Breaking fast at the buffet spread allows Muslim diners to try cuisines from around the world in a communal setting, alongside their favourite local and traditional dishes.
For the holy month of Ramadhan, Muslims observed fasting between sunrise and sunset, and break fast with a meal called iftar, or buka puasa – an annual ritual for Muslims in ASEAN’s Muslim-majority countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
Buffets have long been popular with Muslim diners as they can break fast among family and friends. Hotel buffets are increasingly common too, as they are a great option for diners to eat what they want, and to prepare for the next day’s fast.
In Middle Eastern and North African Muslim countries, iftar usually includes a rice dish such as briyani, mansaf (lamb in yoghurt) or kabsa (spiced rice with meat and vegetables), and is rounded off with a dessert, often kunafa (sweet cheese pastry), luqaimat (crisp dumplings) and qatayef (nut-filled sweet pastry). It has spread from being a small community or family meal to becoming something much bigger, and some corporations make it a social and business event for staff, suppliers and customers to enjoy a special meal together, whether they are Muslims or not.
They often hold these events at hotels, which turn iftar into an experience with distinctive dishes. The Renaissance in Kuala Lumpur, for example, serves whole roast sheep as well as other uncommon dishes, on a seven-day rotation so that returning diners can look forward to exciting new dishes.1
The Café at Hotel Mulia Senayan in Jakarta, meanwhile, serves up cuisine from six different continents, including Italian pasta and Japanese sushi rolls, in addition to Middle Eastern favourites such as shawarmas (grilled meat and salad rolled in flat bread), reported The Jakarta Post.2 Desserts are similarly cosmopolitan, with mousse, parfait and fondue next to traditional Indonesian dessert kolak, or fruit in palm sugar and coconut milk.
At hotels, it’s not just about the food but the service too; as there is often only a short window of time between breaking fast and prayer sessions, some hotels now have prayer rooms set aside as part of the buka puasa buffet package.
No matter how the Ramadhan spread changes with the times, one tradition stays, however: starting the meal with dates, as eaten by the Prophet when he first broke fast.