The Religious, Cultural, And Social Flavor Of Ramadan In Nigeria!

Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam that is observed worldwide on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar months, which begins and ends upon the sighting of the new crescent moon lasting for 29-30 days. Ramadan is a time for fasting from dawn to dusk, worship, charity, congregational prayers, recitations of the Holy Quran, Tafsirs, and Taraweeh prayers throughout the 29-30 days of the holy month. The holy month of Ramadan is the festival of fasting which is a time for absolute devotion, compassion, generosity, blessings, mercy, and forgiveness for the Muslims; Ramadan fast is obligatory on every Muslim all over the world with the exception of a few; here in Nigeria Muslims are found in every part of the country within and across all states and tribes. The northern parts of Nigeria are predominantly Muslims compare to the southern parts of Nigeria where Muslims are but very few, and so they differ in the way and manner of breaking the fast which mostly depends on their kind of traditional cuisines where there’s always the traditional delicacies to uplift all appetite and to satisfy the taste buds. Ramadan is a time for the annual authentic homemade meal by Muslim families with the exchange of gifts and visits going on; gifts of delicious meals for breaking the fast are given to neighbors while others on each day of the iftar moments invite close family members, neighbors, and friends with a beautiful groupings of people gathered around festive meals and delicacies to break the daylong fast. On various streets corners across Maiduguri are seen coming alive food vendors selling steaming hot gruel known in Hausa as “kunun”, kosai, alele, fruits, cool sachet water, ice-blocks; for many who can not afford to prepare their own meals. Muslims are known to break their fast at iftar time with the date palms; “dabino” in Hausa is a very important part of Ramadan, the sweet fruits of the date palm tree are energy-boosting dry fruits which help in keeping the fasting Muslim fuelled up throughout the day and hence is included in suhoor meal time. Dates are high in vital nutrients that assist in various health benefits such as excellent fiber, antioxidants, potassium, a natural sugar called fructose; and it is recommended for those with poor heart health, aids in lowering the risk of a stroke, aids in digestion, it propels the insulin levels in the blood and helps with it’s high magnesium content to regulate the levels of calcium, vitamin D and electrolytes in the body.

The traditional annual Ramadan practice in Maiduguri, Borno state north-east Nigeria is the “GIFTS OF DUMBA’A” which is named after a big-sized calabash in Kanuri, replace this modern-day with the “tassa-kurra” large aluminum dish bowls known in Hausa as daro. The large bowls are packaged just like “Gift Hampers” and are filled up with assorted household items, according to what the individual parents can afford which are made ready for the few lucky married daughters of the rich on or before Ramadan. Some parents present to their married daughters the “Dumba’a” gifts for Ramadan consisting of kitchen utensils, food warmers, foodstuffs such as spices, ghee, garlic, onions, blended groundnuts paste, beans, rice, wheat flour, millets, guinea corns, Ndallayi (millet starch), “Tallia” is Kanuri homemade spaghetti, tamarind is Hausa tsamiya, sugar, and other Ramadan necessities. 

Breaking Of The Ramadan Fast:-
Iftar time is after sunset, and at the call to prayer the fasting Muslims MUST break the fast first with Dates palms known as “dabino” in Hausa, fresh fruits, fruits juices or water. It is advisable to drink water regularly after the break of fast and before commencing with the next fast in order to replace body fluids so as to avoid dehydration especially in very hot places like the northeast region of Nigeria. It is also important to eat nutritious meals, natural foods high in supporting nutrient and energy-giving foods such as potatoes soups, pasta soups, and kunun mordom or koko. Absolutely vital are bodybuilding meals after prayers to restore energy, like rice dishes with vegetables, meat, or fish are to be eaten. The suhoor meals must consist of wholesome foods, with loads of fibers such as oats, Tea beverages with milk and wheat bread meals; also advisable is eating small meals for portion control at intervals, overindulgence in a variety of meals after so many hours of fast is detrimental to health.

