Ramadan is a time of fasting but it’s also a time for eating. Once the sun goes down, friends and family get together for what is called an iftar dinner, enjoying not just great food but also great conversation.
The fast is from sunrise to sunset, consequently, the time of breaking the fast changes every day. During this month that stresses the importance of unity, charity, and gratitude among many other Islamic values, the iftar dinners serve as a way to bring communities together, to appreciate what we have, and to be charitable to those who have less. That’s why in many parts of Istanbul and Turkey, communal iftar dinners are set up for the public. (For a detailed article on Turkish customs during Ramadan, click here.)
The Iftar Dinner
The breaking of the fast begins with what is commonly referred to as iftariye, a plate of appetizers that often include nuts and dried fruits as well as an assortment of cheese, olives, sucuk (Turkish-style spicy sausage) and pastırma, (Turkish-style cured beef). For the freshest nuts, cheese, and charcuterie items for your iftariye, check out Merkez, Namlı, Şütte, or click here to check out the list of delis in our listings page.
After the iftariye, light dishes, such as soup, and several types of börek (pastry dish) follow. One of the staples on this table is the Ramazan pidesi (a large round loaf of flat pide bread topped with nigella seeds,). The main meals are often comprised of classic Turkish dishes, such as kuzu tandır (tandoori-style lamb), Hünkar beğendi (eggplant puree topped with lamb), rice, and mantı (Turkish-style dumpling filled with meat). Güllaç (a milk-based dessert made with pomegranate seeds and a flaky, starchy dough) is the classic iftar dessert, but the dessert menu often includes other Turkish specialties, too, such as ekmek kadayıfı (crumpets in syrup) and baklava. Alcoholic beverages are not part of this religious dinner, but ayran (yogurt-based drink) and sherbet (sweet, fruity drink) are plentiful.
If You’re the Host
You can either indulge in the joy of cooking for hours on end to prepare an unforgettable iftar dinner, or, if your talents have been distributed to other areas of your life, you can use a caterer.
Restaurants that offer catering services during Ramadan – Kiva (order 2 days in advance to pick from their wide variety), Enstitü (for a more contemporary take on Turkish food), Feriye Lokantası (for a classic iftar dinner), Cercis Murat Konağı (order 4-5 days in advance for menus that start as low as 59TL), Güler Osmanlı Mutfağı (order several days in advance).