women have faced doctors who have judged them for sexual choices/having premarital sex.

Hailing from a misogynistic Desi background primarily focusing on patriarchy, I have always been judged about my outlook on sex and life in general. This did not change, it was especially clear the moment I went to the doctor. OBGYNs are supposed to guide your younger self about sexuality in general but from my personal experience that was never the case. I was never asked if I were sexually active, and you could see the judgment on their face when they came to know that I ‘unfortunately’ had engaged in premarital sex.

South Asian countries have a dearth of gynacs in general, with most not available for people of all economic backgrounds. The remaining few, accessible to the general public, have the most hypocritical outlook on women and sexuality in general. My relative is a doctor specializing in fertility and IVFs and she judges working women who come to her for abortions because they aren’t married.

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This hypocrisy is just not prevalent in South Asia, but amidst all misogynistic areas where choices aren’t respected. Women from UAE and Bangladesh have reported to having OBGYNs asking them questions about their marital status to ensure their sexual activity. Instead of asking direct questions about women having sex, indirect half-hearted embarrassed attempts are made to ask women if they are indeed engaging in physical intimacy with their partners. Educated Indian doctors ask unmarried women why they need contraceptives if they are unmarried.

This deeply rooted sexism and hypocrisy riddled slut shaming finds its cloying roots among men and women who have literally studied in order to protect and heal people. It is deeply upsetting indeed. For OBGYNs to not be sex positive is not only unrealistic but ridiculous to a certain point. A friend of mine spoke out about how her doctor gave her the most disgusting looks when she told him how she wanted prescription contraceptives but she wasn’t married. There have been cases where women with cases of PCOS were treated only because their fertility were being affected and women apparently “live just to give birth”.

My friend, and neighbor, was lectured about what the ill-effects of having sex were from her OBGYN, when she had gone to get treated for PCOS.

Another acquaintance of mine was told that she had disappointed her parents by “having premarital sex because virginity should be kept for your husband” by her doctor.

A friend from Bangladesh reported about how her doctor refused to treat her the moment she learnt my 19 year-old friend wasn’t a virgin. Cases like these are common everywhere you travel, from UAE to Nepal.

Again, this hypocrisy is just not reserved for the women but for the Queer community as well, whose members are repeatedly asked intrusive questions by OBGYNs about their sexuality and physical self (while some refuse to admit transgender men and women as patients). This disgusting and sickening attitude horrifies me.

When education fails to teach people about the evils of misogyny, what else will help?

OBGYNs, especially in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are prone not to spread sexual awareness and accurate information regarding sexual taboos and sexual health. No I am not negating the respect for the profession, practicing medicine is indeed a great thing. Doctors should be respected and for good reason. But we need this sexist attitude to be done away with for good.

This fear of getting pregnant and having to get rid of the fetus because one is unmarried is honestly so sad. The choice of conceiving is being taken away from women for fear of society, and doctors are helping the process. My relative in fact talked shit about one of her patients (whom she refused to admit) because she was sixteen and pregnant and wanted her child to be aborted. This kind of unnecessary hatred against women’s right to choose what they sexually deem fit is frankly nauseating.

Doctors in South Asia are of course not properly sensitized about women’s sexual health. Because of the conservativeness and the judgmental outlook, most women fear visiting the doctor and self-diagnose themselves (which is way way more harmful than having premarital sex, my dear doctors).

I wouldn’t say all OBGYNs are similar, and this is not a hate essay about OBGYNs. This is a hate essay against misogyny and patriarchy and rules of social morality whipped up by conservative controlling men. Every act of theirs can be rooted back to simple patriarchal stereotypes.

The way women are denied sex positivity, even in the 21st century is shocking. This needs to stop at all costs. I am asking OBGYNs to not act as the moral police, society polices women enough to last us a lifetime.

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Family Life

17 things you’re missing out on this summer if you’re a Desi stuck abroad

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken away a lot of the things we cherish. Our lives are no longer the same and we are forced to accept this dystopian reality, for now at least. As we approach summer in the northern hemisphere, expatriates or immigrants living abroad no longer have the choice to travel home.

Desi families are not only big but also well-knit. Traveling home, to us, means spending the next month or two adjusting and learning to live with people we only share blood with, but the happiness that envelopes a reunion is unparalleled.

Here are some of the things we’ll be missing this summer:

1. The unpacking

A woman reads off a packet while a man beside her empties a box.
[Image Description: A woman reads off a packet while a man beside her empties a box.] Via Giphy
Much like it may feel for some people at Christmas, our suitcases are half-filled with gifts for practically everyone we know. The over-weight luggage is worth the expectant look in our relatives’ eyes though.

2. The post-midnight game nights

Two women are seated on a bedroom floor cross-legged. One of them flips a board game over her head.
[Image Description: Two women are seated on a bedroom floor cross-legged. One of them flips a board game over her head.] Via Giphy
These impromptu game nights are what we look forward to every vacation. From Ludo to Uno Cards, charades to Antakshari , family games are best when everyone’s there, and although no one’s following the rules or keeping track of the score, everyone is still competitive. 

3. The mealtimes

A group of people sit on table with food. The camera spans as they eat and talk.
[Image Description: A group of people sit on table with food. The camera spans as they eat and talk.] Via Giphy
Somehow that table for six can fit ten people. 

Although everyone’s sleeping in for breakfast, lunch and dinner are always a big deal. Everyone is at the table and there’s food you’ve been missing for an entire year. Every mealtime is like a little celebration. 

4. The movie nights

A man rubs his hands excitedly in a crowded theatre.
[Image description: A man rubs his hands excitedly in a crowded theatre.] Via Giphy
The biggest problem with movie nights is that you can’t find a movie that both a five and a thirty-year-old want to watch. Our family’s go-to movies were Marvel or DC releases. As long as you have buttered popcorn, everyone’s going to be happy anyway,

5. The over-planned picnic

Women and children skip across the banks of a river with picnic baskets in their hands.
[Image Description: Women and children skip across the banks of a river with picnic baskets in their hands.] Via Giphy
You can never be too prepared for a picnic meant for 40 people. Did you bring extra diapers? Your grandmother’s medicine? Serving spoons? Badminton racquets?

