After more than 15 hours without food or water, Muslims will be extremely hungry when it comes to breaking their fast at iftar. But it is important not to give into the temptation and overindulge, head chefs say.
DUBAI // Emirati chefs Musabbeh Al Kaabi and Ali Ebdowa will feed thousands of people this Ramadan and while they want their hungry guests to be spoilt for choice, they also do not want to waste a single plate of food.
After more than 15 hours without food or water, people will be extremely hungry when it comes to breaking their fast at iftar. But it is important not to give in to the temptation and overindulge or to order more than one can eat.
Imperium restaurant at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, on the Palm Jumeirah, will cook about 70kg of rice, 150kg of chicken and two whole lambs, as well as serve 40kg of dates each day. Mr Al Kaabi, the executive chef, says having worked the previous two Ramadans in the hotel’s kitchens, he knows the exact amount of food that needs to be cooked to prevent excessive waste.
“Any untouched food we send to the mosque or charities and a small amount goes to the cafe where our staff can eat it, but there really is usually very little of this waste,” he said.
“What we can’t account for is the waste people make when they take too much food, only to realise they can’t eat it all.”
He said people should make healthier choices when breaking their fast.
“People pile their plates up and forget the water, the juices. The body needs liquid, so you should start with fruits and liquid,” he said.
Mr Ebdowa, the executive chef at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, also oversees a strict waste-management policy, with any leftovers given to charities, in keeping with the spirit of the holy month.
“We try to minimise our waste every day, but when we have a big function for iftar we donate the leftovers to the Red Crescent.”
He said live cooking stations help keep waste to a minimum by preparing food on request and displaying only smaller portions and canapes.
Ramadan is also an opportunity for chefs to showcase their national dishes, which people may not have the opportunity, nor the inclination, to try at other times of the year.
“We have an entire section dedicated to Emirati food, including some of my favourite dishes from my grandmother’s kitchen,” said Mr Ebdowa. “I like to bring a bit of my culture and tradition to everything I do in the kitchen, so I am very excited to have this chance to showcase my Emirati specialities.”
For Mr Al Kaabi, Ramadan is the time to put Emirati cuisine at the top of the menu and promote dishes that are not readily available across the country, even to Arab diners.
“I have regular guests who come here to eat from all over the Emirates, both Emiratis and non-Emiratis. The non-Emiratis don’t have the opportunity to try Emirati food in many places, so it’s something which is very popular for us.
“Ramadan is a time when every day we offer the most traditional Emirati dishes. In the UAE we should offer this, it’s a part of our culture.”
His favourites include haris, a meat and barley dish, lugaimat, sweet dough balls with honey, date and sesame, and machboos, a rice and chicken dish.
Shamsir Rehman, the food and beverage manager at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, said it is easy for people who have been fasting to misjudge the amount of food they can eat and waste is sometimes unavoidable.
“You’re hungry and you don’t realise how little you can eat. You definitely see this waste more at an iftar buffet than anywhere else.”