Iftar indulgence

With Ramadan just around the corner, Caterer looks at the firm efforts of restaurants and suppliers in the region to supply Iftar juices

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By  Lynne Nolan Published  September 1, 2006

|~|Bassam-2-body.jpg|~|"Using a single-crystallisation process, the company preserves the original flavour of sun-sweetened sugarcane without the use of additives, preservatives, or animal by-products,” comments Bassam Freiwat, regional sales manager, Rastelli Beverages. |~|With Ramadan just around the corner, Caterer looks at the firm efforts of restaurants and suppliers in the region to supply Iftar juices Also known as the holy month of fasting, Ramadan is the period where Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Breaking the fast each day during Iftar is traditionally done by eating dates and drinking water, followed by thirst-quenching juices, traditional beverages and soups. The selection of juices typically includes jallab, a sweet, refreshing beverage made from berries and tamarind. “This is a special month eagerly awaited by every Muslim. It’s a time for inner reflection and building self-control. As the stomach is empty from fasting, it is not healthy if dry food is consumed immediately, so juices are ideal,” comments Mohamad Najdi, sous chef, Al Khayal, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai. Despite offering a range of traditional juices — which are guaranteed to attract a large number of guests — in order to attract a wider clientele, there are a number of new products on the market. Bahrain-based Rastelli Beverages, for instance, is hoping to provide a new twist to the market distributing a range of green tea sodas from Steaz. The company hopes to target the hospitality industry with the product, which is flouted for its dietary benefits. Eric Schnell, the founder of the Healthy Beverage Company — the producer of Steaz green tea sodas — claims Steaz was the first soda certified by the US Department of Agriculture as organic. Responding to regional demand for sugar-free and organic produce, the range contains the same health benefits as a full cup of green tea. Acting as a powerful antioxidant vehicle, the green tea blend is being promoted for its association with reducing blood cholesterol levels. “White sugar is basically 100% sucrose, whereas organic cane juice is natural sugar containing trace nutrients from the sugarcane plant. Using a single-crystallisation process, the company preserves the original flavour of sun-sweetened sugarcane without the use of additives, preservatives, or animal by-products,” comments Bassam Freiwat, regional sales manager, Rastelli Beverages. Belonging to the Healthy Beverage Company brand, Steaz green tea soda is a blend of organic Ceylon green tea, organic cane juice, natural flavours and pure mountain water, which Freiwat hopes to leverage on in order to promote the beverage during Ramadan. Available in ginger ale, grape, cola, raspberry, lemon dew, orange and root beer flavours, the range is blended and bottled at a micro-brewery in the Pennsylvania Blue Mountains, where the brand’s first production run took place in 2002. Brewed from specially selected Ceylon green tea leaves, the drink comes in 12oz glass bottles and is sweetened with organic cane juice from the Florida Everglades, with the natural sugar milled on the farm on the same day as harvest. Fine filtration removes any remaining solids and naturally sterilises the clarified juice, which is then heated with steam to evaporate the natural water, turning the concentrate into a golden-like syrup. However, as caffeine should ideally be avoided during Ramadan, Frewait explains that Steaz acts as a replacement for other caffeine-heavy beverages on the market. “An 8oz serving of Steaz contains approximately 10mg of caffeine. In comparison, coffee has about 100 mg per cup. The caffeine in Steaz also occurs naturally, unlike a lot of sodas on the market that add caffeine,” comments Freiwat.||**|||~|Fruit-Juices-body-1.jpg|~|Breaking the fast each day during Iftar is traditionally done by eating dates and drinking water, followed by thirst-quenching juices, traditional beverages and soups.|~|However, as hydrating guests is a key component of any restaurant’s Iftar offering, an extensive range of traditional and modern beverages should be offered to guests. Most properties in the region for example, are unveiling an extensive range of Arabic brews, which are made in-house. However, a range of beverages are also available from suppliers such as Abna Al Azisah and Shoppex, including Arabic coffee and tea. Used by properties such as Al Bustan Rotana Hotel Dubai, it plans to offer Arabic lemonade, made with fresh lemon juice, mint leaves and karkadeh. The Mövenpick Hotel Bur Dubai is offering a selection of time-honoured beverages including rose and grenadine syrup made using rose essence or grenadine with water, sugar and lemon juice, and the JW Marriott Hotel Dubai will have a range of drinks including laban rayeb. A mix of plain natural yoghurt, sparkling or still water, a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of dry mint, this creamy beverage is popular as a healthy option. But providing a wide assortment of traditional beverages is a key business strategy, with buffets also attracting high numbers of diners to break their fast. As such, The Kempinski Hotel Ajman and the Al Diar Siji Hotel in Fujairah are both providing Iftar tents with Turkish and Arabic coffees, takht music and food and beverages. It should be remembered, however, that the metabolic rate of a person who is fasting slows down, so a high intake of fruits is strongly recommended. As such, the body’s immediate need for sources of energy in the form of glucose at the time of Iftar is best served with fruit juices, which also helps maintain the body’s water and mineral balance. Made from dried apricot paste, qamar el din is the most traditional of Ramadan beverages. Used as an indigestion aid, metabolism regulator and source of vitamin A, B and C, as well as calcium, iron, and potassium, it produces a sugar rush during Iftar without over stimulation. Tamarind is also a traditional drink. Coming from the tropical Asian evergreen tree, it provides one of the highest levels of carbohydrates and proteins found in any fruit. Suitable for diabetics, it boosts the immune system and is high in beta-carotene. Hibiscus tea is also said to contain 17% citric acid, and with half as much vitamin C as an orange, it strengthens the immune system. Perfect for hot regions, hibiscus also reduces the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, and helps maintain blood sugar levels. “We will have a range of beverages on offer, including kamroddin, sousse, jallab and laban, on all of our Iftar and Suhoor buffets. All of the traditional hot and cold beverages will also be available in the Layali El Alfeya tent, together with snacks,” comments Adnan Dayoud, food and beverage manager, Millennium Hotel, Abu Dhabi. The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai will also be offering products like tamer hindi, liquorice and fresh fruit juices. However, a more recent addition to the buffet table will be camel milkshake. Regardless of whether offering traditional juices like qamar el din and tamarind, or more modern offerings including green tea soda or camel milkshake, outlets should use this as a time to capitalise on what would otherwise be a quiet period. ||**||

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