When it comes to breaking fast after a long day of self-restraint, we are often tempted to over-indulge. After all, iftar translates into a veritable period of gastronomical joy in Dhaka.
From restaurants to roadside stalls offering mouth-watering fried delicacies such as chhola, piyaju, beguni and alur chop, the month of Ramadan inevitably becomes a month of consuming oily food. People are usually drawn to these foods for their taste and sheer variety.
However, nutritional value and hygiene aspects of these foods remain highly questionable.
Regardless of taste, in a hot and humid weather like ours, these greasy offerings -- often cooked in adulterated oil and not-so-hygienic conditions -- can make one feel bloated or uncomfortable and eventually lead to weight gain, ironic if one considers the context.
Besides, after long hours of fasting, our stomach becomes more sensitive to food that are deep-fried or too rich. They can also cause foodborne diseases, as most outdoor foods are deep fried in oils reused multiple times.
A solution would be to eat home-cooked meals. But due to work schedule and this city’s unpredictable traffic conditions, many are forced to eat out. Many students -- living by themselves -- and people who like to eat out with their loved ones are also falling prey to these greasy offers.
What if there was a better option?
“Saaol Heart Center” yesterday launched an initiative to promote oil-free iftar items. “Oil Free Kitchen”, its associate organisation, opened up a food joint on Eskaton Garden Road, serving more than 25 iftar staples.
The items include chhola, piyaju, alur chop, vegetable pakora, halim, chicken roast and biryani -- all cooked without oil.
The items are either baked, air fried (a method of cooking by circulating hot air around food) or steamed, according to organisers. They are also planning to continue after Ramadan. The centre opens every day at 3pm during this month.
“During Ramadan, we tend to eat oily food, which is not healthy at all,” said Mohon Raihan, chairman and managing director of the centre. “This initiative is part of a campaign to generate social awareness about negative impacts of consuming oily food.”
He said the centre also provides information and training on heart diseases and how to stay healthy. They also arrange health-related awareness events.
“Every Saturday, we hold seminar on heart disease, on Sunday meditation programme and on Monday class on cooking without oil,” said Raihan.
Yesterday’s launching ceremony was inaugurated by former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University AAMS Arefin Siddique.