The breaking of fast in Nigeria depends on the kind of foods one can afford and also the foods one is used to eating; the Hausa and Kanuri of northern Nigeria break their fasts with date palms which is dabino, iced water, fruits salads, fruit juices, kunun koko, kunun gyada, kunun gero is the kanuri mordom prepared with millet and spices which are served with delicious bodybuilding meals such as Alele or kosai. Other nourishing meals on the daily menu include fried sweet or Irish potato chips, scrambled eggs, pepper soups, pasta soups, burabisco, tuwon masara or tuwon shinkafa served with vegetable soups or miyan kuka. The Yoruba of western Nigeria break their own fast according to their traditional cuisines such as dates, fruits, homemade corn gruel known as “ogi” is for the Hausa “Akamu” or pap, included in their menu is “eko” or “agidi” a homemade corn starch meal serve with bean cakes of “moimoi or akara”. The Igbos go for their local cuisines such as pap which is their homemade custard, with akara, “okpa” which is just like the bean cake but made out of the Bambara nuts, “abacha” is also their favorite made from cassava flakes, garden eggs, the fresh leaves, with their traditional spices, and salt; another favorite for them is a special vegetable soup called “okazi” prepared from meat or fish, ponmo is cow skin serve with “Akpu” a cassava starch meal swallow, with okro soup, ogbono, or egusi soups.

Ramadan is a month of mercy for generosity when the spirit of giving takes over for the purification of the heart, body, mind, and soul. The Muslims of northern Nigeria are known for their communal charity during Ramadan when gifts are mostly given for “Iftars Meals” which is the meal at sunset for breaking the fast with and “Suhoor Meals” which are eaten just before the fasts start again at sunrise. The rich people in Maiduguri, Borno State extend their human kindness to the less privileged in their midst by helping out with “Ramadan Kareem Gifts” packages which includes rice, vegetable oil, sugar, pasta, millets, beans, and other essential Ramadan staples which they distribute to the needy and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to break their fasts. It is a well-known practice here in Borno to prepare kunun, kosai in large bowls and presents it at mosques nearest the households for the homeless needy to partake in breaking of the fast, others make complete meal packs and go around the town to share out to the needy for the breaking of fast, for every act of good deeds in the month of Ramadan is rewarded by the Almighty in multiples; Islam teaches and encourages the act of sharing and giving even if it is half a “dabino” which is the dates.

The following recipes are the MOST popular for breaking the Ramadan fast:-

The Spicy Millet Mordom, a sweet fiber-filled gruel meal; the aroma of the spicy-sweet deliciousness of mordom a Kanuri annual gruel kunu or koko in Hausa is a sign that Ramadan is around. The recipe ingredients include millet, cloves, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, chili pepper, nono or kindirmo is homemade yogurt, sugar, or sweetener of choice.

The Recipe Steps:- The millet is the best grain used for this annual traditional Ramadan gruel; the first step is de-husk to remove dirt, stones, and husks of the tiny grey grains. Wash thoroughly until the final rinsing water is clear, then divide into two parts not necessarily equal parts. Soak the larger quantity in water for several hours. Then spread out the other part to dry.
Blend the soaked millets with spices into a smooth custard-like consistency. Sieve with a smooth colander or sieve, adding enough water for an easy pouring consistency. Cover and allow to settle undisturbed. While others prefer to dry it, then add in the dried spices and mill it into a fine flour, sieve it, and then store it in an airtight bowl to be used when needed; either way, it gives that unique flavor “mordom” is known for, a taste of Yerwa Fato Hospitality. The dried millet grain NOT milled are also kept in an airtight bowl, store for use whenever it is needed.
The uniqueness of this gruel mill is the chewiness of the wholesome grains while taking the gruel; the millet grains to be used must be according to the recipe requirements, measure out the needed grains with enough water to cover it and boil just as for boiling rice, cook until soft and double in size.