The bus you booked doesn’t have a working air conditioner. The toddler is covered in mosquito bites. You lost your way and now you’re all an hour late. But once you get there, all your troubles are forgotten…except someone forgot to pack the plates.

6. The sleepovers

A woman opens the door to find two people standing outside and exclaims 'sleepover'.
[Image Description: A woman opens the door to find two people standing outside and exclaims ‘sleepover’.] Via Giphy
When you’re with your cousins, time just disappears. One conversation leads to another and you find yourself ranting about that fifth-grade nemesis at 3 a.m. You’re probably missing a pillow or a blanket but you sleep like a rock when you do. 

7. The street food cravings

A man and a woman eat an Indian snack 'pani puri.
[Image Description: A man and a woman eat an Indian snack ‘pani puri.] Via Giphy
It’s acceptable to crave pani puri and chaat at 12 a.m. when you’re on vacation. Your oldest cousin will be glad to drive the lot of you to a chaat stall which is suspiciously open so late. 

8. The shopping before the wedding

A woman is seated in a convertible with two other women and says 'Get in, loser. We're going shopping'.
[Image Description: A woman is seated in a convertible with two other women and says ‘Get in, loser. We’re going shopping’.] Via Giphy
You’ve spent endless hours in traffic only to pick out one decent outfit. But you have three more outfits to buy. 

9. The wedding

A woman dances in the middle of a large group of women who are clapping.
[Image Description: A woman dances in the middle of a large group of women who are clapping.] Via Giphy
If someone doesn’t get married that summer, you aren’t really Desi.

Your cousin insists on teaching you to dance, despite your clumsiness and lack of rhythm. It’s either really hot or pouring heavily on the day of the wedding and it’s not doing your makeup any favors.

10. The road trips and train rides

Trolls with long hair look out of a moving train. The caption reads 'Trolololol'.
[Image Description: Trolls with long hair look out of a moving train. The caption reads ‘Trolololol’.] Via Giphy
Desi families are not only big but also well-knit; this guarantees traveling long distances to meet them. The long train rides through ghats and mountains, the spectacular beauty of nature, the waterfalls and the fields, the smell of your country’s soil, and the crisp fresh air is priceless. 

11. The reunion with your culture

A Holi (Indian festival) scene where colour is released into the air.
[Image Description: A Holi (Indian festival) scene where color is released into the air. ] Via Giphy
Traveling home unites you with the people who represent your culture best. The connection with the food, entertainment, and routine is raw. 

12. The old souls

An older man approaches to hug a woman. Another man beside them is ignored.
[Image Description: An older man approaches to hug a woman. Another man beside them is ignored.] Via Giphy
As we get older, our grandparents do too. Every visit makes you vulnerable; this may be the last time you see them. So you hug them, you tell them you love them, and you cherish your time together. 

13. The street animals

A dog stands on a moving turtle.
[Image Description: A dog stands on a moving turtle.] Via Giphy
You often see way too many animals, in your house or otherwise. Watching cows, goats, ducks, stray dogs, and cats in your front yard is not uncommon.

14. The mosquito bites

An animated boy swats away mosquitoes that surround him, saying 'The mosquito net's not working'.
[Image Description: An animated boy swats away mosquitoes that surround him, saying ‘The mosquito net’s not working’.
If you’ve got out of your vacation without mosquito bites, consider yourself really lucky. 

15.  Homemade food

Butter melts on a stack of parathas (Indian bread).
[Image Description: Butter melts on a stack of parathas (Indian bread). ] Via Giphy
Home-cooked food with indigenous, fresh spices and organic, fresher-than-ever fruits and vegetables will taste better than anything you can eat elsewhere.

16. The many, many get-togethers

A group hug.
[Image Description: A group hug.] Via Giphy
Having 200 relatives living in the same city means you keep getting invited to parties and get-togethers. Let’s not talk about the upset stomachs every time you come home though.

17. The grocery hoarding 

An assortment of Indian sweets.
[Image Description: An assortment of Indian sweets.] Via Giphy
You can’t find the kind of achaar (pickle), ghee, mithai (sweets), tea, masala, spices, and dry produce you get back home anywhere else. We always hoard a kilo or two of these before we return from our vacation.

Jokes aside, Southeast Asian countries are fighting the pandemic with all they have right now. Look out for your loved ones abroad and stay safe.

LGBTQIA+ Gender Inequality

Transgender and intersex people in Bangladesh have recognition on paper, but their lives haven’t been made any easier

Trigger warnings: Mentions of transphobic comments/incidents

Disclaimer: The word “hijra” is commonly used in reference to the South Asian transgender and intersex community. In Pakistan, the word takes on a derogatory connotation and much of the community does not approve of its use. However, in Bangladesh, many members of the community are proud to consider themselves hijra. While it can be used in a derogatory way at times by non-transgender people, like how the word gay is used as an insult in America, many people have gradually begun to reclaim the word and its meaning. 

I was first introduced to the hijra community in Bangladesh when I was 15 years old. It was 2009, and I was at my uncle’s wedding. They arrived unannounced to the front yard of my family’s home to perform dances and songs, and asked for payment. I was fascinated by them – growing up in the United States had robbed me of the lived cultural experiences my cousins who grew up in Bangladesh had. But I also noticed how some of my family members were uncomfortable and angry at the arrival of the hijra. Some even yelled at them to leave. I became uncomfortable with those reactions; I didn’t understand why they reacted so negatively.

That day, I learned that hijra is an identification category for a third gender. In South Asia, the term, hijra, refers to a subset of transgender people. They do not associate themselves with the sex and culturally correlated gender assigned at birth; in fact, they do not identify as either male or female, man or woman. Thus, they categorize themselves as hijra – a third category. Many intersex people also identify as hijra in South Asia. It is a widespread notion in South Asia that most hijra are born biologically male and assigned a male gender category at birth, and later identify with what is culturally perceived as feminine gender roles. Thus, the dominant view also in evidently overlooks the recognition of trans men.

My mother explained to me that hijra will often show up at large celebratory life events, like weddings and the birth of babies, to sing, dance, and pray for the families. Afterwards, they ask for payment because it is one of their only avenues of income. She also told me the hijra community is severely discriminated against – they are excluded from “normal” society because they do not fit into the culturally accepted (mythical) binary of gender and sex. They are a neglected and segregated people.

