Whether it’s a box of nachos at a midnight movie showing or a bowl of cereal as a nightcap before bed, I’ve always loved eating in the middle of the night. During Ramadan, a spiritual month of fasting for many Muslims, there are two important mealtimes: Iftar, a meal to break fast at the end of the day, and Sehri, also called Suhoor, the predawn meal eaten before the fast begins.
Depending on who you are and what your vibe is, the start of Ramadan can evoke big feelings. For some, excitement takes over: joyful community gatherings, the spirit of unity, and a spiritual refresh. For others, a bit of a knot in the stomach might start to form, mostly from the thought of not eating all day. Me? I’m an in-betweener. I need to eat, and I take the two meals I’m allotted during Ramadan very seriously. Last year I covered my tips on Iftar and how to host one with success. Now, let’s talk about meal number two, Sehri.
Three types of Sehri come to mind: the one I wake up for, usually on weekdays, before work; the one I eat at 2 or 3 a.m. after a long night at the mosque; and the one I have when I’m hosting people late at night. Here’s what I like to cook for each of them.
The still-half-asleep Sehri
The first category calls for something breakfast-y, but more importantly something fast. I likely woke up just for this meal, and I want to be able to eat, pray, and head back to my bed all within a 30-minute window. If I take too long, I won’t be able to fall back to sleep. Enter: omelet roll-ups, peanut butter and jelly oats, and a fruity date smoothie.
Omelet roll-ups were my grandmother’s secret to on-the-go (read: running late) breakfast. She’d make a crepe-like egg, layer it over a roti, and roll it up. My version uses tortillas because, much to my dismay, I don’t have fresh rotis lingering around. The PB&J oats are a way to sneak in some carbs and protein to keep you full, and they taste shockingly similar to their namesake thanks to brown sugar, which is often used in white bread. That fruity date smoothie is easy and nourishing, but most important, has caffeine to help ease the withdrawals during fasting.
The Late Night Sehri
The second category calls for something ultra-satiating. Chances are I’ve come home late from the mosque, and I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. It’s the kind of meal you eat with the knowledge that the fast to come will be a hard one.
All things considered, I don’t mind putting in a bit more effort for this one because I need it to be substantial. Sometimes I’ll repurpose leftovers, sometimes I’ll UberEats fried chicken or pizza, but my ideal situation is a classic tuna melt with lots of crunchy celery and red onion, served with Cape Cod chips doused in Frank’s RedHot and a dill pickle to seal the deal. It’s everything I want in a late-night meal: indulgent and ultra comforting. Don’t knock the kettle chips with hot sauce till you try it.
The let’s-hang-out-until-Fajr Sehri
The last category requires more of a party-friendly, appetizer situation. You’ve invited people over, convinced them a post-Iftar-hang is more fun, and now they’ll probably be at your place until the morning prayer (happens more often than you’d expect). Maybe it’s a planned Sehri party or post-Tarawih gathering, or maybe you’ve met someone at the mosque you haven’t seen in a while and it’s a spur-of-the-moment invitation. Regardless, you need to eat.
For this one, I need something crowd-pleasing and filling, but not overwhelming to prepare. The answer: party wings. For this recipe, I reached for a box of tandoori masala, a popular smoky, bright South Asian spice blend usually combined with yogurt as the marinade for Tandoori Chicken. Bloom a spoonful of good tandoori masala with butter and combine it with lime juice, honey, and hot sauce for a finger-licking-good riff on the classic. Serve it over naan for soaking up any extra sauce, plus punchy herbs and tangy yogurt to mellow out the heat.