Using either the wet mill custard-like paste or the millet flour, measure as require for the gruel, again divide into two equal parts. Mix one part of it with adequate water into a pouring consistency and immediately add to the boiling grains on low heat. Stir and cook until it thickens, then remove from heat. The remaining half, add to it the yogurt, nono or kindirmo, mix until well combine and add immediately to the cooked custard-like grainy gruel, gently fold in to mix well. Sweeten with sweeteners of choice. Serve, with kosai, or alele the bean cakes for the breaking of the fast.

Kunun Gyada Recipe:-
Recipe ingredients:- Raw groundnuts is gyada in Hausa.
Local rice (mostly used for tuwon shinkafa) the unpolished rice soaked overnight.
Tamarind is hausa tsamiya, lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt.

Recipe Steps: – Peel groundnuts, blend into a smooth paste just like that of the peanut butter. Mix with enough water to get creamy white groundnut milk. Put it to boil on low heat, stir often and watch closely to avoid boiling over. Strain the water from the soaked rice and rinse well then add to the boiling groundnut milk, stirring at intervals to avoid sticking to the base of the pot. Check to see if the rice has softened, then mix rice flour or corn starch akamu with water for a thick consistency and add to the boiling rice milk to thicken. Remove from heat and transfer into a large bowl.
Add the tamarind juice, lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt to the kunun gyada for a tangy sourness, giving it a unique taste and flavor. Sweeten with sugar or any sweetener of choice. Serve immediately for breaking of fast. As a sweet dessert then chilled and serve with milk but do not add the tamarind juice, lemon, vinegar, or yogurt. It is a nourishing meal, serve with moimoi, kosai, fried yam, or potato chips.

Bean-Cake is known as Moimoi (Alele) And Kosai (Akara) Recipe:-
The process of making moimoi or kosai is very much the same except for the mixture where that for kosai (fry beans balls), it is a thicker paste for easy frying while the moimoi is much more pouring for a thick cake-like after steam-cooking, in moimoi cups, or cupcake pans.
Recipe ingredients:-
Beans are wake in Hausa.
Onions are albasa in Hausa.
Sweet pepper is Hausa tatasai.
Eggs are Kwoi in Hausa, Scotch bonnets are the attarugu in Hausa. Salt is Hausa gishiri, Seasoning cubes, and Water.

De-husk or wash and remove the peels from the beans, soak for a while, add sweet pepper, scotch bonnets, and onions. Blend into a thick paste. Add salt, seasoning cubes, chopped onions, beat very well using a whisk to fluffy light. Break an egg, beat separately and fold into the kosai mixture, continue to beat the mixture with the whisk for a fluffy light mixture. Put vegetable oil into the frying pan, heat on low heat, fry onion slices in the oil to remove the raw smell of the oil. Frying is by using a small spoon, scoop spoonful, and drop into hot oil and fry on medium heat, turn as soon as the other side is cooked. Once golden brown, remove from oil with a perforated spoon onto a kitchen napkin to absorb excess oil. Serve with kunun gyada or kunun koko.

Steamed Bean cakes are known as MoiMoi for the Yoruba and Alale for the Hausa:-
Aluminum foil pans or tiny cute covered bowls are used in a steamer to steam or bake the moimoi.
Black eye red peas known as “ewa oloyin” for the Yoruba or “wake” for Hausa.

Recipe ingredients are onion, sweet pepper-tatasai, attarugu-scotch bonnets, crayfish, vegetable oils, or palm oil, seasoning cubes, salt to taste, boiled eggs, liver, flaked fish, or minced meat.
Peel beans, blend with sweet pepper, onions, attarugu, just like for the akara-kosai. Add cooked and diced liver, minced meat or flaked fish, onion slices, vegetable oils, season well with cubes and salt. Add enough water to mix and combine well.
Prepare the steamer and then oil the bowls to avoid it sticking to them. Fill up each bowl to the brim and place in the middle halve boiled eggs. Cover and arrange in a steamer or the oven. Steam or bake.
Insert a toothpick to check for doneness, if it comes out clean, it is cooked then remove from heat. Serve by removing from individual bowls and serve.