And that’s when I understood those negative reactions I witnessed. Those guests and family members, like many in Bangladesh, were prejudiced and bigoted against the hijra community. And that’s what spurred me to educate myself and others about this community as much as I was capable of.

On January 26, 2014, the government of Bangladesh announced the legal recognition of hijra with the following statement: “The Government of Bangladesh has recognized the Hijra community of Bangladesh as a Hijra sex.” This recognition was a huge victory for the hijra community – they held a celebratory Pride Parade later in the year 2014 – but there’s so much more that needs to be done, and it starts with the very terminology.

Academic circles and Western narratives refer to hijra as a third gender, but the terms gender and sex are conflated in South Asia. Thus, there is little understanding of what it means to identify as hijra – that is a major disadvantage to the community because while recognition of them exists, knowledge of this identity category does not. Because hijra are considered social outcasts, there is not enough developed discourse that allows their voices and lived experiences to become common knowledge. As a result, people have varying degrees of knowledge of what hijra means. Some believe being homosexual and transgender are the same things (this, of course, is completely incorrect – sexuality does not equal gender identity); some believe hijra are only trans women; some believe they are only intersex people. This lack of understanding is extremely problematic and further marginalizes hijra.

Without providing proper guidelines and explanation of who hijra are and solely going off of the widely varying personal understandings of what hijra means, this recognition does not mean much.  In December of 2014, the Ministry of Social Welfare in Bangladesh allowed hijra to apply for jobs within the government – a large step forward for their community. But measurements were taken to find proof that those lining up to interview for these positions were, in fact, hijra. Candidates were not only asked questions about their gender identities and sexuality, they were also stripped down while doctors examined their genital areas to make sure they were “authentic” hijra. This humiliation and harassment come from both bigotry and the lack of attempts to publicly define the term “hijra.”

Furthermore, solely recognizing this third category did not establish stable constitutional rights for the hijra community, such as being able to own and inherit property. Rape laws were not changed to include hijras; they still do not have easy access to medical facilities; there is no official government database as of yet to count their population to assess their needs and demands; and laws that implicitly enforce heteronormativity in Bangladesh are still interpreted in ways to harm and punish non-heteronormative behavior.

Hijra are socially marginalized to the extreme and their frustrations and vulnerabilities have been historically overlooked. Because of their outsider status, they have essentially created their own sub-society with their own language (Ulty), ritual ceremonies, and families (because they are often excluded from their own).

Yet, the hijra community has existed in South Asia for over 4,000 years. They are celebrated in Hindu texts and had high status during the reign of the Mughal Empire. They worked as performers and bodyguards and were an active part of the Mughal Empire’s success.

When Britain invaded and colonized South Asia, they began an active attempt to eliminate hijra communities in the area because the hijra identity challenged Western morality and conceptions of gender. British colonizers classified hijra as eunuchs rather than trying to understand their identity, and stripped them of their status by only allowing them to work as domestic workers or farmers.

Colonization has had a long-lasting impact on how current South Asian societies view the hijra community. But now, the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is increasingly turning a blind eye to the violence and injustice the hijra community faces in order to pander to rising Islamic ideals. The government’s failure to take action is, in large part, the reason hijra suffer such prejudice.

As of now, hijra do not have equal and equitable employment opportunities. They are economically exploited. Even though the government has taken rudimentary steps to provide them with jobs, they are met with discrimination. Many live in poverty and are forced to beg for money or become sex workers, further demonizing and dehumanizing them in the eyes of society. The public stigma about hijra is that they are uneducated and immoral, yet the underlying problem – the fact that they have extremely limited access to jobs and educational opportunities in the first place – is unaddressed. Their status as an extreme form of “other” has disenfranchised them most. Their social exclusion has led to their economic exclusion.

Only as recently as 2018 were hijra allowed to vote under this third gender category and in July of 2018, Bangladesh’s government appointed Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity as the first hijra official in the National Human Rights Commission. These are great steps for Bangladesh to take in securing rights for the hijra community, but there is still a long way to go.

Hijra are, essentially, the oldest transgender community in the world. Since first being introduced to the hijra community at 15, I have done research and written academic papers to call attention to the injustice of their status. Othering groups of people, punishing them for being different from the mainstream, and economically subjugating them for that difference is something I cannot reconcile with my conscience and morality. From afar, I have attempted to educate Bangladeshi communities both within the United States and Bangladesh. There are not many advocacy groups to help hijra in Bangladesh, but one notable group is called the Bangladesh Hijra Kalyan Foundation has been around for quite a while. I keep up with their advocacy activities such as bringing attention to the hijra community’s economic state and providing communities with food. In August of 2016, an NGO named Uttoran Foundation began efforts to better the social and economic statuses of hijra. Like all impoverished and segregated communities in the world, the hijra deserve allies and advocates to fight alongside them for their rights. The attitude and mindset of society has to change. We must decolonize our minds and view hijra as human beings.

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Food & Drinks Life

11 Desi foods that will change your life

Whether it be from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, or any other Desi country, the food is always diverse and filled with color and intricate flavors that create a unique experience. I’ve always grown up with Indian food, so perhaps I’m biased by my experience, but I’m here to argue my point to the ground –  Desi foods are some of the greatest joys in life. From samosas to paneer butter masala, there is a huge variety of foods in the Desi region. You could spend your life attempting to try them all, so here are 11 of the most impactful Desi foods to get you started.

1.Chicken Karahi

Chicken Biryani with a side of Chicken Karahi
Chicken Biryani with a side of Chicken Karahi

Chicken Karahi is a notable Pakistani dish deriving out of a line of several chicken dishes, including Chilli Chicken, Chicken 65, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Lollipop, and more. The dish is cooked typically in a karahi, or heavy, usually cast-iron, pan. A rich red tomato sauce is used for the base of the dish, and the most authentic kind will have a fiery, full-bodied flavor. The dry curry is perfect with naan or roti and is a cherished favorite in the Desi region.

This dish is one of my personal favorite Desi foods as its flavor has depth and creates a sweet, but also spicy taste. If you’ve been to Pakistan or India, and haven’t tried Chicken Karahi, you’re missing out. The dish introduces you to a whole new texture and variety of making chicken, that we simply don’t have in the western world. 

