Hi Saleem! Welcome back to our weekly show Culture Rendezvous. First of all, what is Palestine’s most popular traditional dish?
We have one traditional dish called Maqluba, which means up-side-down. Maqluba is a Palestinian dish, in which we use rice, vegetables, chicken, lamb or beef, it depends on your flavor. It is very flexible. You can use different kinds of ingredients.
Do you have this traditional dish daily or is it served for special occasions only?
Normally we eat this dish on Friday. Actually, anytime we can eat this dish but because this dish is a sharing dish. So Friday is the day that everybody remembers their family. Friday is like a holiday for Muslim people. Christians have the Sunday, Jewish people have the Saturday and Muslim people have Friday, considered as the holiest day of the week. Here in Vietnam, you guys have Saturday and Sunday off but back home we don’t work on Friday and Saturday. We go to work on Sunday. Our weekend starts from Friday until Saturday. The first day of the week is Sunday but not Monday. Friday we have time for praying at the Mosque which is around 11:30 am. So at 12, we finish and go back home. So at that time, all of the town where I lived has the smell of this food, Maqluba.
Wow! Now I learned something more about the holy Friday of the Muslims. So how Maqluba is served?
This food is the sharing meal. Everybody gathers around the table to enjoy this food. Everybody stays at home and eat together. We can enjoy the family atmosphere and eat this kind of food. Normally this dish used to be eaten by hand from long time ago. But recently, many people like to eat with a spoon because some people worry about their hand get dirty.
How about you Saleem, do you enjoy eating by hand?
For me, I am the person who love traditional things. And when I cook this food I keep eating this food by hand. Why? Because I feel more confident when I eat by my hand and I eat a lot when I eat by hand.
I also feel like it is tastier and more delicious when I eat by my hand and I can feel myself. I don’t feel shy, I don’t feel nervous. I feel very comfortable when I eat by hand. And of course, even when I eat with strangers or family members in a formal or informal meal I still eat that way.
I’m pretty curious about why Muslims have meal with their hands.
Many things that people don’t know why we eat by hand. First of all, if you want to compare with Asian food which people eat with chopsticks. And the Mediterranean or Middle East food, because we live in the desert so it means dry. In East Asia, they have a lot of water so their food includes a lot of soup, and water. So if the soup is hot, how can I put my hand in the soup and eat the food like Pho or something else because it is really hot. I can even burn my hand. But our food is drier so it is easy for me to touch and eat without getting burned. When I eat, I don’t make my hand dirty, I just eat with my fingers. Only my fingers touch the food from inside, not outside.
Correct me if I am wrong, but are there some rules about eating with your hands?
Yes, we have rules for using hand to eat. We use only four fingers, not the small one. We have to cut our nails first and wash hands very carefully. People from other countries may think it is dirty to eat by hand but actually not. We have to use the right hand for eating because we use the left hand when we go to toilet and for other things. We are not allowed to use the left hand to eat. I can’t say it is forbidden but we always advise and tell the children when they grow up to never use their left hand. And for many lefty people, who don’t use right hand, we may tie their left hand behind their back for a while so they can get used to use their right hand. Right hand is used for eating, drinking for offering things for other people.
Thank you very much Saleem for talking to us today. Hope to have you here with us again on VOV24/7 Culture Rendezvous with more interesting stories. Goodbye and catch you guys again soon.