The Holy Month of Ramadan is an occasion of fasting but also a special time for loved ones to share Iftar meals each day. NYU Abu Dhabi graduate Mariko Kuroda brings to life some of the special culinary moments of Ramadan — from dinnertime menus to after-dinner memories — for her final Capstone research project called Ramadan Recipes.
Inspired by the people and experiences she had over four years at NYUAD, Ramadan Recipes is a collection of short stories, images, and homestyle recipes to break the fast for Iftar. The 68-page full color book, which she hopes will soon be published, is a way of giving back to the Abu Dhabi community, she said, and combines her passions for photography, graphic design and cooking.
The idea started to gain steam, Kuroda recalled, during an internship in Italy. “My boss gave me the book Never Trust A Skinny Italian Chef and its photography inspired me."
The book seeks to teach readers about the value of food and community. It encourages people to gather in the kitchen and around the dining table with their families and friends regardless of faith.
Kuroda spent five months collecting information from fellow students, their families and even professors, and taking photos. "First, I would go to their homes and interview them and watch them cook their Iftar dishes," she said, and then return home to "cook it myself so I could take more photos."
"I was definitely popular when I was cooking," added the visual arts major from Japan. "People would come by my room to find out what smelled so good.”
Ramadan Recipes takes on a distinct international flavor—a celebration of Abu Dhabi’s cultural diversity—and consists of 10 recipes from seven countries. For Kuroda, however, the project represents much more than appetizing pictures and inspiring stories. It's also a personal collection of memories forged during the research process.
“I was invited to a large gathering of Senegalese students and I was the only Japanese girl. We ate from this huge plate with our hands and that turned out to be the cover of my book. It just showed the theme of my book so well, gathering together and eating."
Recipe: Dahi Vada
- 1 cup urad dal
- oil for deep frying
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 tbsp hing
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- sweet chutney as preferred
Soak lentils in water for 4-5 hours then blend them into paste. Heat oil for deep frying and drop paste into oil with spoon or hand. Fry until golden. Remove vadas from oil and soak in water and hing for 20 minutes. Remove vadas from water and press them gently to drain. Arrange vadas onto plate. Add 1/4 cup water to yogurt and beat until smooth. Pour yogurt on vadas and sprinkle on chili powder and cumin powder. Pour sweet chutney as preferred.
I was definitely popular when I was cooking. People would come by my room to find out what smelled so good.
Another particularly memorable story that arose from the project, Karudo said, was meeting an Egyptian woman named Azza who lived in Japan for a period of time and had a personal connection to Japan's first mosque. "It was built in the area she lived and they would have Iftar meals there." It was especially gratifying to speak to one another in Japanese, Kuroda added.
Kuroda and her mentor Goffredo Puccetti, assistant professor of practice of visual arts, are now working to get Ramadan Recipes published and distributed locally.
Recipe: Shortbat Khothra
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 carrot
- 1 onion
- 1 potato
- 1 zucchini
- cooking cream as preferred
- salt and black pepper to taste
Finely chop all vegetables. First, carmelize onions in a pot, then add rest of the vegetables. Cook until soft. Add 2 cups of water and let simmer. Blend vegetables in pot using blender stick. Add cooking cream as preferred and salt and pepper to taste.