2.Gobi Manchurian

Image of a plate of homemade Gobi Manchurian via Srilekha Cherukuvada
Image of a plate of homemade Gobi Manchurian via Srilekha Cherukuvada

This Indo-Chinese dish is cherished across the entire desi region for its bright red color and crunchy texture. When made right, Gobi Manchurian can be crispy and bursting with bold flavors and a slightly sour sensation. The dish can be made with several different options including, chicken, fish, and more popularly– cauliflower. The chosen base is typically coated in batter, fried, and mixed with some soy sauce and red sauce. 

Gobi Manchurian has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The first time I tried Gobi Manchurian was at a family friend’s party and I just fell in love. Since then, it’s become a family tradition to make it together; we always take some pretty photos because of its beautiful coloring.

3.Pani Puri

Several pani pooris lined up in a circle around a small cup of green sauce.
Several pani pooris lined up in a circle around a small cup of green sauce.

Pani Puri is one of the most beloved Desi snacks. The snack is also accessible in the US; most Indian grocery stores have a Pani Puri set, which includes the pooris, and the two sauces (tamarind and green) used in the dish. The base of the snack is the puri, which has a hole in the top to fit all of the ingredients inside. Often, the dish includes small diced potatoes, cilantro, onion, chickpeas, cilantro, and more. Pani Puri is very popular street food, and once filled with the light green sauce, must be eaten in one bite.

This snack has a special place in my heart as well. Eating Pani Puri on the side of the street or even at home was something special. Engulfing the puri as a whole is always my favorite part because as soon as you bite into all of the different ingredients, everything tangles together to create a complex flavorful adventure. Pani Puri taught me to live life on the edge with its new, unique flavors.


Sambhar with a side of Idlys and green coconut chutney.
Sambhar with a side of Idlys and green coconut chutney.

This is one of the most popular Indian dishes around. Sambar is a soup-like dish consisting of lentils, tamarind, mixed vegetables, spices, and herbs, as well as a special Sambar powder that is mixed in to give it a distinct taste. Sambar is perfect for any occasion, from parties, to dinners on a Saturday night. Not only is it healthy, but its delicious flavor and herbal aroma is a one-of-a-kind experience that is not to miss.

My experience with Sambar has always been my mother or my aunt making it at home. Whenever I visit India, my relatives always make Sambar at least once a week. It’s a staple dish and is typically eaten with rice, Idli, or Vada. Sambar is always made with love, whether it comes from my mother, aunt, or grandmother.


Image of Haleem topped with a slice of lime.
Image of Haleem topped with a slice of lime.

Haleem is a very popular dish in the Muslim community in the Desi region. It is especially eaten during the months of Ramadan and Muharram. The dish consists of slow-cooked meat, wheat, and rice or barley. It is a pretty hard dish to cook, however, it is done so with passion and love. It is incredibly nutritious and has a full-bodied rich flavor.

Although I have never personally tried Haleem, as I don’t prefer to eat Mutton– the meat often used in Haleem– I can affirm that it will definitely change your life. Not only is it healthy, but it has rich flavors that you won’t find anywhere else. 


Image of Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
Image of Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

Biryani is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. From Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, to Pakistani Chicken Biryani to Kacchi Biryani, you just can’t go wrong with this dish. There are so many unique combinations of flavors and ingredients. Although it takes quite a bit of effort to make, biryani bursts with flavor, with the juicy tender meat wrapping the dish together.

Anytime that I visit India, my aunt has to make Chicken Biryani at least once. It’s one of my most favorite rice dishes and the airy and fresh flavoring fills you right up. With the correct amount of balance of spice and cooling ingredients, it’s a perfectly balanced dish for those slightly less adventurous foodies.


Image of five samosas with sides of green chutney and red sauce.
Image of five samosas with sides of green chutney and red sauce.

If you don’t know what a Samosa is, then pay attention. This is literally the best snack dish you will ever find in the Desi region. Period. The snack consists of a crispy, flaky outer layer made with all-purpose flour, stuffed with a potato-pea mixture on the inside. This fan-favorite creates a spicy, tangy flavor, with the crispy outside texture adding the overall aroma and taste of the dish. Samosa is a beloved dish not only in India, but it’s well-known around the world.

To me, Samosa is a family favorite. If we’re going to have a party, we know we can depend on Samosa because everyone just loves them. The dish represents reliability to me and I can’t imagine a world without it. 


Image of Garlic naan bread via Pexels
Image of Garlic naan bread via Pexels

Naan is another very popular Desi dish eaten all around the region. In the US, Naan can be found at pretty much any Indian restaurant. It’s essential in Southern and Central Asia and can be eaten with a lot of different curries. Naan is an oven-baked flatbread, similar to chapati and poori, but distinct in its buttery delicious taste. It can be made with butter, garlic, or other herbs to create a unique flavor each time.


Image of flaky paratha bread
Image of flaky paratha bread

This dish is especially popular in North India. Paratha is a layered, flaky flatbread made primarily out of flour, salt, ghee, and water. The bread is simple but still bursts with an immense passionate flavor. There are all sorts of Paratha, from stuffed to plain, in triangles, squares, and circles. The soft, full-bodied, fluffy texture and flavor are not to be missed. Out of all the Desi foods, Paratha definitely stands out as one of the best.

My mother used to make Paratha every Monday after school. The dish always reminds me of my childhood. Even its flavor reminds me of running home from the bus stop to sniff the aromatic scent of the flatbread. Paratha doesn’t only represent India and my childhood, but its flavor will open you up to a variety of Indian flavors that don’t center around spice. 


Image of bright orange jalebi
Image of bright orange jalebi

Desi foods also include the best sweets and desserts around– and Jalebi is one of the most popular. Often, Jalebi can be found in a boisterous, bright orange color and a sweet, syrupy flavor with a crispy, juicy texture. The spiral-shaped dish is made out of fermented deep-fried batter, which is then soaked in sugar syrup. 

I used to hate Jalebis, and I guess that’s why they’re so memorable to me. The flavoring was just too tangy and sweet. When I tried them again, years later, from a Middle Eastern shop in Michigan, I changed my mind – the flavor wasn’t too sweet or bland. It had the perfect combination of every flavor a dessert or snack should have. 

