So, I put my self into a situation where I have to give a halaqa on something. It can be very short, maybe 2-5 minutes. I chose the topic of food. I like food and I enjoy learning about it and talking about it, too. Oh, and eating it. I wanted to focus on a blessed food. Everyone knows about honey and nigella seeds (kalonji/habat barakah/siyaah daanah—for some reason there is always a lot of confusion among people about what these little things are in English versus whatever language). But a couple years ago I solved a food mystery that I had in my mind since my early days as a Muslim. I discovered what thareed was. And I actually cooked thareed. So, what is thareed? Let me reflect on the dish here so that I can lay out my thoughts on it in preparation for the halaqa.
Salmaan (R) said that the Messenger of Allah (S) said: Blessings are found in three things, the Group (Al-Jama’ah), Ath-thareed (a type of food) and As-Sahoor (the Pre-dawn meal).” [At-Tabaraanee, Abu Na'eem]
My quest on thareed started years ago without me even knowing it. I had come across this hadees, probably during one of my first Ramzaans. I thought to myself, what is this thing, thareed? Why would there be blessings in something and there be no way to know what this is? Is this a food of Arabia during the early Islamic era that has been lost to modern man? Pffft! I want to know, I want the blessings! I recall asking one or two people and getting shoulder shrugs and “I dunno.” And then I just forgot about it, although I saw the hadees again a few more times, as it comes up when one reads about the benefits of sehri (assuhoor or the meal that one eats undertaking a fast that begins at dawn).
Through serendipity, I ended up having a version of thareed years later when I lived in the Gulf. I first had it in Oman as margooga. I had it at a friend’s house for Eid. We had driven from Muscat to her home of Ja’alan, not far from the Eastern coast. The margooga was made with khubz ragaag (raqaaq = delicate) or very thin flat bread that sort of resembles a South India dosa. It was served in a giant thaal (a large flat plate) and drenched in a meaty goat and tomato stew (marag/saloona). I have a great memory of sitting with my friends in their courtyard eating communally from this thaal filled with margooga. We ate with our hands. It is a lovely memory and that was a lovely Eid. I also tried mathbi (meat cooked on heated stones) that Eid.
A couple of years later, at a class party in the UAE, a student brought a giant thaal of flat bread soaking in goat broth and topped with delicious, tender goat meat. My students invited me to sit around the giant thaal and we took part in sharing this meal. Some students remarked on the quality and freshness of the meat, and the girl who brought the dish said that the meat was freshly slaughtered for this dish for us, and the animal was raised at home. The dish was thareed. It wasn’t made with khubz ragaag, but a very thin flat bread, sort of like a type of Irani naan. This dish was similar to the margooga but it didn’t contain tomatoes. The goat shorba was clear. It was so rich and delicious. That was probably one of the best meals of my life. It sounds like such a weird thing to enjoy, but really, the bread was so flavorful as it was drenched in the extremely rich broth. I am not good at judging freshness and quality of meat, but the meat was indeed very tender and the goat had a very clean taste with no hint of a gamey flavor.
At some point, I realized that this Gulf dish of margooga/thareed (some will argue on points of difference, mainly the bread used) was the thareed of the hadees. I also discovered at some point that in some regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, this dish is prepared by Pashtoons, and it goes by a variety of names in the Pashtoon regions, depending on the Pashto dialect of the people who prepare it. Some of those names are painda, soobutt, and randa chargha.
I also found that some desis make this dish, calling it suraid (an Urdu-ization of thuraid, a diminutive of thareed), or simply “roti ke tukray.” For this dish, a highly seasoned shorba is prepared from chicken or mutton, and then the same principle is applied, shredded bread is soaked in this shorba and the meat is served on top. This is not a dish made in my husband’s family, though I have found that some people have heard of it, though many have not.
The dish is best eaten with the hands. It is mushy and soggy and perhaps not everyone would enjoy the texture upon the first time trying it. But there is this element of being a comfort food to the dish. It’s like Thanksgiving stuffing or something. Carbs soaking in meaty gravy. If you like that sort of thing, you will like this dish.
So, why would it be blessed? There must be some underlying reason. A dish can’t just be blessed for the sake of being blessed. Or can it? Perhaps it is special because its preparation is a way to avoid wasting leftover flat bread. Perhaps because it traditionally eaten communally from a single dish. The act of eating this way promotes amity and strengthens bonds between the diners. Though I suppose traditionally this was and still is the way of eating many dishes in some Gulf Arab communities. It is also a very rich and nourishing one-pot-meal, especially if its preparation includes vegetables. I don’t know. But I do enjoy the idea of consuming something that has religious and historical merit. What should I say in my pontification on the dish for the halaqa? Do YOU know anything about thareed?
Here is a recipe for suraid, or desi style thareed, from my (sad, pathetic, never updated!) food blog. You can see pics of the dish, there, too.