RAMADAN is a time for fasting but it’s also a wonderful time of the year to eat. While it might seem a little ironic, a lot of Malaysians actually end up eating more during the fasting month than any other time of the year. But eating is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s something else that we, quite literally, thirst for during Ramadan — delicious drinks.
Where in the past our beverage selection comprised the likes of bandung, syrup, coconut, sugar cane and soya milk, these days we’re really spoilt for choice.
Some of the selections at Ramadan bazaars are truly mindboggling. There are blue concoctions, yellow punches, green coloured milky liquids and probably a lot more if you care to trawl the stalls. But buying drinks at Ramadan bazaars isn’t the only way to enjoy delicious drinks during this month. How about trying your hand at making your own at home? It’s extremely fun to do and is healthier too.
The first way to do it is by using drinking water as your main “ingredient”. If you think this choice is a little unappealing, think again. Water is a great vessel for carrying all sorts of flavours, especially natural ones. Whatever you have at home can easily be incorporated into it for something a little more interesting. For example, you can always use fruit. And any fruit will do. All you have to do is cut them up into little pieces and soak them in a jug of water for a couple of hours. Voila! You have a flavoured drink.
If you need something a little sweet for the breaking of fast but still want something natural, add a little honey. It goes great with the fruit and it’s still relatively healthy.
If you think it’s still a little too plain for your taste, think outside the box. Spices and herbs make for great additions to fruit-flavoured drinks. For example, if you were to make apple-flavoured water, add a little cinnamon, and you’ll end up with something of an apple pie-esque-tasting drink. Or if you were to use lemons, try adding mint for a nice cooling effect. Pear and basil also make for a great and slightly complex combination. If you’re daring enough, try adding a little “creaminess” to your water with a vanilla pod. Just remember to use whole dried spices and fresh herbs. Powdered spices will cloud your drink while dried herbs don’t have enough flavour. Alternatively, you can try using tea instead of water. It already comes in a variety of flavours and really does go well with natural ingredients like honey and fruit. If you want it to be even more interesting, add a little soda. The combinations are endless, with flavours like lychee, lime, mint, black tea and sprite to cinnamon, apple, earl grey and ice-cream soda. Just don’t use too much soda because it will overpower the other ingredients.
Alternatively, how about trying my family recipe? It’s something my grandmother came up with; well... something “ripped off”! She took a lai chi kang recipe and substituted a couple of ingredients and christened it Air Bedehut.
Most people who’ve tried it really love its deep complex flavour. That said, it’s still light enough to drink for the breaking of fast. The best part is that it can be served ice cold, or hot.
All you need to do is simmer dried longan, red dates, lotus seed, candied winter melon and pandan leaves in water for about an hour, or until the liquid turns into a rich golden brown colour. Then add a little rock sugar to taste. The drink can be made days in advanced and kept in the refrigerator for whenever you need it. If you want it warm, give it a quick boil.
If you’re a little worried about getting the ingredients, don’t be. They’re relatively easy to find at any major grocery store. We know this because we serve it every year, without fail. In fact, my family doesn’t go a day without this drink during Ramadan; after three generations it has become a tradition.
Whenever possible, try and make your own drinks at home. The drinks sold at Ramadan bazaars often have too much ice or too much sugar. At least when you make it yourself, you can control the ingredients you use and be able to adjust it to your preferred taste. We only have a few hours a night to enjoy our drinks; we might as well have something delightful.
Air Bedehut Recipe
1 cup red dates
½ cup lotus seed
¼ cup candied winter melon
½ cup dried longan
2 pandan leaves
2 litres of water
Rock sugar, to taste.
1. Place all ingredients in a pot and let it simmer for one to two hours, or until the colour turns a golden brown.
2. Add rock sugar to taste.
3. Serve hot, or cold.