11.Gulab Jamun

Image of spherical gulab jamun stacked on top of each other via Venkata Narasimha Cherukuvada
Image of spherical gulab jamun stacked on top of each other via Venkata Narasimha Cherukuvada

Gulab Jamun is an exceptionally popular dessert/sweet in India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and more. The dish is a milk-based solid, soaked in a sugary sweet syrup. When eating, Gulab Jamun oozes with the juicy syrup engulfed during the soaking process. The ball itself is typically light, airy, and fluffy. Overall, Gulab Jamun is one of the best Desi foods, so addictive, and I can’t imagine going through an Indian festival without it.

Like the aforementioned Gobi Manchurian, it has also become a tradition in my family to make Gulab Jamun together. We would roll the dough into tiny balls and help my mother fry and soak them in the sugar syrup. Gulab Jamun always represented trust in my family. The dish reminds me of all of the memories we’ve made together and how important that bond is. 

Food & Drinks Life

My dad’s cooking let me explore the world and relive his experiences

When you think of exploring the world, what comes to mind may be traveling. While I have been fortunate to be able to travel, I have explored the world in other ways. Mainly, I have explored the world through my dad’s cooking.

I’ve had a close relationship with my dad for most of my life. The biggest thing that we have in common is our love of food. My dad’s an amazing cook. Meanwhile, I cannot cook to save my life.  Ok, maybe some pasta, but that’s it. I have always appreciated his cooking and the stories that accompanied them.

My dad has had the opportunity to live in many different countries. He tried to immerse himself in their cultures. This includes their food. He was born in Switzerland and has since lived in Germany, England, Bangladesh, Holland, Canada and now the United States. He has had the opportunity to travel to even more countries for work, like China and Cuba.

While my dad lived in various countries in the world, he told me that he tried his best to assimilate and learn from each culture. For my dad, a major foodie like myself, this meant eating and learning to make their cuisine.

I was born in Canada, and by this point, my dad had lived in Germany, England, Bangladesh, and Holland. I grew up eating food and delicacies that can be considered to be traditional food from all these countries, from naan to raclette to sauerkraut.  While it was great on its own to be able to eat a wide variety of food, my dad’s enthusiasm also led me to appreciate these foods.

Every meal that I ate for dinner was a feast in my dad’s eyes. I did not understand why he had this approach when I was younger. This likely came from his joy in remembering the countries that he lived in and the experiences that he had. In a way, I have been able to explore my dad’s life through his cooking.

His cuisine also allowed me to learn about my Swiss-French heritage. My dad, being from the French part of Switzerland, loved any meal that involved cheese. This led to us having raclette or fondue for dinner. During these meals, my dad would talk about the times when he would go up to the mountains with his church when he was younger. These involved mundane stories about card games. While boring, it gave me insight into parts of my dad’s life before I was born.

I will likely not have the opportunity to travel and live in as many places as my dad due to health reasons. Honestly, this is a major source of frustration. I’ve always wanted to travel the world and live in an endless number of countries. For the specific condition I have, there are only 70-something doctors who treat it in the world. And most of them are in the United States.

My dad’s health did not impact his ability to move. To be honest, I’m a bit jealous. But I will take his love of cuisine and culture with me as I continue on to various phases of my life. Food is an important part of culture, and I hope to be able to see and experience as many cultures as I can.

Gender & Identity Life

My father stopped speaking to me. This is the real reason why.

You know the perfect girl your parents wished you were who magically ticks off almost all of the boxes of their seemingly endless list of expectations?

Yeah, that was me.

Rules have been my companion for as long as I can remember. Having been born and brought up in a conservative Muslim household in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my brother and I have been subject to restrictions whilst growing up and not abiding by them came at unfavorable costs.

Rules were everywhere and for everything. I was not to close my door or stay in my room too long by myself. I was not to go to the movies with friends or stay out late. I was to eat whatever dish was put on the table without question. I was to be studious. I was to socialize with family and guests and never talk back to an adult.

On and on the list continued.

I was okay with it up to a point. But naturally, as my teenage years dawned in, I began to rebel. I watched my friends get what they wanted with their obstinate ways and my envy got the better of me. I wanted that life for myself where I wouldn’t constantly be told what to do.

These thoughts got to my head and I eventually decided not to let my life be dictated by anyone but myself.

I started to do what I wished and act on my desires, completely disregarding my parents in the process. While that undeniably opened up more doors to freedom, it created this terrible distance between my parents and I. The disappointment in their eyes was evident and it bugged me to the extent that I couldn’t even enjoy the newfound freedom I had so laboriously acquired.

As days stretched by, the distance grew further and further to the point that my father would barely even speak to me.

And to top it off, my brother with his ideal ways would swoop in each time and win them over with his comforting words. What frustrated me, even more, was the fact that despite his conformance to rules, my brother’s life was not dull in the least. When he had been obedient and laid out his groundwork carefully, my parents would actually permit him to do things that they otherwise disapproved of, simply because they trusted him.

How ridiculously clever.

The minute I caught up with his ingenious strategy, I knew this was exactly what I had to do if I ever wanted respect in this family. The feeling of being the disappointing child was one I wasn’t happy to be experiencing and I was prepared to do just about anything to change that.

To be frank, I didn’t start off with genuine intentions.

I made a list of everything about me that my parents were displeased with and forced myself into doing them right, one at a time, despite my utter disinterest in reformation whatsoever. I would religiously sit with my parents for a part of my day and try to make conversation. I would even bring them their medicine and help with chores, not so much out of genuine concern but to get in their good books.

I didn’t think it would work as splendidly it did. After all, I was faking it all the entire time.

Except, it did work.

Making that small effort went a long way and absolutely turned my life around and elevated my position in the family. The gap between my parents and I eventually closed in and slowly but surely, they began to confide in me regarding matters of significance to get my say on them. Furthermore, the things I started off doing forcibly, in a feat of sarcastic mockery of sorts, interestingly came to be sincerer with time. I felt more responsible and would no longer do the things I did because I was expected to, but more so because I genuinely wanted to.

The best part?

Being in a position where my parents saw me in a mature and responsible light meant that they would give their consent on things that would otherwise be out of bounds for me.

Of course, it took years and considerable patience to get to that juncture.

I’ve only now reached that point in my life where I travel alone, ride public transports and even stay out pretty late – things I never thought possible for me.

