A taste of the past

One of the most traditional meals in the UAE, Harees is also an ideal dish to break one's fast during the Holy month of Ramadan

By I.youssef (Contributor)

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Published: Tue 9 Oct 2007, 10:40 AM

Last updated: Wed 21 Jun 2023, 10:06 AM

IT MIGHT be a simple dish, but Harees is also one of the most famous local dishes prepared during Ramadan and other special events. Such was the demand for this dish that local people used to say - 'No Harees, no food.'

In the Gulf region, this traditioanl dish was a way to celebrate any special occasion. Harees contains ingredients that come from the drought-hit Bedouin environment such as any type of meat - preferably sheep meat - wheat grain, ghee, water and salt.

Salem Ali, a farm owner in Al Ain City says, “In winter the local people used to eat Harees with sugar or date honey as a topping to give them power. This kind of food becomes a special dish for specific days because it has to be prepared on wood fire stove in an open place for more than 10 hours."

Ali adds: "Harees is made by cooking meat overnight to make a rich stock and then wheat is added on high heat until it is cooked. The remaining liquid is strained, salt added and the entire mixture is beaten. When ready, the mixture is poured into a serving pot and sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and ghee. Harees is therefore a rich meal and very filling too."

Abdul Raheem Al Raeesi, another farm owner who has been preparing Harees for poor people during Ramadan for more that 20 years said, “Because Harees takes time and effort to be made, one day it’ll become history. Forty years ago all the families used to come together to prepare the dish for everyone, specially the children because after more than 10 hours on the stove it is like a paste and so easy to swallow. The dish is full of protein and carbohydrates”.

Al Raeesi added, “During those days people could make out the financial status of a family by a look at the dish. If it’s dark and thick it is an indication of richness because it shows the dish is full of meat. And if it’s white and soft it shows the people are poor.”

“At the farm we start cooking from early morning more than 70 kgs of wheat along with 50 kgs of fresh meat to perpare Harees during Ramadan. We also prepare dumpling sweets for all who come to us,” Al Raeesi said.

“To give during Ramdan is a great pleasure. So we make sure to give all the Harees we cook to the poor people. We choose this particular dish because it has a good taste and it can provide the people who have fasted with all the nutrients which they have lost during the day like vitamins, sugars, fats, protein and carbohydrates. This dish is famous all over the Gulf region and everyone uses the same items. But they may present it differently and even add some extra ingredients like tomato paste, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, ghee, butter, saffron or honey as topping to give it a good taste,” Al Raeesi said.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Harees is the king of the table at local houses. During Eid, some families even start preparing it the night before so that it is ready to be eaten the next morning when it is so soft that it melts in your mouth.

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