It’s undoubtedly the highlight of every day in the holy month, and for reasons beyond going a day without a bite of food nor a drop of water.
And no better way to celebrate Ramadan or fasting month than trying new dishes. So, if you want to try some classic dishes for Iftar, check out the brand new cook-along video aptly titled “How to Cook Maqlooba with Anis Nabilah and Dalya” which is part of the series that has been released on the YouTube channel. Produced by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in collaboration with Malaysian celebrities, the first video of the series features celebrity chef and UNHCR supporter, Anis Nabilah and Palestinian refugee home-cook, Dalya.
For those of us whose hearts and minds are often ruled by our stomachs, get ready to embrace the best of Palestinian dishes namely ‘Maqlooba’ a dish meaning “upside down” in Arabic. Dalya takes Anis Nabilah through the steps in making this dish from her homeland, which is a combination of spiced rice, vegetables, and stewed meat, layered and cooked, then flipped onto a serving dish to form an impressive tower. This dish is often cooked for special occasions, like Eid and Ramadan.
Watch the video below to master Maqlooba:
Throughout the cooking video, Dalya recounted food memories from her life which she went through seven years ago, as she was forced to flee the Gaza Strip in Palestine to Malaysia with her husband and four children.
There’s a saying that cooking brings back childhood memories;
“I remember that it was raining on that day my mom taught me to make Maqlooba. I remember her sitting on a chair in the kitchen, giving me instructions. Now, whenever I am cooking Maqlooba, it reminds me of my mother on that day and the smell of rain,” said Dalya.
Food is important for the Palestinian refugee home-cook, as it helped her to rebuild her life in a new country and reminded her of her mother’s recipes.
“I can cook for 24 hours straight. As long as someone else does the cleaning and washing up!” said Dalya.
On the other note, Anis – who is well known for helming sensational television cooking shows such as perennial favourite Icip Icip and Eating Wild on the Asian Food Channel joins Dalya on this amazing Palestinian cooking adventure. The international celebrity chef and media personality have spent time volunteering with projects to help refugees in the country.
Through a local NGO running a refugee education program, she also taught refugee children to bake. When her busy schedule permits, Anis also volunteers to cook meals for refugees, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan.
“I believe that many Malaysians are unaware of the real situation of refugees. All they know is refugees have a choice whether to come here, but that is not the case. They came here to save their lives,” Anis explained.
Having said that, Anis added if Malaysians made an effort to have a better understanding of refugees, they would feel more empathy and not make judgments about them. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why she participated in the UNHCR-produced cooking series.
“Refugees need help, but refugees can also help others,” said Dalya.
Having more time on her hands amid the Movement Control Order (MCO), Dalya has cooked about 300 meals for the frontliners who have been working hard for us and also for the homeless community.
To date, there are some 180,000 refugees registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, have fled their countries due to war, persecution, and complex human rights abuses.
In order to have a societal bonding in the community, the connection between food, family, memories, and culture is essential. Hence, throughout this initiative, UNHCR hopes to exemplify that the refugees are also among us who have survived extraordinary circumstances and, just like everyone else, they have hopes, dreams, and favourite foods that remind them of special times and places in their lives.
You can try this Maqlooba recipe at home and share it on your social media by using the hashtag #WithRefugees. For full recipe details, please visit HERE.
Share the blessings of Ramadan and donate HERE.