At this point in life, I have come to respect the rules that I once felt had held me back. Restraint, rules, and discipline are crucial and necessary and I’m glad I made the changes in myself when I did.

It has shaped my personality to be one I take pride in and I wouldn’t have myself any other way.

Culture Gender & Identity Life

I was a victim of ragging during the first week of university in Pakistan. I couldn’t stop it.

The term ragging is probably an unfamiliar word in America and the UK, but the practices are just the same as hazing. Except that it doesn’t happen to the freshmen in any sort of group either sorority or fraternity. In South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia – it happens to every single freshman.

Getting into college was tantamount to that start of new life. I was deliriously happy on my first day in college. There were thousands of plans on my mind, typical plans such as making new friends, acing every semester and to have a good time.

But unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

It started with orientation week for the newcomers. A tiring, torturing week which felt like forever. This was when my nightmare began.

It was a week with almost no sleep. Our day started in the early morning and ended after midnight. The seniors who were in charge of orientation week were with us all the time. I didn’t mind the events and activities for us as I knew how important it was to get us settled in our new place and environment. But keeping us all night just for ranting was absolutely absurd. Usually, the seniors who were in charge of the freshmen did it for petty reasons, mainly to show us their power of seniority.

On the first day of orientation week, one of the freshmen made one unforgivable mistake – she questioned as to why we had to wake up at four in the morning if the orientation activities start at eight. Because of that, all of us were punished. For three hours, they ranted about how rude and disrespectful we were for questioning their actions.

Their ragging during orientation week was more than keeping us up all night. There were ridiculous punishments and demands from the seniors. Some of us were ordered to dance in front of everyone or fetch them food or drink whenever they wanted it. One other freshman got lost at one point and asked for a senior’s help with directions. These seniors were more than glad to help, with one condition – these new students had to squat walk until they reached their destination. There was just no way to escape the ragging. Seniors were everywhere. The freshmen were tormented by physical humiliation, verbal abuses and threats from the seniors at all times.

I thought once the orientation week was over, the ragging would stop. But I was wrong.

Unfortunately for me, I was placed in the same dorm room as a senior. She took a strong dislike to me.

There was one time when I went to my room and she waited for me, with her two other friends. I was surrounded by them and interrogated for what seemed like an eternity. She accused me of disrespecting her that day because I didn’t smile and greet her ‘good morning’. To them, I needed to be put in my place.

After hours of insults and verbal abuse, I was warned to smile and greet her next time. But not just her, her friends demanded the same thing. Do it, or suffer the consequences – those were the exact words they said. Intimidated by their threat, I agreed. But still, I had to be punished for my mistake – I had to do their laundry for as long as they wanted.

Living with her was torture. I was practically her slave for two semesters and did all her bidding – buying her food for lunch, running errands for her and washing her bed sheets. As a freshman, I was powerless. I tried to get used to the bullying but there were times when it reached the point when I considered quitting college. I looked forward to my classes, just to get out of my room but dreaded the moment when I had to go back. Every day I put on a brave face but silently cried at night.

Once I asked a counselor’s help about being ragged. But his answer was disappointing. Instead of support, all I got from him was this answer – “it was just a phase of my college life.”

Luckily, it didn’t last forever. I was finally free from the ragging in my second year.

I was assigned to be in charge during orientation week in my third year. As a senior that time, I had the authority to do the ragging to those freshmen.

But I didn’t do it.

The first year of college scarred me. Those newcomers never deserved the same, awful experience like I had. They came to college with high hopes of bettering their life, not to endure this stupid tradition.

The ragging did affect me in some ways. Now, I’m stronger and tougher, more resilient because of my experiences. I’m more empathetic towards those who have been bullied and wronged by the seniors. Now, I’m against bullying and more perceptive to any act of bullying. It was lucky for me to survive my ordeal, but there were few who didn’t.

Sometimes, I wished I could stand up for myself instead of bowing and scraping like a slave for the whole year. I’ve realized one thing – their seniority shouldn’t define their superiority.

They deserved respect, but only when they earned it, not because they had more experience in college.

Gender & Identity Food & Drinks Life

Chai is more than just a cup of tea – it’s a world of memories, stolen moments, and family

A cup of chai is more than just a cup of spicy leaf water for those in the desi community.

It’s drinking chai from delicate china at a dawat that your mother dragged you to when you’d rather just be at home reading Children of the Corn.

Steam from the cup fogging up your brand-new prescription glasses as aunties coddle you with, “Mashallah, how tall she’s grown!” and maybe a little of, “She’s put on a little weight, na?”

[bctt tweet=”Chai is more than just a cup of spicy leaf water.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Perhaps it’s that extra teaspoon (or three) of sugar as you try to awkwardly make small talk with the girls whose shiny salwars remind you of the days that you all used to choreograph Bollywood dance numbers together.

Or the aftertaste that lingers long after you’ve nodded off on the car ride home, lights from the highway dancing over the stain on your shawl where you spilled that second cup.

The first time you make it perfectly by pure luck.

Then your mother hypes you up a bit too much for the house guests and you end up making hot water with complementary floating tea grounds. You spend afternoons finishing math homework and watching your nana skillfully pouring, filtering and answering your probing questions about what the gross milky film does for the tea beside make you gag.

[bctt tweet=”They drink ambrosia out of foam cups and laugh rumbling belly laughs.” username=”wearethetempest”]

She in turn, patiently teaches you to identify the right shade of brown and warns that Lipton tea bags are the devil’s answer to the holiness of properly brewed chai.

Trial and error join as your mentors, with pots upon pots of wasted chai; some too sweet, some too white, some with grounds, or some full of coffee because you weren’t in the mood.

Until, finally, you learn the perfect ratio of evaporated milk to liquor to which your nana smiles her red paan-stained smile.

[bctt tweet=” Lipton tea bags are the devil’s answer to properly brewed chai.” username=”wearethetempest”]

You learn that not all chai was meant for consumption. Like the kind at Starbucks. Or the kind at your mosque for that matter. After long Ramadan days, the last thing you need is the nonsense that the masjid ladies try to disguise as “chai.”

It’s not.