Offal pepper soup is kayan ciki or fish pepper soup is kifi in Hausa:-
Wash and remove all dirt from the animal offals known as kayan ciki, choose the appropriate pepper soup spices according to taste.
Cut offals into sizeable pieces and place into a clean pot, add onion slices, garlic, blended scotch bonnets, ginger, seasoning cubes, salt. Add enough water to cover, cook until meat is soft and tender. Separate broth from cooked offal.
Add peel Irish potatoes to the boiling broth, add enough peas as required.
Place a separate pot on low heat, pour in a little oil, add onions, spices, and garlic, stir-fry. Then add into it the cooked offals and fry lightly to evenly coat the spices.
Combine it with boiling potatoes and peas. Turn gently to avoid mashing up the potatoes and peas then season well. Cover and simmer until cooked. The same process for fresh fish but do not cook fish before adding to potatoes and peas.
Serve as a wholesome meal.

SINASIR is a deliciously fluffy light rice pancake; a special traditional delicacy of northern Nigeria and the perfect alternative to wheat pancakes. Serve at important celebrations such as weddings, naming ceremonies, Sallah, and during Ramadan iftar.
Recipe ingredients:-
Rice, divide rice into two equal parts. Wash and soak one part of the rice overnight. The other half cook until fluffy soft.
yeast, salt, sugar, onions, vegetable oil for frying.

Recipe steps:-
Strain and rinse and drain all water from the soaked rice, add the cooked rice to the soaked rice, put it into the blender, add onion slices and water. Blend until creamy white and smooth.
Pour out into a separate bowl, add yeast, sugar and beat thoroughly using a whisk. Cover and keep undisturbed to prove.
When the rice batter has doubled in size, add chopped onions, a pinch of salt, and just a little sugar to balance the thirst. Whisk in all added ingredients.
The best pan to use for it is a mud sinasir pan; but if that is not available the next best to use is a non-stick frying pan.
Place on low heat and rub vegetable oil all over with a kitchen brush.
Pour a scoop of the rice batter, tilt the frying pan all around for the rice batter to cover the frying pan.
Once cooked, tiny holes will form on the surface of the rice pancakes; indicating the doneness of the pancakes.
Fold into halves; then fold the half into another half, making a triangle of four layers then gently remove and place in a food warmer. Continue for all the rice batters.
The same process is followed for wheat flour if prefer to rice flour. Serve with vegetable soup, pepper soup, yagi or suya barbecue, jam, or honey.

Fruit Salad is known as Kwandon kayan lambu in Hausa:- Fruit salad is a must-have for Ramadan iftar, incredibly refreshing, nutritious fruits colors with a sweet taste of the rainbow, a welcome yummy delight after staying the whole day without a drink of water or meal.
Any fruits of choice will do, banana slices come last to avoid discoloration; before adding the dressings.
Apples, mangoes, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, grapes are just but a few.
Wash and peel fruits. Dice fruits and remove all Pitts. Arrange in the salad bowl. Whisk the honey, orange juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Peel the banana and arrange on the fruit salad, drizzle dressing over fruits, just before serving and toss gently to evenly coat fruits. Serve chilled.

Ramadan is the month of generosity and goodness; every Muslim must look out for one another by caring, sharing, and giving to the needy. All Muslims must strictly follow the covid-19 guidelines and restrictions; to refrain from large gatherings, maintain social distancing by staying well apart during prayers and breaking of the fast; if possible individual food packs should be provided to create space while eating. The use of face masks, hygiene protocols must be maintained, it is advisable for the elderly and those who are ill to keep their distance and stay away from the mosques and congregational gatherings. All of these and more must be in place to stop the spread of the covid-19 virus during and after the holy month of Ramadan. 

Ramadan is a month of self-restraint, inner reflection, and giving; Ramadan Mubarak to you and yours. Asha Ruwa Lafiya!