Traditional Ramadan delicacies have long been characterised by sweet and fatty oriental desserts. But increasingly, the oriental aspect of Ramadan desserts are being augmented by internationally inspired ingredients like Mango, Nutella, and red velvet cake.
Egyptian pastry chefs, have started putting this twist on traditional Ramadan desserts such as Konafa and Atayef, a trend driven, in part, by creative marketing, and reflecting changes in the Egyptian diet.
Pastry chefs are in favour of the new trend, justifying it by the changing weather conditions and people’s tastes. Customers, on the other hand, are not all in favour of the change.
Hamido Al-Kurdy, a chef at La Poire Egypt, said making the same desserts for years can be “tedious”. Pastry places compete for customers, he said, so they have to provide customers with something different to maintain an advantage.
“That’s why we always seek change,” he said. “It gives Ramadan a better taste when every year you come up with something new to present to your customers.”
Fawzy Abdel Aziz, a chef at Sale Sucre, said dessert trends have also been affected by the weather. Ramadan came during the summer during the past couple of years.
“We, as chefs, thought about doing the desserts in a way that matches the weather and people’s need for cold desserts,” he said.
People’s attitudes about dessert have changed as well, he said. Nowadays a lot of people follow diets. Oriental desserts are sugary and fatty, so people are looking for lighter options.
Abdel Aziz noted that during the economic downturn there was general rejection for desserts due to the atmosphere of the revolution , and it affected the purchasing level. He said: “There was small room for creativity as we were producing on a small scale.”
Ibrahim Mohammed, working in Mandarine Koueider, agreed that the purchasing level during the revolution was low and transfer of the materials needed for production was slow. He added, however, that the current situation has improved .
To Mona Al-Bahaey, a laboratory physician who was on her way to buy Konafa with Mango, the changes do not change the Ramadan spirit.
Ramadan is about food, so providing a selection is better, she said. “It’s up to people to choose what they like”.
Not everyone agrees.
Esraa, a 21 year old fine arts student, said she will always prefer oriental desserts over new-fangled confections because they help her feel the Ramadan spirit better. The new deserts are lighter, she said, but “eventually this trend will be over”.