No amount of prayer or those godforsaken Lipton tea bags could revive the telltale taste or even caffeinate you enough to stay standing tall during the seemingly ceaseless night prayers. Of course, until you find out about the league of dads (of which your dad is a member) and their covert operation that involves bringing traditional desi chai from home and distributing to others suffering under the mosque’s oppression.

You join them in the dimly lit parking lot as they drink ambrosia out of foam cups and laugh those rumbling belly laughs.

Mosquitos may have also congregated (for worship or vice you are still unsure) and the dewy humidity of Florida glues your hijab to your neck, but, hot chai awaits. Despite your father’s lectured precaution, your over-enthusiasm earns you a burned tongue.

But it tastes like the summer night so your injury is a small price to pay.

[bctt tweet=”Because chai is desi communion granulated, steeped and poured into fine china.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Chai is what your family asks for when they drive up to see you after weeks apart. College mornings are lovely, but family visits in the afternoons are what make the struggles worth it. With practiced perfection, you pour and boil and filter cups for everyone as your mother berates you for not eating enough and your father makes a joke about shining his already glistening expanse of a scalp.  You feel the sweet aroma of added spices curl around your sisters as they obnoxiously try to out-sing each other.

Cinnamon is spilled on the counter because you are lazy, but also laughing, content, and happy.

And when the chai warms your hands as you glance around the chittering room, vacant of empty space and full of unspoken adoration, you smile into your cup.

Because chai is desi communion granulated, steeped and poured into fine china, ready to bring you back to your roots with every whiff of spice.


This just might be the solution to having the perfect Desi wedding – without bankrupting the family

Desi people are notorious for their grand wedding affairs.

The weddings usually last for a minimum of three days. And all three of the events are just as grand as the next – if not more. This is probably why desi people are obsessed with the idea of their kid’s marriage ever since she or he is born. They need to start saving early because the kind of bill three huge events bring about is no joke!

For those that do not know, the three staple events at most Desi weddings are the mehndi, baraat, and walima.

The mehndi is where every single person in the family dances, and usually, the groom’s side and the bride’s side participate in fun events such as dance-offs. There is no winner or loser; but honestly, everyone there just knows who was better. The baraat is the event where the bride officially leaves her parents’ house to move in with her husband. And finally, the walima is the event in which the newly married couple are presented to the public as husband and wife for the first time.

Three events – multiplied by the enormous number of family and extended family members on each side – means a hefty bill. For decades, Desi parents have shelled out tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars for these three events.

In South Asian culture, having a big fat wedding is usually associated with honor and social standing in society. The mindset is that the bigger the wedding, the more well-respected you are in society. Weddings have become a spectacle of who wore what, who organized the event, how many different dishes were served, who showed up.

People compete with one another to see who had the bigger and better wedding.

However, the tide seems to be turning slowly.

Fortunately, there are those who recognize how big weddings cause unnecessary financial problems for the parents.

To curb the extreme pressure parents face in financing grand weddings for their children, Pakistan’s Supreme Court made a ruling that only one dish was to be served at wedding events in Punjab and the capital territory and that there should be no unnecessary decorations.

The law was passed in hopes of reducing the financial burden, unnecessary stress, and unhappiness surrounding weddings due to the extravagant and expensive traditions.

(Of course, the rich and famous have found loopholes in this ruling and still find ways to have lavish affairs. An example being of an infamous Pakistani wedding, which lasted more than a month and had events in Pakistan, as well as some in Turkey).

Fortunately, amongst this hubbub are those who recognize how big weddings cause unnecessary financial problems for the parents.

And thus, they choose to keep it simple and limit their celebration to one event: the Mashalima.

The word Mashalima is a mix of all three events; Mehndi + Shaadi (also called as Baraat) + Walima. The event has aspects of all three events mixed in. The elements included in the Mashalima include dancing from the mehndi, the rukhsati (departure of the bride to her new home) from the shaadi/baraat, and the reception element from the Walima.

And the best part?

The bill is usually divided by both the bride and grooms’ families.

The financial brunt is not borne by one side alone, which is usually the case with Desi weddings, for the bride’s family will usually end up paying for the mehndi and baraat.

The Desi wedding’s minimum of three events causes a lot of problems for parents. Financing such grand affairs is not easy, especially in this economic climate. One of the reasons the birth of a girl child is lamented in Desi cultures is because the family will need to bear a huge financial burden.

They have to pay, not only for her wedding but also a huge sum in terms of dowry.

So, wouldn’t it be easier if we make huge weddings which cause financial strain a thing of the past and instead bring in a new trend of Mashalimas – where both families bear the cost and the event is indeed a happy one for all!? All the money that is saved from only having one event can be used to start a new life together with the beloved.

Or if one feels like there might be someone else who needs that money more than him or her, one can donate the money to a charity instead.

Trust me, getting a new car or making a down payment for a home of your own as a newly married couple means much more after marriage than whose side did more dances at the mehndi and how much was spent on the fancy centerpieces that will collect dust in your attic.

Food & Drinks Life

5 absolutely delicious ways you can use Rooh Afza this summer

Rooh Afza is a syrup drink that is a staple in every Desi household around the world. Bright red in color, Rooh Afza tastes extremely sweet and downing a glass of this delicious drink leaves you feeling incredibly refreshed! The recipe of the drink varies from home to home, but in this hot summer, it’s everywhere.

The quintessential drink of every Pakistani, it’s best served cold with an assortment of pakoras, samosas, and jalebis. No thirst quencher can ever quite compare.

It doesn’t matter whether if you have or have not tried Rooh Afza, these five recipes are bound to make your mouth water and go out and buy a bottle STAT!

1. Take the classical route with some Rooh Afza and water.

Okay, this might seem pretty obvious, but if you have never tried Rooh Afza, it might not be. The most common way to make it is adding it to water and being very generous with ice! If you have ever been to a Desi household, you might have had a glass of this delicious drink served to you. And if you haven’t, try requesting one next time.

2. Shake things up with a glass of Rooh Afza and milk.

A lot of people claim that this is even better than having it the traditional way. Well, I’ll let you decide that for yourself! It’s basically just Rooh Afza added to a glass of milk but honestly, it is the best way you could ever drink milk. Any Desi person you meet will testify to this fact.

