Ramadan is a holy month among Muslims. It is the fourth of the five pillars of Islam. Every year, 1.8 billion of the world’s population begin this religious rite almost at the same time for a period of one month. While Ramadan is for all Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset, the practice differs from one country to another.
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In Algeria, each region has its own dishes and traditions including during Ramadan. An incredible wealth that the country has and that we will reveal in this article.
East, center, west, and south, four regions of Algeria as different as similar in habits and customs. Ramadan is the perfect witness of these traditions through the dishes and desserts that families prepare during this month.
The Algerian tradition is that the breaking of the fast is done with dates and milk. Then is served a soup commonly called Chorba but named differently in each region of the country because of its varied recipes. It is usually accompanied by Bourek with various stuffings.
What’s A Typical Iftar In The East Of Algeria
In Annaba a city in the far east of Algeria not far from the Tunisian borders, the main course is Chorba frik (red soup made from crushed green wheat), which is called Jari, accompanied by Bourek stuffed mainly with potatoes alone or with chicken. Otherwise, there are Boureks stuffed with tuna and even sometimes sheep’s brains.
In Constantine There’s Chorba, also called Jari in Constantine, it’s prepared with pieces of meat, minced meatballs, and chicken slices. And is accompanied by Bourek made from minced meat.
There’s also Djari Byad (white soup with vermicelli, chicken, and meatballs). The breaking of the fast is done with dates or Zrir (Tamina made from wheat and chickpeas with honey and butter)
The Main Dish
The “Tajine Lahlou” is also prepared in Constantine in another form. The typical sweet dish of Constantine is called Chbeh Essefra. It is in different forms (half-moon, heart, star…). It is made from almonds and pears. The dish is cooked like Lham Lahlou (sweetmeat dish) but anise and cinnamon sticks are added. On the other hand, there is a very famous dish which is the Tajine Jben (cheese casserole). It is a kind of crumbled chicken or meat cake, composed of different kinds of cheeses. Otherwise, the other dishes often prepared at this time are Chekhchoukha Edfar (a kind of semolina pasta crumbs), White Trida (thin and square pasta prepared with chicken), Tlitli (made from pasta that looks like rice grinds), Gritliya (dough that looks like vermicelli).
Other dishes garnish the Constantinoise table are mainly Tajines Tajine El Yahni (with chicken fritters), Tajine Echoua (chicken with meat patties), Ras El Zaouche (minced meatballs in a red sauce on which eggs are broken), Tajine El Houte (the name is misleading, it means Tadjine of fish but in reality they are minced meatballs), Tajine El Mrayetes (minced meat cake coated with egg white, all fried in oil dipped in a white sauce), Guenaouia (Okra in sauce), Tajine El Rkhame (Marbled Tagine, minced meatballs stuffed with hard-boiled eggs cooked in a white sauce).
However, in some regions in the east, the main course is eaten much later, after the Tarawihs prayer.
What’s A Typical Iftar In The West Of Algeria
The western region is no exception to the rule. Chorba and Boureks are present on the table. In Oran, they always start with H’rira (typical soup of the west) accompanied by Bourek.
Tlemcen, a city in western Algeria, not far from the Moroccan borders, has the same practices as the city of Oran During Ramadan, they start first with the H’rira which is the essential dish in Tlemcen. Thirty days of Ramadan, thirty days of H’rira, it’s important!
The Main Dish
Oran also has its dishes and traditions during the month of Ramadan. In Oran, for example, different dishes are prepared and drinks are always present at the table LFelfela (pepper salad), Matlou (traditional Algerian bread), and Tajine Lahlou which in my opinion are essentials of the Oran table. Different dishes are prepared every day that is accompanied by a typical drink of this month, Charbet (homemade lemonade). On the fifteenth day of the month and on the 27th day of Ramadan, we prepare the Rougag or also called Trid.
These are almost the same dishes and traditions that we find in Tlemcen. On the first day of the month, we prepare a sweetmeat dish called L’ham lahlou so that Ramadan begins for us gently! On other days we prepare different dishes. On the 27th day of Ramadan, many people prepare chicken with Trid.
What’s A Typical Iftar In The Centre Of Algeria
In Algiers, the Chorba is obviously present. Moreover, two kinds of soups are prepared, the traditional Chorba Frik but there is also Chorba Béda (White Chorba) based on vermicelli and chicken, typical of Algiers.
In Kabylia, it is obviously the Chorba Frik but there was a time, it was not always served, previously, there were two categories of people: modest people who ate couscous without Chorba and wealthy people who started with Chorba, followed by a second dish and added couscous.
The Main Dish
In Algiers, the dishes are very varied. The most famous dishes in Algiers during Ramadan are Tbikha (a sauce composed of artichokes, peas, and beans). There are Batata Fliou (potato stew with Pouliot mint), Tajine Lkhokh (meat or chicken dish in white sauce with mashed potato dumplings stuffed with minced meat), Mtewem (minced meatballs and meat in white sauce), and Tajine Jben (pieces of chicken or meat cooked in a white sauce and baked with egg and cheese), typical in Algiers.
A tradition exists both in Algiers and in Kabylia and that is that of the 27th day of Ramadan. Small children fast for the first time so that they become familiar with this religious ritual gradually. Little children are asked to fast in order to get them used to fast. They spend the whole day with the men outside to make sure they are not going to eat anything. At the time of breaking the fast, they are made to drink Charbet (homemade lemonade) with cinnamon that they take in a silver glass and Tamina (dessert composed of roasted semolina all embellished with honey.
The Desserts For The Long Night
After the Ftour, comes the time to regain some energy during the evening. Everywhere in Algeria, tea and coffee are at the rendezvous accompanied by traditional pastries such as Kalb El Louz (Algerian pastry made with semolina, almonds, and orange blossom water), Zlabia (traditional confectionery), or any other traditional cake, this is what makes the charm of the evening.
In the east, the table is composed of coffee, M’halbi (rice pudding with a little cinnamon), flans, cakes … Most of the people there take coffee more than tea. There is also the Kalb el Louz that is called Harissa, always on the tables, Zlabia and Makrout (pastry stuffed with dates and dipped in honey). There’s also Djouzia (nougat with nuts and honey) and Caoucaouiya with peanuts and honey.
In Oran. After the meal, we enjoy coffee or tea with Chamia (commonly called Kalb El Louz). It is never lacking during Ramadan evenings.
Finally, comes the Shour, that moment when it is still allowed to feed before dawn, the time at which fasters must stop eating and drinking. The Shour makes it possible to hold on for the next day.
All regions of Algeria have a dish in common for Shour, “Couscous with Zbib (raisins)”. Some add peas and even beans. It is accompanied by Leben (whey) or Raïb. Only the name of this dish changes. In the east, the center, and in Kabylia, it is called Mesfouf. To the west, it is called “Seffa”
Nevertheless, other preparations can be consumed during the Shour, not necessarily traditional dishes. This remains at everyone’s discretion.