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Monday, August 23, 2010

File under "Obviously"

Nowadays, we think little of Catholics who eat steak on Fridays, or Jews that have no problem with the occasional lobster. So I shouldn't be surprised to learn that there are Muslims who observe Ramadan without fasting. After all, many such dietary restrictions can be seen as rituals pointing to a deeper meaning.

I had the pleasure of breaking the Ramadan fast in the popular Pakistani restaurant Bundu Khan. While the restaurant specializes in grilled meats (colloquially referred to as barbecue, although being in Texas, this stuff looks nothing like Texan BBQ), they don't serve the main dining room until 8pm, which is after evening prayers. While seated, the waitress passed out complimentary plates containing a samosa, some dates, a bit of spicy chickpeas, and some diced fruit salad, as well as a glass of rosewater flavored (rooh afza?) milk: a traditional iftari. I learned at this point that while some Muslims don't fast for Ramadan, everyone holds off eating until the fast is broken together out of respect.

Bundu Khan has a fairly simple menu, consisting of yogurt marinated chicken and beef (Halal of course) grilled on skewers, and served with chutney, onions and cucumber. The tasty behari kebab is a specialty here, and I suggest reading the review at Houston Foodie to appreciate the very spicy meat. The kitchen has a way with chicken, serving up juicy breast meat that even some of the fancier restaurants in the city have difficulty executing. During the breaking of the Ramadan fast, the entire restaurant has a mild air of festivity, of families gathered, and bonds formed and strengthened.

I must note that the meal is served without more than an occasional plastic fork as a utensil, as per tradition, one is expected to eat using bare fingers (and if you are adept, you should only be using the right hand). Which I think leads in part to that beautiful community building meal: No one is able to pick up a cell phone to text or Twitter while eating, instead choosing to focus on the food and the conversation.

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