3. Forget all other desserts with a spoonful of Rooh Afza falooda.

Falooda is a delicious Desi dessert made with milk, ice cream, falooda noodles, basil seeds and – you guessed it – Rooh Afza! All of the ingredients are combined but the true hero of the dessert is the syrupy goodness of Rooh Afza. A glass of this dessert and you will forget that Death by Chocolate ever existed.

4. Treat yourself to an ice-cold glass of Rooh Afza with lemon!

In this recipe, a twist of lemon is added to the original iteration. The lemon juice perfectly cuts through the syrup’s intense sweetness. It is honestly the best thing to drink on a hot summer’s day! Don’t take my word for it, make a glass for yourself and try to prove me wrong!

Don’t take my word for it, make a glass for yourself and try to prove me wrong.

5. Freeze up your very own Rooh Afza ice lolly.

This is a childhood favorite of any Desi that you might meet. You just need to pour Rooh Afza into popsicle trays and stick them in the freezer. The resulting ice lolly is perhaps what dreams are made of. No store-bought popsicle could give you the same satisfaction like these homemade babies can! I am surprised a company hasn’t started to produce this popsicle already.

I call dibs on the idea though.

Tips & Tricks Surviving the Holidays Culture Family Gender & Identity Food & Drinks Life

12 traditional Eid al-Fitr dishes from across the globe that you absolutely have to try

Eid al-Fitr literally means “holiday of breaking the fast.” It comes after the month of Ramadan in which Muslims don’t eat when there is sunlight. So naturally this celebration is one big feast for everyone who can finally eat while the sun is still up. In several cultures, meals eaten during Eid are just bigger and fancier versions of the meals eaten every night during Ramadan. But there are also some special foods that really mark the holiday.

1. Maamoul

A plate filled with Mamoul biscuits and a smaller one with a full biscuit and a halved one
Image description: A plate filled with Mamoul biscuits and a smaller one with a full biscuit and a halved one

This shortbread cookie is primarily eaten Levantine countries like Syria and Lebanon. There are different variations of stuffing, usually dates, pistachios, or walnuts, and they are often covered in powdered sugar. Kleicha is a very similar cookie enjoyed in Iraq as well as kahk in Egypt and Sudan.

2. Cambaabur

Image description: Cambaabur, a Somali Eid bread with sprinkled sugar and yoghurt on top Source:

This is a Somali Eid bread similar to injera in texture but has different spices added to it. On Eid it’s typically served sweet with sprinkled sugar and topped with yogurt for a tangy contrast. This recipe is also very popular in Djibouti and may have originated there.

3. Sheer khurma

Image description: a bowl with sheer khurma

Literally translated as “milk with dates,” sheer khurma is also known as semai in Bangladesh. This sweet vermicelli dessert is an Eid favorite in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. It’s prepared with vermicelli, milk, sugar, dates and, depending on the country, pistachios, almonds, and/or raisins.

4. Tajine

A table laid out with cutlery sets and various plates with appetizers such as samosas, berries, and salad, and a big plate of Tajine.

Eid al-Fitr isn’t just marked by elaborate desserts. Big, grand, meat dishes are also prepared in several countries on Eid. Tajine is one of those dishes often served in North African countries like Morocco and Algeria. It is a slow-cooked stew prepared with some sort of meat (often lamb or beef), with vegetables and/or fruits like plums and apricots.

5. Doro wat

Image description: bowl of Doro wat

This is a hearty Ethiopian stew or curry prepared with chicken and is typically eaten with the classic sourdough-tasting bread, injera. It is typically served on a communal dish allowing everyone to dig in and enjoy both the food and the company.

6. Lokum

Image description: A platter with 3 glasses of tea and lots of Turkish delight.

What we know in English as “Turkish delight,” lokum is a favorite for holidays like Eid in Turkey. This gel-like dessert is a combination of starch, sugar, and other fillings like dates, pistachios, and walnuts. Tastes good and is also one of the most beautiful Eid desserts as it can come in many different colors.

7. Tufahija

Image description: a platter with Turkish coffee and sugar, and a desert glass with Tufahija

Tufahija is a dessert enjoyed by several Bosnians on Eid. It’s poached apple drenched in sugar and stuffed with walnut. It is often served elaborately in a large individual glass filled with syrup and topped with whipped cream. A very sweet way of celebrating the end of the fast.

8. Manti

Image description: a dish full of Manti dumplings

These dumplings are a traditional Russian Eid al Fitr food, though they can be found all over the world. It’s thought to originate in what we now know as China and is a part of Afghan, Armenian, Turkish, Bosnian, and central Asian cuisine. They’re usually stuffed with spiced lamb or beef and size and shape varies across regions.

9. Bolani

Image description: a serving plate with Bolani

Bolani is one of those dishes enjoyed throughout Ramadan and still eaten on Eid al Fitr and throughout other special occasions year-round. Found in Afghanistan, it is a thin-crusted bread with a vegetable filling, stuffed with foods like potatoes, lentils, or pumpkin and can be served with yogurt. It’s typically served as a side or appetizer, though it can be eaten as a main dish.

10. Lapis legit

Image description: A closeup of Lapis legit stacked against one another.

This is an Indonesian take on traditional Dutch layer cakes that was developed during colonial times. It’s made like a typical cake with flour, butter, and eggs, but contains Indonesian spices like cardamom and clove. It takes a lot of effort to prepare the cake and so is seen as a delicacy to eat on special occasions.

11. Beef Rendang

Image description: a closeup of a dish of Beef Rendang with a spoon in it.

This spicy main course is an Eid classic in Malaysia. It originated with the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia that saw the dish as an embodiment of the society’s culture with the meat symbolizing the leaders/royalty/elders, coconut milk the teachers and writers, chili the religious leaders, and the spice mixture the rest of society.

12. Spice cookies

Image description: Cookies with Eid Mubarak decorative icing on it.

In the United States, most Muslims celebrate Eid by going out to eat at restaurants with large groups of friends and family. But a new trend taken up by American Muslims is making spice cookies (think Christmas gingerbread) but in a more Eid-festive way by using crescent moon and mosque cookie cutters.

As you can tell, there’s no such thing as traditional Muslim holiday food with Muslims coming from a variety of cultural backgrounds that aren’t even all encompassed by this list. But one thing is for sure across all countries, the food on Eid al-Fitr is always stuffing and delicious.